988 research outputs found

    The dynamics of statistical learning in visual search and its interaction with salience processing: an EEG study

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    Visual attention can be guided by statistical regularities in the environment, that people implicitly learn from past experiences (statistical learning, SL). Moreover, a perceptually salient element can automatically capture attention, gaining processing priority through a bottom-up attentional control mechanism. The aim of our study was to investigate the dynamics of SL and if it shapes attentional target selection additively with salience processing, or whether these mechanisms interact, e.g. one gates the other. In a visual search task, we therefore manipulated target frequency (high vs. low) across locations while, in some trials, the target was salient in terms of colour. Additionally, halfway through the experiment, the high-frequency location changed to the opposite hemifield. EEG activity was simultaneously recorded, with a specific interest in two markers related to target selection and post-selection processing, respectively: N2pc and SPCN. Our results revealed that both SL and saliency significantly enhanced behavioural performance, but also interacted with each other, with an attenuated saliency effect at the high-frequency target location, and a smaller SL effect for salient targets. Concerning processing dynamics, the benefit of salience processing was more evident during the early stage of target selection and processing, as indexed by a larger N2pc and early-SPCN, whereas SL modulated the underlying neural activity particularly later on, as revealed by larger late-SPCN. Furthermore, we showed that SL was rapidly acquired and adjusted when the spatial imbalance changed. Overall, our findings suggest that SL is flexible to changes and, combined with salience processing, jointly contributes to establishing attentional priority

    The preparatory activation of guidance templates for visual search and of target templates in non-search tasks

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    Representations of task-relevant object attributes (attentional templates) control the adaptive selectivity of visual processing. Previous studies have demonstrated that templates involved in the guidance of attention during visual search are activated in a preparatory fashion prior to the arrival of visual search displays. The current study investigated whether such proactive mechanisms are also triggered in non-search tasks, where attentional templates do not mediate the guidance of attention towards targets amongst distractors but are still necessary for subsequent target recognition processes. Participants either searched for colour-defined targets among multiple distractors or performed two other non-search tasks where imperative stimuli appeared without competing distractors (a colour-based Go / NoGo task, and a shape discrimination task where target colour was constant and could thus be ignored). Preparatory activation of colour-selective templates was tracked by measuring N2pc components (markers of attention allocation) to task-irrelevant colour singleton probes flashed every 200 ms during the interval between target displays. As expected, N2pcs were triggered by target-coloured probes in the search task, indicating that a corresponding guidance template was triggered proactively. Critically, clear probe N2pcs were also observed in the Go / NoGo task, and even in the shape discrimination task in an attenuated fashion. These findings demonstrate that the preparatory activation of feature-selective attentional task settings is not uniquely associated with the guidance of visual search but is also present in other types of visual selection tasks where guidance is not required

    The self and conscious experience

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    The primary determinant of the self (S) is the conscious experience (CE) we have of it. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that empirical research on S mainly resorts to the CE (or lack of CE) that subjects have of their S. What comes as a surprise is that empirical research on S does not tackle the problem of how CE contributes to building S. Empirical research investigates how S either biases the cognitive processing of stimuli or is altered through a wide range of means (meditation, hypnosis, etc.). In either case, even for different reasons, considerations of how CE contributes to building S are left unspecified in empirical research. This article analyzes these reasons and proposes a theoretical model of how CE contributes to building S. According to the proposed model, the phenomenal aspect of consciousness is produced by the modulation—engendered by attentional activity—of the energy level of the neural substrate (that is, the organ of attention) that underpins attentional activity. The phenomenal aspect of consciousness supplies the agent with a sense of S and informs the agent on how its S is affected by the agent’s own operations. The phenomenal aspect of consciousness performs its functions through its five main dimensions: qualitative, quantitative, hedonic, temporal, and spatial. Each dimension of the phenomenal aspect of consciousness can be explained by a specific aspect of the modulation of the energy level of the organ of attention. Among other advantages, the model explains the various forms of S as outcomes resulting from the operations of a single mechanism and provides a unifying framework for empirical research on the neural underpinnings of S

    The self and conscious experience

    Get PDF
    The primary determinant of the self (S) is the conscious experience (CE) we have of it. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that empirical research on S mainly resorts to the CE (or lack of CE) that subjects have of their S. What comes as a surprise is that empirical research on S does not tackle the problem of how CE contributes to building S. Empirical research investigates how S either biases the cognitive processing of stimuli or is altered through a wide range of means (meditation, hypnosis, etc.). In either case, even for different reasons, considerations of how CE contributes to building S are left unspecified in empirical research. This article analyzes these reasons and proposes a theoretical model of how CE contributes to building S. According to the proposed model, the phenomenal aspect of consciousness is produced by the modulation—engendered by attentional activity—of the energy level of the neural substrate (that is, the organ of attention) that underpins attentional activity. The phenomenal aspect of consciousness supplies the agent with a sense of S and informs the agent on how its S is affected by the agent’s own operations. The phenomenal aspect of consciousness performs its functions through its five main dimensions: qualitative, quantitative, hedonic, temporal, and spatial. Each dimension of the phenomenal aspect of consciousness can be explained by a specific aspect of the modulation of the energy level of the organ of attention. Among other advantages, the model explains the various forms of S as outcomes resulting from the operations of a single mechanism and provides a unifying framework for empirical research on the neural underpinnings of S

    Integrated effects of top-down attention and statistical learning during visual search: an EEG study

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    The present study aims to investigate how the competition between visual elements is solved by top-down and/or statistical learning (SL) attentional control (AC) mechanisms when active together. We hypothesized that the "winner" element that will undergo further processing is selected either by one AC mechanism that prevails over the other, or by the joint activity of both mechanisms. To test these hypotheses, we conducted a visual search experiment that combined an endogenous cueing protocol (valid vs. neutral cue) and an imbalance of target frequency distribution across locations (high- vs. low-frequency location). The unique and combined effects of top-down control and SL mechanisms were measured on behaviour and amplitudes of three evoked-response potential (ERP) components (i.e., N2pc, P1, CNV) related to attentional processing. Our behavioural results showed better performance for validly cued targets and for targets in the high-frequency location. The two factors were found to interact, so that SL effects emerged only in the absence of top-down guidance. Whereas the CNV and P1 only displayed a main effect of cueing, for the N2pc we observed an interaction between cueing and SL, revealing a cueing effect for targets in the low-frequency condition, but not in the high-frequency condition. Thus, our data support the view that top-down control and SL work in a conjoint, integrated manner during target selection. In particular, SL mechanisms are reduced or even absent when a fully reliable top-down guidance of attention is at play

    Exploring cognitive mechanisms involved in self-face recognition

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    Due to the own face being a significant stimulus that is critical to one’s identity, the own face is suggested to be processed in a quantitatively different (i.e., faster and better recognition) and qualitatively different (i.e., processed in a more featural manner) manner compared to other faces. This thesis further explored the cognitive mechanisms (perceptual and attentional systems) involved in the processing of the own face. Chapter 2 explored the role of holistic and featural processing involved in the processing of self-face (and other faces) with eye-tracking measures in a passive-viewing paradigm and a face identification task. In the passive-viewing paradigm, the own face was sampled in a more featural manner compared to other faces whereas when asked to identify faces, all faces were sampled in a more holistic manner. Chapter 3 further explored the role of holistic and featural processing in the identification of the own face using the three standard measures of holistic face processing: The face inversion task, the composite face task, and the part-whole task. Compared to other faces, individuals showed a smaller “holistic interference” by a task irrelevant bottom half for the own face in the composite face task and a stronger feature advantage for the own face, but inversion impaired the identification of all faces. These findings suggest that self-face is processed in a more featural manner, but the findings do not deny the role of holistic processing. The final experimental chapter, Chapter 4, explored the modulation effects of cultural differences in one’s self-concept (i.e., independent vs. interdependent self-concept) and a negative self-concept (i.e., depressive traits) on the attentional prioritization for the own face with a visual search paradigm. Findings showed that the attentional prioritization for the own face over an unfamiliar face is not modulated by cultural differences of one’s self-concept nor one’s level of depressive traits, and individuals showed no difference in the attentional prioritization for both the own face and friend’s face, demonstrating no processing advantage for the own face over a personally familiar face. These findings suggests that the attentional prioritization for the own face is better explained by a familiar face advantage. Altogether, the findings of this thesis suggest that the own face is processed qualitatively different compared to both personally familiar and unfamiliar face, with the own face being processed in a more featural manner. However, in terms of quantitative differences, the self-face is processed differently compared to an unfamiliar face, but not to a familiar face. Although the specific face processing strategies for the own face may be due to the distinct visual experience that one has with their face, the attentional prioritization of the own face is however, better explained by a familiar face advantage rather than a self-specificity effect

    Temporal dynamics of target selection and distractor suppression mechanisms in the right Frontal Eye Field

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    The ability of the human brain to selectively attend to relevant information while ignoring irrelevant distraction is essential for the successful completion of everyday tasks. The present PhD project aimed to unravel the temporal dynamics of target selection and distractor suppression in the Frontal Eye Field (FEF), a key node in the dorsolateral attention network. Previous research (Lega et al., 2019) had assessed the contribution of both IPS and FEF to the deployment of visuo- spatial attention by means of 10 Hz TMS during a visual search task. The stimulation was delivered in a post-stimulus epoch from 100 to 300 ms, considered crucial for attentional computations in visual search. This study found that the TMS protocol improved distractor suppression mechanisms, reducing the cost engendered by salient but task-irrelevant distractors. To further clarify the temporal contribution of right FEF to distractor suppression, two experiments were carried out. Experiment 1 applied single-pulse TMS over right FEF at three different time points, 50, 200 or 350 ms after search array onset. Experiment 2 aimed to exert a stronger TMS effect over right FEF while maintaining a temporal-punctate approach. It applied trains of triple-pulse TMS at 20 Hz over right FEF in three different time windows: from -50 to 50 ms (T1), from 100 to 200 ms (T2) and from 250 to 350 ms (T3) after the search array onset. While Experiment 1 showed only a general, time-unspecific and quasi- significant effect of stimulation over response times, Experiment 2 revealed that stimulation at T2 (100-200 ms) was associated with an increase of the distractor cost, specifically for distractors located contralaterally to the stimulation site. These findings support the role of right FEF in suppressing distractions from salient but irrelevant stimuli and suggest that TMS may activate/inhibit the neural network that regulates and limits interference from such distractions. Further research is needed to precisely assess the physiological effects of different TMS protocols of the right FEF and its influence on attentional computation
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