Decoding spatial location of attended audio-visual stimulus with EEG and fNIRS

Abstract

When analyzing complex scenes, humans often focus their attention on an object at a particular spatial location in the presence of background noises and irrelevant visual objects. The ability to decode the attended spatial location would facilitate brain computer interfaces (BCI) for complex scene analysis. Here, we tested two different neuroimaging technologies and investigated their capability to decode audio-visual spatial attention in the presence of competing stimuli from multiple locations. For functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), we targeted dorsal frontoparietal network including frontal eye field (FEF) and intra-parietal sulcus (IPS) as well as superior temporal gyrus/planum temporal (STG/PT). They all were shown in previous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies to be activated by auditory, visual, or audio-visual spatial tasks. We found that fNIRS provides robust decoding of attended spatial locations for most participants and correlates with behavioral performance. Moreover, we found that FEF makes a large contribution to decoding performance. Surprisingly, the performance was significantly above chance level 1s after cue onset, which is well before the peak of the fNIRS response. For electroencephalography (EEG), while there are several successful EEG-based algorithms, to date, all of them focused exclusively on auditory modality where eye-related artifacts are minimized or controlled. Successful integration into a more ecological typical usage requires careful consideration for eye-related artifacts which are inevitable. We showed that fast and reliable decoding can be done with or without ocular-removal algorithm. Our results show that EEG and fNIRS are promising platforms for compact, wearable technologies that could be applied to decode attended spatial location and reveal contributions of specific brain regions during complex scene analysis

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