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The emotional attentional blink (EAB) refers to a temporary impairment in the ability to identify a target when it is preceded by an emotional distractor. It is thought to occur because the emotional salience of the distractor exogenously captures attention for a brief duration, rendering the target unattended and preventing it from reaching awareness. Here we tested the extent to which the EAB can be attenuated by inducing a diffuse top-down attentional state, which has been shown to improve target identification in an analogous attentional phenomenon, the attentional blink. Rapid sequences of landscape images were presented centrally, and participants reported the orientation of a ± 90° rotation of a landscape target. To induce a diffuse state of attention, participants were given a secondary task of monitoring for the appearance of a colored dot in the periphery. We found that emotional distractors impaired target recognition performance to comparable extents, regardless of whether or not participants concurrently performed the peripheral-monitoring task. Moreover, we found that performance of the secondary task led to an impaired ability to ignore neutral distractors. Subjective ratings of target vividness mirrored the behavioral accuracy, with frequent reports of intermediate levels of vividness suggesting that the EAB might impair target visibility in a graded manner. Our results demonstrate that the EAB is robust to manipulations of top-down attention, suggesting that the temporary capture of attention by emotionally salient stimuli involves processes that are distinct from those that produce the attentional blink.
Binocular rivalry and stimulus rivalry are two forms of perceptual instability that arise when the visual system is confronted with conflicting stimulus information. In the case of binocular rivalry, dissimilar monocular stimuli are presented to the two eyes for an extended period of time, whereas for stimulus rivalry the dissimilar monocular stimuli are exchanged rapidly and repetitively between the eyes during extended viewing. With both forms of rivalry, one experiences extended durations of exclusive perceptual dominance that fluctuate between the two stimuli. Whether these two forms of rivalry arise within different stages of visual processing has remained debatable. Using an individual-differences approach, we found that both stimulus rivalry and binocular rivalry exhibited same-shaped distributions of dominance durations among a sample of 30 observers and, moreover, that the dominance durations measured during binocular and stimulus rivalry were significantly correlated among our sample of observers. Furthermore, we found a significant, positive correlation between alternation rate in binocular rivalry and the incidence of stimulus rivalry. These results suggest that the two forms of rivalry may be tapping common neural mechanisms, or at least different mechanisms with comparable time constants. It remains to be learned just why the incidences of binocular rivalry and stimulus rivalry vary so greatly among people.
A novel, salient event in the environment powerfully captures attention. This stimulus-driven attentional capture not only includes orienting of attention toward the event, but also an evaluative process to determine the behavioral significance and appropriate response to the event. Whereas a network of human brain regions composed of prefrontal and temporoparietal regions have been associated with stimulus-driven attention, the neural substrates of orienting have never been teased apart from those of evaluative processes. Here we used fMRI to measure the human brain's response to the temporally extended presentations of salient, task-irrelevant stimuli, and found a clear functional dissociation in the stimulus-driven attention network; the anterior insula and cingulate cortex showed transient orienting responses to the onsets and offsets of the stimuli, whereas the temporoparietal cortex exhibited sustained activity throughout event evaluation. The lateral prefrontal cortex was implicated in both attentional and evaluative processes, pointing to its central, integrative role in stimulus-driven attention.
Copyright © 2014 the authors 0270-6474/14/346958-12$15.00/0.
Both the passage of time and external distraction make it difficult to keep attention on the task at hand. We tested the hypothesis that time-on-task and external distraction pose independent challenges to attention and that the brain's cholinergic system selectively modulates our ability to resist distraction. Participants with a polymorphism limiting cholinergic capacity (Ile89Val variant [rs1013940] of the choline transporter gene SLC5A7) and matched controls completed self-report measures of attention and a laboratory task that measured decrements in sustained attention with and without distraction. We found evidence that distraction and time-on-task effects are independent and that the cholinergic system is strongly linked to greater vulnerability to distraction. Ile89Val participants reported more distraction during everyday life than controls, and their task performance was more severely impacted by the presence of an ecologically valid video distractor (similar to a television playing in the background). These results are the first to demonstrate a specific impairment in cognitive control associated with the Ile89Val polymorphism and add to behavioral and cognitive neuroscience studies indicating the cholinergic system's critical role in overcoming distraction.
Learning to read involves discriminating between different written forms and establishing connections with phonology and semantics. This process may be partially built upon visual perceptual learning, during which the ability to process the attributes of visual stimuli progressively improves with practice. The present study investigated to what extent Chinese children with developmental dyslexia have deficits in perceptual learning by using a texture discrimination task, in which participants were asked to discriminate the orientation of target bars. Experiment l demonstrated that, when all of the participants started with the same initial stimulus-to-mask onset asynchrony (SOA) at 300 ms, the threshold SOA, adjusted according to response accuracy for reaching 80% accuracy, did not show a decrement over 5 days of training for children with dyslexia, whereas this threshold SOA steadily decreased over the training for the control group. Experiment 2 used an adaptive procedure to determine the threshold SOA for each participant during training. Results showed that both the group of dyslexia and the control group attained perceptual learning over the sessions in 5 days, although the threshold SOAs were significantly higher for the group of dyslexia than for the control group; moreover, over individual participants, the threshold SOA negatively correlated with their performance in Chinese character recognition. These findings suggest that deficits in visual perceptual processing and learning might, in part, underpin difficulty in reading Chinese.
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Currently, we lack consensus regarding the organization along the anterior border of dorsomedial V2 in primates. Previous studies suggest that this region could be either the dorsomedial area, characterized by both an upper and a lower visual field representation, or the dorsal aspect of area V3, which only contains a lower visual field representation. We examined these proposals by using optical imaging of intrinsic signals to investigate this region in the prosimian galago (Otolemur garnettii). Galagos represent the prosimian radiation of surviving primates; cortical areas that bear strong resemblances across members of primates provide a strong argument for their early origin and conserved existence. Based on our mapping of horizontal and vertical meridian representations, visuotopy, and orientation preference, we find a clear lower field representation anterior to dorsal V2 but no evidence of any upper field representation. We also show statistical differences in orientation preference patches between V2 and V3. We additionally supplement our imaging results with electrode array data that reveal differences in the average spatial frequency preference, average temporal frequency preference, and sizes of the receptive fields between V1, V2, and V3. The lack of upper visual field representation along with the differences between the neighboring visual areas clearly distinguish the region anterior to dorsal V2 from earlier visual areas and argue against a DM that lies along the dorsomedial border of V2. We submit that the region of the cortex in question is the dorsal aspect of V3, thus strengthening the possibility that V3 is conserved among primates.
Copyright © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
In this paper, we asked to what extent the depth of interocular suppression engendered by continuous flash suppression (CFS) varies depending on spatiotemporal properties of the suppressed stimulus and CFS suppressor. An answer to this question could have implications for interpreting the results in which CFS influences the processing of different categories of stimuli to different extents. In a series of experiments, we measured the selectivity and depth of suppression (i.e., elevation in contrast detection thresholds) as a function of the visual features of the stimulus being suppressed and the stimulus evoking suppression, namely, the popular "Mondrian" CFS stimulus (N. Tsuchiya & C. Koch, 2005). First, we found that CFS differentially suppresses the spatial components of the suppressed stimulus: Observers' sensitivity for stimuli of relatively low spatial frequency or cardinally oriented features was more strongly impaired in comparison to high spatial frequency or obliquely oriented stimuli. Second, we discovered that this feature-selective bias primarily arises from the spatiotemporal structure of the CFS stimulus, particularly within information residing in the low spatial frequency range and within the smooth rather than abrupt luminance changes over time. These results imply that this CFS stimulus operates by selectively attenuating certain classes of low-level signals while leaving others to be potentially encoded during suppression. These findings underscore the importance of considering the contribution of low-level features in stimulus-driven effects that are reported under CFS.
BACKGROUND - Although an attentional bias for threat has been implicated in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), evidence supporting such a bias has been inconsistent. This study examines whether exposure to different emotional content modulates attention disengagement and impairs the perception of subsequently presented nonemotional targets in GAD.
METHODS - Patients with GAD (n = 30) and controls (n = 30) searched for a target embedded within a series of rapidly presented images. Critically, an erotic, fear, disgust, or neutral distracter image appeared 200 msec or 800 msec before the target.
RESULTS - Impaired target detection was observed among GAD patients relative to controls following only fear and neutral distractors. However, this effect did not significantly vary as a function of distractor stimulus duration before the target. Furthermore, group differences in target detection after fear distractors were no longer significant when controlling target detection after neutral distractors. Subsequent analysis also revealed that the impaired target detection among those with GAD relative to controls following neutral (but not fear) distractors was mediated by deficits in attentional control.
CONCLUSIONS - The implications of these findings for further delineating the function of attentional biases in GAD are discussed.
© 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
The theoretical framework of General Recognition Theory (GRT; Ashby & Townsend, Psychological Review, 93, 154-179, 1986) coupled with the empirical analysis tools of Multidimensional Signal Detection Analysis (MSDA; Kadlec & Townsend, Multidimensional models of perception and recognition, pp. 181-228, 1992) have become one important method for assessing dimensional interactions in perceptual decision-making. In this article, we critically examine MSDA and characterize cases where it is unable to discriminate two kinds of dimensional interactions: perceptual separability and decisional separability. We performed simulations with known instances of violations of perceptual or decisional separability, applied MSDA to the data generated by these simulations, and evaluated MSDA on its ability to accurately characterize the perceptual versus decisional source of these simulated dimensional interactions. Critical cases of violations of perceptual separability are often mischaracterized by MSDA as violations of decisional separability.
Prior work suggests that nonface objects of expertise can interfere with the perception of faces when the two categories are alternately presented, suggesting competition for shared perceptual resources. Here, we ask whether task-irrelevant distractors from a category of expertise compete when faces are presented in a standard visual search task. Participants searched for a target (face or sofa) in an array containing both relevant and irrelevant distractors. The number of distractors from the target category (face or sofa) remained constant, whereas the number of distractors from the irrelevant category (cars) varied. Search slopes, calculated as a function of the number of irrelevant cars, were correlated with car expertise. The effect was not due to car distractors grabbing attention, because they did not compete with sofa targets. Objects of expertise interfere with face perception even when they are task irrelevant, visually distinct, and separated in space from faces.