Feature-based attentional modulation increases with stimulus separation in divided-attention tasks.
ABSTRACT Attention modifies our visual experience by selecting certain aspects of a scene for further processing. It is therefore important to understand factors that govern the deployment of selective attention over the visual field. Both location and feature-specific mechanisms of attention have been identified and their modulatory effects can interact at a neural level (Treue and Martinez-Trujillo, 1999). The effects of spatial parameters on feature-based attentional modulation were examined for the feature dimensions of orientation, motion and color using three divided-attention tasks. Subjects performed concurrent discriminations of two briefly presented targets (Gabor patches) to the left and right of a central fixation point at eccentricities of +/-2.5 degrees , 5 degrees , 10 degrees and 15 degrees in the horizontal plane. Gabors were size-scaled to maintain consistent single-task performance across eccentricities. For all feature dimensions, the data show a linear increase in the attentional effects with target separation. In a control experiment, Gabors were presented on an isoeccentric viewing arc at 10 degrees and 15 degrees at the closest spatial separation (+/-2.5 degrees ) of the main experiment. Under these conditions, the effects of feature-based attentional effects were largely eliminated. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that feature-based attention prioritizes the processing of attended features. Feature-based attentional mechanisms may have helped direct the attentional focus to the appropriate target locations at greater separations, whereas similar assistance may not have been necessary at closer target spacings. The results of the present study specify conditions under which dual-task performance benefits from sharing similar target features and may therefore help elucidate the processes by which feature-based attention operates.
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ABSTRACT: How attention interacts with low-level visual representations to give rise to perception remains a central yet controversial question in neuroscience. While several previous studies suggest that the units of attentional selection are individual objects, other evidence points instead toward lower-level features, such as an attended color or direction of motion. We used both human fMRI and psychophysics to investigate the relationship between object-based and feature-based attention. Specifically, we focused on whether feature-based attention is modulated by object appearance, comparing three conditions: (a) features appearing as one object; (b) features appearing as two separate but identical objects; (c) features appearing as two different objects. Stimuli were two random-dot fields presented bilaterally to central fixation, and object appearance was induced by the presence of one or two boxes around the fields. In the fMRI experiment, participants performed a luminance discrimination task on one side, and ignored the other side, where we probed for enhanced activity when either it was perceived as belonging to a same object, or shared features with the task side. In the psychophysical experiments, participants performed luminance discrimination on both sides with overlapping red and green dots, now attending to either the same features (red/red or green/green) or different features (red/green or green/red) on both sides. Results show that feature-based attentional enhancement exists in all three conditions, i.e., regardless whether features appear as one object, two identical objects, or two different objects. Our findings indicate that feature-based attention differs from object-based attention in that it is not dependent upon object appearance. Thus feature-based attention may be mediated by earlier cortical processes independent of perceiving visual features into well-formed objects.Journal of Vision 01/2014; 14(1). DOI:10.1167/14.1.3 · 2.73 Impact Factor
Vision research 12/2012; 74:1. DOI:10.1016/j.visres.2012.11.001 · 2.38 Impact Factor