Unexpected Sounds Nonselectively Inhibit Active Visual Stimulus Representations.
ABSTRACT: The brain's capacity to process unexpected events is key to cognitive flexibility. The most well-known effect of unexpected events is the interruption of attentional engagement (distraction). We tested whether unexpected events interrupt attentional representations by activating a neural mechanism for inhibitory control. This mechanism is most well characterized within the motor system. However, recent work showed that it is automatically activated by unexpected events and can explain some of their nonmotor effects (e.g., on working memory representations). Here, human participants attended to lateralized flickering visual stimuli, producing steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEPs) in the scalp electroencephalogram. After unexpected sounds, the SSVEP was rapidly suppressed. Using a functional localizer (stop-signal) task and independent component analysis, we then identified a fronto-central EEG source whose activity indexes inhibitory motor control. Unexpected sounds in the SSVEP task also activated this source. Using single-trial analyses, we found that subcomponents of this source differentially relate to sound-induced SSVEP changes: While its N2 component predicted the subsequent suppression of the attended-stimulus SSVEP, the P3 component predicted the suppression of the SSVEP to the unattended stimulus. These results shed new light on the processes underlying fronto-central control signals and have implications for phenomena such as distraction and the attentional blink.
Project description:Selective attention can enhance the processing of attended features across the entire visual field. Attention also spreads within objects, enhancing all internal locations and task-irrelevant features of selected objects. Here, we examine the extent to which attentional enhancement of a feature spreads across attended and unattended objects. Two fully overlapping counter-rotating bicolored surfaces of light and dark random dots were presented on a gray background of intermediate luminance. This stimulus creates a percept of two separate semitransparent surfaces and allows the measurement of feature- and object-based selections while controlling spatial attention. On each trial, human participants attended to a subset of dots defined by feature (luminance polarity) and object (surface) in order to detect brief episodes of radial motion while ignoring any events in the unattended groups of dots. Attentional selection was assessed by means of steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEPs) and behavioral measures. SSVEP amplitudes recorded at medial occipital electrode sites were modulated both by surface-based and luminance polarity-based selection in a manner consistent with independent multiplicative enhancement of attentional effects in different dimensions in early visual cortex. This finding supports the view that feature-based attention spreads across object boundaries, at least at an early stage of processing. However, SSVEPs elicited at more lateral electrode sites showed a hierarchical pattern of selection, potentially reflecting the binding of surface-defining features with luminance features to enable surface-based attention.
Project description:In everyday social environments, demands on attentional resources dynamically shift to balance our attention to targets of interest while alerting us to important objects in our surrounds. The current study uses electroencephalography to explore how the push-pull interaction between top-down and bottom-up attention manifests itself in dynamic auditory scenes. Using natural soundscapes as distractors while subjects attend to a controlled rhythmic sound sequence, we find that salient events in background scenes significantly suppress phase-locking and gamma responses to the attended sequence, countering enhancement effects observed for attended targets. In line with a hypothesis of limited attentional resources, the modulation of neural activity by bottom-up attention is graded by degree of salience of ambient events. The study also provides insights into the interplay between endogenous and exogenous attention during natural soundscapes, with both forms of attention engaging a common fronto-parietal network at different time lags.
Project description:A central question in the field of attention is whether visual processing is a strictly limited resource, which must be allocated by selective attention. If this were the case, attentional enhancement of one stimulus should invariably lead to suppression of unattended distracter stimuli. Here we examine voluntary cued shifts of feature-selective attention to either one of two superimposed red or blue random dot kinematograms (RDKs) to test whether such a reciprocal relationship between enhancement of an attended and suppression of an unattended stimulus can be observed. The steady-state visual evoked potential (SSVEP), an oscillatory brain response elicited by the flickering RDKs, was measured in human EEG. Supporting limited resources, we observed both an enhancement of the attended and a suppression of the unattended RDK, but this observed reciprocity did not occur concurrently: enhancement of the attended RDK started at 220 ms after cue onset and preceded suppression of the unattended RDK by about 130 ms. Furthermore, we found that behavior was significantly correlated with the SSVEP time course of a measure of selectivity (attended minus unattended) but not with a measure of total activity (attended plus unattended). The significant deviations from a temporally synchronized reciprocity between enhancement and suppression suggest that the enhancement of the attended stimulus may cause the suppression of the unattended stimulus in the present experiment.
Project description:How attentional modulation on brain activities determines behavioral performance has been one of the most important issues in cognitive neuroscience. This issue has been addressed by comparing the temporal relationship between attentional modulations on neural activities and behavior. Our previous study measured the time course of attention with amplitude and phase coherence of steady-state visual evoked potential (SSVEP) and found that the modulation latency of phase coherence rather than that of amplitude was consistent with the latency of behavioral performance. In this study, as a complementary report, we compared the time course of visual attention shift measured by event-related potentials (ERPs) with that by target detection task. We developed a novel technique to compare ERPs with behavioral results and analyzed the EEG data in our previous study. Two sets of flickering stimulus at different frequencies were presented in the left and right visual hemifields, and a target or distracter pattern was presented randomly at various moments after an attention-cue presentation. The observers were asked to detect targets on the attended stimulus after the cue. We found that two ERP components, P300 and N2pc, were elicited by the target presented at the attended location. Time-course analyses revealed that attentional modulation of the P300 and N2pc amplitudes increased gradually until reaching a maximum and lasted at least 1.5 s after the cue onset, which is similar to the temporal dynamics of behavioral performance. However, attentional modulation of these ERP components started later than that of behavioral performance. Rather, the time course of attentional modulation of behavioral performance was more closely associated with that of the concurrently recorded SSVEPs analyzed. These results suggest that neural activities reflected not by either the P300 or N2pc, but by the SSVEPs, are the source of attentional modulation of behavioral performance.
Project description:With regard to hearing perception, it remains unclear as to whether, or the extent to which, different conceptual categories of real-world sounds and related categorical knowledge are differentially represented in the brain. Semantic knowledge representations are reported to include the major divisions of living versus non-living things, plus more specific categories including animals, tools, biological motion, faces, and places-categories typically defined by their characteristic visual features. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify brain regions showing preferential activity to four categories of action sounds, which included non-vocal human and animal actions (living), plus mechanical and environmental sound-producing actions (non-living). The results showed a striking antero-posterior division in cortical representations for sounds produced by living versus non-living sources. Additionally, there were several significant differences by category, depending on whether the task was category-specific (e.g. human or not) versus non-specific (detect end-of-sound). In general, (1) human-produced sounds yielded robust activation in the bilateral posterior superior temporal sulci independent of task. Task demands modulated activation of left lateralized fronto-parietal regions, bilateral insular cortices, and sub-cortical regions previously implicated in observation-execution matching, consistent with "embodied" and mirror-neuron network representations subserving recognition. (2) Animal action sounds preferentially activated the bilateral posterior insulae. (3) Mechanical sounds activated the anterior superior temporal gyri and parahippocampal cortices. (4) Environmental sounds preferentially activated dorsal occipital and medial parietal cortices. Overall, this multi-level dissociation of networks for preferentially representing distinct sound-source categories provides novel support for grounded cognition models that may underlie organizational principles for hearing perception.
Project description:BACKGROUND: It is vital to select and process relevant information while restraining irrelevant information for successful retrieval. When multiple streams of information are concurrently present, the ability to overcome distraction is very crucial for processing relevant information. Despite its significance, the neural mechanism of successful memory formation under distraction remains unclear, especially with memory for associations. The present fMRI study investigated the effect of distraction due to irrelevant stimuli in source memory. METHODS: In the MR scanner, participants studied an item and perceptual context with no distractor, a letter-distractor, or a word-distractor. Following the study phase, a source recognition test was administered in which participants were instructed to judge the study status of the test items and context of studied items. Participants' encoding activity was back-sorted by later source recognition to find the influence of distractors in subsequent memory effects. RESULTS: Source memory with distractors recruited greater encoding activity in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and the bilateral inferior temporal gyrus/fusiform cortex, along with the left posterior hippocampus. However, enhanced activity in the left anterior ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and the left parahippocampal cortex predicted successful source memory regardless of the presence of a distractor. CONCLUSIONS: These findings of subsequent memory effects suggest that strong binding of the item-context associations, as well as resistance to interference, may have greater premium in the formation of successful source memory of pictures under distraction. Further, attentional selection to the relevant target seems to play a major role in contextual binding under distraction by enhancing the viability of memory representations from interference effects of distractors.
Project description:Novel or unexpected sounds that deviate from an otherwise repetitive sequence of the same sound cause behavioural distraction. Recent work has suggested that distraction also occurs during reading as fixation durations increased when a deviant sound was presented at the fixation onset of words. The present study tested the hypothesis that this increase in fixation durations occurs due to saccadic inhibition. This was done by manipulating the temporal onset of sounds relative to the fixation onset of words in the text. If novel sounds cause saccadic inhibition, they should be more distracting when presented during the second half of fixations when saccade programming usually takes place. Participants read single sentences and heard a 120 ms sound when they fixated five target words in the sentence. On most occasions (<i>p</i> = .9), the same sine wave tone was presented ("standard"), while on the remaining occasions (<i>p</i> = .1) a new sound was presented ("novel"). Critically, sounds were played, on average, either during the first half of the fixation (0 ms delay) or during the second half of the fixation (120 ms delay). Consistent with the saccadic inhibition hypothesis (SIH), novel sounds led to longer fixation durations in the 120 ms compared to the 0 ms delay condition. However, novel sounds did not generally influence the execution of the subsequent saccade. These results suggest that unexpected sounds have a rapid influence on saccade planning, but not saccade execution.
Project description:Anxiety disorders have been linked to a hyperactivated cortico-amygdalar circuitry. Recent findings highlight the amygdala's role in mediating elevated anxiety in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, modulation of amygdala hyperactivation by attentional distraction - an effective emotion regulation strategy in healthy individuals - has not yet been examined. While undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging twenty-one unmedicated OCD patients and 21 controls performed an evaluation and a distraction task during symptom provocation with individually tailored OCD-relevant pictures. To test the specificity of responses, additional aversive and neutral stimuli were included. Significant group-by-picture type interactions were observed within fronto-striato-limbic circuits including the amygdala. In these regions patients showed increased BOLD responses during processing of OCD triggers relative to healthy controls. Amygdala hyperactivation was present across OCD symptom dimensions indicating that it represents a common neural correlate. During distraction, we observed dampening of patients' amygdala hyperactivity to OCD-relevant stimuli. Augmented amygdala involvement in patients during symptom provocation, present across OCD symptom dimensions, might constitute a correlate of fear expression in OCD linking it to other anxiety disorders. Attentional distraction seemed to dampen emotional processing of disorder-relevant stimuli via amygdala downregulation. The clinical impact of this strategy to manage anxiety in OCD should be further elucidated.
Project description:The processing of rhythmic events in music is influenced by the induced metrical structure. Two mechanisms underlying this may be temporal attending and temporal prediction. Temporal fluctuations in attentional resources may influence the processing of rhythmic events by heightening sensitivity at metrically strong positions. Temporal predictions may attenuate responses to events that are highly expected within a metrical structure. In the current study we aimed to disentangle these two mechanisms by examining responses to unexpected sounds, using intensity increments and decrements as deviants. Temporal attending was hypothesized to lead to better detection of deviants in metrically strong (on the beat) than weak (offbeat) positions due to heightened sensitivity on the beat. Temporal prediction was hypothesized to lead to best detection of increments in offbeat positions and decrements on the beat, as they would be most unexpected in these positions. We used a speeded detection task to measure detectability of the deviants under attended conditions (Experiment 1). Under unattended conditions (Experiment 2), we used EEG to measure the mismatch negativity (MMN), an ERP component known to index the detectability of unexpected auditory events. Furthermore, we examined the amplitude of the auditory evoked P1 and N1 responses, which are known to be sensitive to both attention and prediction. We found better detection of small increments in offbeat positions than on the beat, consistent with the influence of temporal prediction (Experiment 1). In addition, we found faster detection of large increments on the beat as opposed to offbeat (Experiment 1), and larger amplitude P1 responses on the beat as compared to offbeat, both in support of temporal attending (Experiment 2). As such, we showed that both temporal attending and temporal prediction shape our processing of metrical rhythm.
Project description:Distracted eating can lead to increased food intake, but it is unclear how. We aimed to assess how distraction affects motivated, goal-directed responses for food reward after satiation. Thirty-eight healthy normal-weight participants (28F; 10M) performed a visual detection task varying in attentional load (high vs. low distraction) during fMRI. Simultaneously, they exerted effort for sweet and savory food rewards by repeated button presses. Two fMRI runs were separated by sensory-specific satiation (outcome devaluation) of one of the (sweet or savory) reward outcomes, to assess outcome-sensitive, goal-directed, responses (valued vs. devalued reward, post vs. pre satiation). We could not verify our primary hypothesis that more distraction leads to less activation in ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) during goal-directed effort. Behaviorally, distraction also did not affect effort for food reward following satiation across subjects. For our secondary hypothesis, we assessed whether distraction affected other fronto-striatal regions during goal-directed effort. We did not obtain such effects at our whole-brain corrected threshold, but at an exploratory uncorrected threshold (p?<?0.001), distraction decreased goal-directed responses (devalued vs. valued) in the right inferior frontal gyrus (rIFG). We continued with this rIFG region for the next secondary hypothesis; specifically, that distraction would reduce functional connectivity with the fronto-striatal regions found in the previous analyses. Indeed, distraction decreased functional connectivity between the rIFG and left putamen for valued versus devalued food rewards (pFWE(cluster)?<?0.05). In an exploratory brain-behavior analysis, we showed that distraction-sensitive rIFG-responses correlated negatively (r?=?- 0.40; p?=?0.014) with the effect of distraction on effort. Specifically, decreased distraction-related rIFG-responses were associated with increased effort for food reward after satiation. We discuss the absence of distraction effects on goal-directed responses in vmPFC and in behavior across participants. Moreover, based on our significant functional connectivity and brain-behavior results, we suggest that distraction might attenuate the ability to inhibit responses for food reward after satiation by affecting the rIFG and its connection to the putamen.