Cortical processes underlying attentional modulations of dynamic vision

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Bilkent University
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Visual attention is one of the most fundamental cognitive functions guiding and influencing a various number of processes. However, how different neural mechanisms are modulated by selective attention to process information is still subject to debate. Utilizing electroencephalography (EEG), the current thesis focused on understanding the time course of visual information processing and its neural underpinnings with paradigms that operate in different attentional modes, such as visual masking, attentional load, and transparent motion design. First, we aimed to understand the role of spatial attention in information processing and its possible interactions with metacontrast masking mechanisms. The behavioral results revealed an interaction effect that suggests differential effects of spatial attention on metacontrast masking. The following EEG analyses revealed significant activation due to masking and attentional load on early negative components located over occipital and parieto-occipital scalp sites, followed by a late positive component centered over centro-parietal electrodes. These findings suggest that the effect of spatial attention may have distinct characteristics at different stages of sensory and perceptual processing regarding its relationship with metacontrast masking. Secondly, by employing a novel variant of transparent motion design with color and motion swapping, we aimed to isolate the object-based cueing effect from a possible feature-based explanation in both psychophysical measures and neural activities. Our results demonstrate that the behavioral effects of attentional cueing survived feature swaps, providing evidence for an object-based attention mechanism. We also observed event-related potential correlates of these object-based selection effects in the late N1 component range, over occipital and parieto-occipital scalp sites, significantly associated with the variation in behavioral performance. Our findings provide the first evidence of the role of the N1 component in object-based attention in this transparent-motion design under conditions that rule out possible feature-based explanations. Taken together, the present results highlight the substantial effects of selective attention on the processing of visual information after the initial entry of information into the visual system and before the completion of its processing.

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EEG, Attention, Attentional load, Object-based attention, Masking, Metacontrast, Visibility, Temporal dynamics, Transparent-motion
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