Neural Mechanisms of Temporal Resolution of Attention

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Abstract

The dynamic nature of the world requires that our visual representations are continuously updated. These representations are more precise if there is a narrow time window over which information is averaged. We assess the neural processes of visual updating by testing patients with lesions including inferior parietal cortex, control patients and healthy adults on a continuous visual monitoring task. In Experiment 1, observers kept track of the changing spatial period of a luminance grating and identified the final spatial period after the stimulus disappeared. Healthy older adults and neurological controls were able to perform better than simulated guesses, but only 3 of 11 patients with damage including parietal cortex were able to reach performance that differed from simulated guesses. The effects were unrelated to lesion size. Poor performance on this task is consistent with an inability to selectively attend to the final moment at which the stimulus was seen. To investigate the temporal limits of attention, we varied the rate of stimulus change in Experiment 2. Performance remained poor for some patients even with slow 2.5 Hz change rates. The performance of 4 patients with parietal damage displayed poor temporal precision, namely recovery of performance with slower rates of change.

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