Visual Attention with Auditory Stimulus

Visual Attention with Auditory Stimulus

Shuo Zhao (Graduate School of Natural Science and Technology, Okayama University, Japan), Chunlin Li (Graduate School of Natural Science and Technology, Okayama University, Japan), Jinglong Wu (Graduate School of Natural Science and Technology, Okayama University, Japan), Hongbin Han (Peking University, China) and Dehua Chui (Neuroscience Research Institute / Third Hospital of Peking University, China)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-559-9.ch004
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Visual orienting attention is best studied using visual cues. Spatial and temporal attention have been compared using brain-imaging data. This chapter’s authors developed a visual orienting attention tool to compare auditory when a visual target was presented. They also designed a control task in which subjects had to click on the response key consistent with a simultaneous spatial task. The effect of clicking the response key was removed by subtracting the brain activations elicited by clicking the response key from the results of the visual voluntary attention task. The authors then measured brain activity in sixteen healthy volunteers using functional magnetic resonance imaging (Coull, Frith, Büchel & Nobre, 2000). In the task, visual spatial attention was manipulated by a visual cue, and participants were told to ignore the auditory stimulus. A neutral task was also performed, in which a neutral cue was used. Symbolic central cues oriented subjects to spatial location only (Coull & Nobre, 1998) or gave no information about spatial location. Subjects were also scanned during a resting baseline condition in which they clicked the reaction key ten times. The reaction time for spatial location attention was faster than that without an auditory stimulus. Brain-imaging data showed that the inferior parietal lobe (IPL) and anterior cingulated cortex (ACC) were activated in the visual-spatial attention task and that the activation was enhanced during the task with the auditory stimulus.
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Attention is defined as the ability to attend to some things while ignoring others (Michael S. Gazzaniga 2008). Attention is very important in cognitive neuroscience, in part because this cognitive ability supports our awareness and influences our ability to encode information in long-term memory. There is no better definition of attention than that of William James, who stated a century ago, “Everyone knows what attention is. It is the taking possessing of the mind in clear and vivid form of what seem several simultaneous objects of trains of thought” (James, 1890).

We often divide attention into two broad categories: involuntary attention and voluntary attention (Figure 1). Involuntary attention, a bottom-up stimulus-driven process, describes attention captured by a sensory event. Voluntary attention, a top-down goal-directed process, represents our plan to attend to something. In this study, we focus on the mechanisms of voluntary attention.

Figure 1.

Category of attention


In human information-processing systems, voluntary attention plays an important role in selecting and integrating information (Figure 1). Selective attention suggests that individuals have a tendency to process information from only one part of the environment to the exclusion of other parts. For example, the cocktail party effect is typical of selective attention. A British psychologist examined the so-called cocktail party effect: in the noisy, confusing environment of a cocktail party, we can still focus on a single conversation.

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