JOURNAL ARTICLE

Attentional Selection of Feature Conjunctions Is Accomplished by Parallel and Independent Selection of Single Features

Søren K Andersen, Matthias M Müller, Steven A Hillyard
Journal of Neuroscience 2015 July 8, 35 (27): 9912-9
26156992

UNLABELLED: Experiments that study feature-based attention have often examined situations in which selection is based on a single feature (e.g., the color red). However, in more complex situations relevant stimuli may not be set apart from other stimuli by a single defining property but by a specific combination of features. Here, we examined sustained attentional selection of stimuli defined by conjunctions of color and orientation. Human observers attended to one out of four concurrently presented superimposed fields of randomly moving horizontal or vertical bars of red or blue color to detect brief intervals of coherent motion. Selective stimulus processing in early visual cortex was assessed by recordings of steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEPs) elicited by each of the flickering fields of stimuli. We directly contrasted attentional selection of single features and feature conjunctions and found that SSVEP amplitudes on conditions in which selection was based on a single feature only (color or orientation) exactly predicted the magnitude of attentional enhancement of SSVEPs when attending to a conjunction of both features. Furthermore, enhanced SSVEP amplitudes elicited by attended stimuli were accompanied by equivalent reductions of SSVEP amplitudes elicited by unattended stimuli in all cases. We conclude that attentional selection of a feature-conjunction stimulus is accomplished by the parallel and independent facilitation of its constituent feature dimensions in early visual cortex.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: The ability to perceive the world is limited by the brain's processing capacity. Attention affords adaptive behavior by selectively prioritizing processing of relevant stimuli based on their features (location, color, orientation, etc.). We found that attentional mechanisms for selection of different features belonging to the same object operate independently and in parallel: concurrent attentional selection of two stimulus features is simply the sum of attending to each of those features separately. This result is key to understanding attentional selection in complex (natural) scenes, where relevant stimuli are likely to be defined by a combination of stimulus features.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article

Discussion

You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Trending Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read
26156992
×

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.

×

Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"