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Meike A. Schweisfurth, Renate Schweizer, and Stefan Treue (2014)

Feature-based attentional modulation of orientation perception in somatosensation

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 8(Article 519):1-8.  (export entry)


In a reaction time study of human tactile orientation detection the effects of spatial attention and feature based attention were investigated. Subjects had to give speeded responses to target orientations (parallel and orthogonal to the finger axis) in a random stream of oblique tactile distractor orientations presented to their index and ring fingers. Before each block of trials, subjects received a tactile cue at one finger. By manipulating the validity of this cue with respect to its location and orientation (feature), we provided an incentive to subjects to attend spatially to the cued location and only there to the cued orientation. Subjects showed quicker responses to parallel compared to orthogonal targets, pointing to an orientation anisotropy in sensory processing. Also, faster reaction times (RTs) were observed in location matched trials, i.e., when targets appeared on the cued finger, representing a perceptual benefit of spatial attention. Most importantly, RTs were shorter to orientations matching the cue, both at the cued and at the uncued location, documenting a global enhancement of tactile sensation by feature-based attention. This is the first report of a perceptual benefit of feature-based attention outside the spatial focus of attention in somatosensory perception. The similarity to effects of feature based attention in visual perception supports the notion of matching attentional mechanisms across sensory domains.
DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00519 ISSN: 1662-5161 WOS:000340063500001