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  1. Lecture 6 Attention

  2. What is Attention? “Everyone knows what attention is. It is the taking of possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. Focalization, concentration of consciousness are of its essence. It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others, and is a condition which has a real opposite in the confused, dazed, scatterbrain state…” William James (1890) “the nature of God is like a circle of which the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere” Empedocles (500 B.C.E.)

  3. What is Attention? • It is more than just sensation and perception • Attention and arousal are not synonymous • There can be attentional deficits in perfectly awake individuals • Extreme arousal (as in pain or terror) may impair the flexibility of attention

  4. What is Attention? • Attention: ability to detect and respond to stimuli • Attention is not a unitary construct • just like memory there are many different types of attention • At the psychological level: attention implies a preferential allocation of processing resources and response channels to events that have become behaviorally relevant • At the neural level: attention refers to alternations in the selectivity, intensity and duration of neuronal responses to such events

  5. Types of Attention • Alertness and arousal – the basic aspects of attention that enable a person to extract information from the environment or to select a particular response (e.g., coma, stupor, awake, full alertness) • Vigilance (sustained attention) – the ability to sustain alertness (monitor an even or stimulus) continuously (e.g., waiting at a traffic light and waiting for a change from red light to green light) • Selective attention – the aspect of attention that is used to select either specific incoming information or specific responses for priority in processing (e.g., attending to one conversation at a party and ignoring others or the music)

  6. Bottom-up and Top-down Processes • Bottom-up processing – processing that starts with unprocessed sensory information and builds toward more conceptual representation • Top-down processing – processing in which conceptual knowledge influences the processing or interpretation of lower level perceptual processing

  7. Neurophysiology of Attentional Matrix • Reticular activating system • The superior colliculus • The thalamus • The parietal lobe • The frontal lobe • The cingulate cortex

  8. The Reticular Activating System (RAS) • Arousal and wakefulness • Sleep-wake cycle • Cells in the reticular formation can set the pace of activity of cells throughout the brain • Damage to the RAS can produce reduced attention – confusional state or coma • Coma – an impaired state of consciousness in which individuals are seeming unresponsive to most external stimuli • Coma can arise after a bilateral damage to RAS or interrupted communication between the RAS and the rest of the brain • Causes: tumor, strokes, seizures, carbon monoxide etc. • Chronic coma  chronic vegetative state • Coming out of the coma  stupor – in and out of consciousness • Stimulants and depressants have an effect on the RAS system

  9. The Superior Colliculus • This structure is important for directing visual attention to ‘novel’ stimuli • Looking at something is not the same thing as paying attention, however, most of the time the focus of our attention and our eyes fixation are the same thing • Saccade– an eye movement in which the eyes jump from one position to the next (rather then moving smoothly) • Express saccade – fast and reflexive in response to novel visual stimuli (superior coliculi)  faster • E.g., moving your eyes towards a flashing light in the periphery of your visual field • Regular saccade – voluntary eye movements (frontal eye fields)  slower • E.g., scanning a face of a person of the opposite sex or looking for waldo

  10. Where is Waldo? Frontal Eye Fields

  11. Thalamus • Medial dorsal, intralaminar and reticular nuclei are important for general arousal (connected to the RAS) • Pulvinar is involved in selective attention • Pulvinar is also involved in gating or filtering

  12. Parietal lobe • Important for visual and spatial aspects of attention (remember the “where” pathway) and general attentional resources • Hemineglect

  13. Anterior Cingulate Cortex • Important for attentional selection redgreenblueyellow blueyellowredgreen redgreenblueyellow

  14. Frontal Lobe • Important for complex aspects of attention • Executive control of attention  can inhibit the more reflexive aspects of attention • Top-down processing • Domain non-specific  will be involved in attending to faces, sounds, words etc.

  15. Hemineglect (Neglect) • Neglect syndrome: the lack of attention to one side of space, usually the left, as a result of parietal damage • Not attributed to a unitary deficit in arousal, orientation, representation, or intention

  16. Patients may shave, groom and dress one side of the body Patients may fail to eat food placed on left side of the plate Patients may fail to read the left side of words printed anywhere on the page In some cases neglect is more subtle The Neuropsychology of Neglect

  17. Neglect in Non-human animals

  18. The Neuropsychology of Neglect • Most dramatic and observable aspects of neglect occur in the visual sphere • However, the phenomenon can be multimodal – patients may also display a rightward bias during detection of auditory, somatosensory, and even olfactory targets • Many patients may also have hemianopia or hemiparesis

  19. Is neglect due to sensory loss – hemianopia? Patient has hemianopia but no neglect • Letter cancellation task • Since some patients with hemianopia do not show neglect we can conclude that neglect is not due to hemianopia • Hemianopia is neither necessary nor sufficient for the emergence of neglect Patient shows neglect but has no hemianopia

  20. Classification of Neglect Behaviors • Sensory-representational • Motor-exploratory • Limbic-motivational

  21. Sensory-Representational Component of Neglect-Extinction The Line Bisection Test • Intact individuals place bisection mark slightly to the left of true centre • Neglect patients place it rightward of the centre • Patients with left hemianopia are like intact indviduals • If patients are asked to close their eyes and point to toward body midline, the patients usually point right of midline • There is a shrinkage of the mental representation of the left hemispace (hallucinations, REM) Intact Left Neglect Patient

  22. Sensory-Representational Component of Neglect - Internal Representations • Left-neglect patients showed right side bias in their descriptions of memories • Patient describing Piazza del Duomo • The information is not obliterated • Mental ‘spotlight’ fails to illuminate left-sided features

  23. Motor-Exploratory Aspects of Unilateral Neglect • Patients with left neglect display a pervasive reluctance to scan and explore the left hemispace • Neglect patients have disorganized scanning • Decreased tendency to explore left side and excessive attraction exerted by stimuli on the right • Improvement if letters are organized in rows • Improvement if letters are erased rather then circled

  24. Motivational Aspects of Unilateral Neglect • Patients with unilateral neglect devalue the lest side of the world and behave as if nothing important is happening on the left • Food on the left side of the tray • Sacks (Eyes Right) Regular cancellation Given money

  25. At what level do patients ignore the stimuli on the left (peripherally or centrally) • How would you test this?

  26. Are these two the same?

  27. Are these two the same? The Gating in Neglect is Central, Not Peripheral – Implicit Processing LATE SELECTION

  28. Determinants of Neglect • Egocentric (with respect to the observer) • Allocentric (with respect to another extrapersonal event) • Object-centered (with respect to a principal axis in the canonical representation of an object) Federico Felini: Dov’é la sinistra?

  29. Egocentric Coordinates • Testing of the mind’s eye • Patient asked to name cities of an imagined map of France • Left vestibular stimulation with cold water • How would this translate in naming the cities in Canada?

  30. Object-Based Coordinates • “Leftness” is relative

  31. Far-Space Versus Near-Space • Some patients have left neglect only for the near-space within an arm’s reach • Some patients have left neglect only for events in far-space, beyond arm’s reach • Some patients show a “peripersonal” neglect of the body • Anosognosia – loss of ability to recognize or acknowledge an illness or bodily defect (delusion that the paralyzed limb belongs to someone else) • Sacks (The Man Who Fell out of Bed)

  32. Recovery • A number of patients show recovery in the weeks following injury • 50% of patients recover – 9 to 43 weeks

  33. Right Hemisphere Dominance For Spatial Attention • Clinical evidence – contralesional neglect is more frequent, severe, and lasting after right hemisphere lesions • Why is this the case?

  34. Egocentric, allocentric, world-centered or object centered midpoint Left side Right side • The left hemisphere attributes salience predominantly to the right side of events (shifts attention mostly in rightward direction) • The right hemisphere attributes salience to both side of events (distributes attention and shifts attention both left and right) • The right hemisphere devotes more neuronal resources to spatial attention and attentional tasks R>>>>L R = L Left hemisphere (attends to right sides) Right hemisphere (attends to both sides)

  35. Evidence for Right Hemisphere Role in Spatial Tasks • EEG evidence during spatial tasks • fMRI evidence during spatial tasks • The left hemisphere attends only to the contralateral right hemispace whereas the right hemisphere attends to the entire extrapersonal space

  36. Functional Anatomy of Unilateral Neglect • Evidence based on multilobar infracts, major head trauma or large neoplasams • Traditional view – damage to the right inferior parietal lobe will produce unilateral neglect • New evidence also implicates frontal lobes, cingulate gyrus, striatum and thalamus

  37. Functional Anatomy of Unilateral Neglect • Unilateral neglect is not a “parietal syndrome”, rather it is an “attentional network syndrome” • Parietal “sensory” neglect • Frontal “motor’ neglect Posterior Parietal Cortex Frontal Eye Fields Thalamus Striatum Cingulate Cortex

  38. Posterior Parietal Deficits - Balint’s Syndrome • Paralysis of eye fixation with inability to look voluntarily into the peripheral visual field • Disturbance of visual attention such that there is neglect of the peripheral field (only one object perceived at the time - simultagnosia) • Optic ataxia • Anosognosia