Wilterson, Andrew; Nastase, Samuel; Bio, Branden; Guterstam, Arvid; Graziano, Michael
The attention schema theory (AST) posits a specific relationship between subjective awareness and attention, in which awareness is the control model that the brain uses to aid in the endogenous control of attention. We proposed that the right temporoparietal junction (TPJ) is involved in that interaction between awareness and attention. In previous experiments, we developed a behavioral paradigm in human subjects to manipulate awareness and attention. The paradigm involved a visual cue that could be used to guide a shift of attention to a target stimulus. In task 1, subjects were aware of the visual cue, and their endogenous control mechanism was able to use the cue to help control attention. In task 2, subjects were unaware of the visual cue, and their endogenous control mechanism was no longer able to use it to control attention, even though the cue still had a measurable effect on other aspects of behavior. Here we tested the two tasks while scanning brain activity in human volunteers. We predicted that the right TPJ would be active in relation to the cue in task 1, but not in task 2. This prediction was confirmed. The right TPJ was active in relation to the cue in task 1; it was not measurably active in task 2; the difference was significant. In our interpretation, the right TPJ is involved in a complex interaction in which awareness aids in the control of attention.
Monitoring the attention of others is fundamental to social cognition. Most of the literature on the topic assumes that our social cognitive machinery is tuned specifically to the gaze direction of others as a proxy for attention. This standard assumption reduces attention to an externally visible parameter. Here we show that this assumption is wrong and a deeper, more meaningful representation is involved. We presented subjects with two cues about the attentional state of a face: direction of gaze and emotional expression. We tested whether people relied predominantly on one cue, the other, or both. If the traditional view is correct, then the gaze cue should dominate. Instead, people employed a variety of strategies, some relying on gaze, some on expression, and some on an integration of cues. We also assessed people’s social cognitive ability using two, independent, standard tests. If the traditional view is correct, then social cognitive ability, as assessed by the independent tests, should correlate with the degree to which people successfully use the gaze cue to judge the attention state of the face. Instead, social cognitive ability correlated best with the degree to which people successfully integrated the cues together, instead of with the use of any one specific cue. The results suggest a rethink of a fundamental component of social cognition: monitoring the attention of others involves constructing a deep model that is informed by a combination of cues. Attention is a rich process and monitoring the attention of others involves a similarly rich representation.
Rafidi, Nicole S; Hulbert, Justin C; Brooks, Paula P; Norman, Kenneth A
Repeated testing (as opposed to repeated study) leads to improved long-term memory retention, but the mechanism underlying this improvement remains controversial. In this work, we test the hypothesis that retrieval practice benefits subsequent recall by reducing competition from related memories. This hypothesis implies that the degree of reduction in competition between retrieval practice attempts should predict subsequent memory for the practiced items. To test this prediction, we collected electroencephalography (EEG) data across two sessions. In the first session, participants practiced selectively retrieving exemplars from superordinate semantic categories (high competition), as well as retrieving the names of the superordinate categories from exemplars (low competition). In the second session, participants repeatedly studied and were then tested on Swahili-English vocabulary. One week after session two, participants were again tested on the vocabulary. We trained a within-subject classifier on the data from session one to distinguish high and low competition states. We then used this classifier to measure competition across multiple retrieval practice attempts in the second session. The degree to which competition decreased for a given vocabulary word predicted whether that item was subsequently remembered in the third session. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that repeated testing improves retention by reducing competition.
Cara L. Buck; Jonathan D. Cohen; Field, Brent; Daniel Kahneman; Samuel M. McClure; Leigh E. Nystrom
Studies of subjective well-being have conventionally relied upon self-report, which directs subjects’ attention to their emotional experiences. This method presumes that attention itself does not influence emotional processes, which could bias sampling. We tested whether attention influences experienced utility (the moment-by-moment experience of pleasure) by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure the activity of brain systems thought to represent hedonic value while manipulating attentional load. Subjects received appetitive or aversive solutions orally while alternatively executing a low or high attentional load task. Brain regions associated with hedonic processing, including the ventral striatum, showed a response to both juice and quinine. This response decreased during the high-load task relative to the low-load task. Thus, attentional allocation may influence experienced utility by modulating (either directly or indirectly) the activity of brain mechanisms thought to represent hedonic value.
Chang, Claire H. C.; Lazaridi, Christina; Yeshurun, Yaara; Norman, Kenneth A.; Hasson, Uri
This study examined how the brain dynamically updates event representations by integrating new information over multiple minutes while segregating irrelevant input. A professional writer custom-designed a narrative with two independent storylines, interleaving across minute-long segments (ABAB). In the last (C) part, characters from the two storylines meet and their shared history is revealed. Part C is designed to induce the spontaneous recall of past events, upon the recurrence of narrative motifs from A/B, and to shed new light on them. Our fMRI results showed storyline-specific neural patterns, which were reinstated (i.e. became more active) during storyline transitions. This effect increased along the processing timescale hierarchy, peaking in the default mode network. Similarly, the neural reinstatement of motifs was found during part C. Furthermore, participants showing stronger motif reinstatement performed better in integrating A/B and C events, demonstrating the role of memory reactivation in information integration over intervening irrelevant events.
Does the default mode network (DMN) reconfigure to encode information about the changing environment? This question has proven difficult, because patterns of functional connectivity reflect a mixture of stimulus-induced neural processes, intrinsic neural processes and non-neuronal noise. Here we introduce inter-subject functional correlation (ISFC), which isolates stimulus-dependent inter-regional correlations between brains exposed to the same stimulus. During fMRI, we had subjects listen to a real-life auditory narrative and to temporally scrambled versions of the narrative. We used ISFC to isolate correlation patterns within the DMN that were locked to the processing of each narrative segment and specific to its meaning within the narrative context. The momentary configurations of DMN ISFC were highly replicable across groups. Moreover, DMN coupling strength predicted memory of narrative segments. Thus, ISFC opens new avenues for linking brain network dynamics to stimulus features and behaviour.