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Journal Article

Automatic processing of unattended object features by functional connectivity


Mayer,  Katja
Max Planck Research Group Neural Mechanisms of Human Communication, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University;

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Mayer, K., & Vuong, Q. (2013). Automatic processing of unattended object features by functional connectivity. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7: 193. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00193.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-000E-FD14-6
Observers can selectively attend to object features that are relevant for a task. However, unattended task-irrelevant features may still be processed and possibly integrated with the attended features. This study investigated the neural mechanisms for processing both task-relevant (attended) and task-irrelevant (unattended) object features. The Garner paradigm was adapted for functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to test whether specific brain areas process the conjunction of features or whether multiple interacting areas are involved in this form of feature integration. Observers attended to shape, color, or non-rigid motion of novel objects while unattended features changed from trial to trial (change blocks) or remained constant (no-change blocks) during a given block. This block manipulation allowed us to measure the extent to which unattended features affected neural responses which would reflect the extent to which multiple object features are automatically processed. We did not find Garner interference at the behavioral level. However, we designed the experiment to equate performance across block types so that any fMRI results could not be due solely to differences in task difficulty between change and no-change blocks. Attention to specific features localized several areas known to be involved in object processing. No area showed larger responses on change blocks compared to no-change blocks. However, psychophysiological interaction (PPI) analyses revealed that several functionally-localized areas showed significant positive interactions with areas in occipito-temporal and frontal areas that depended on block type. Overall, these findings suggest that both regional responses and functional connectivity are crucial for processing multi-featured objects.