Functional representation of 3d space in endogenous attention shifts

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The aim of this study was to explore whether the attentional system, as far as an endogenous orienting is concerned, allocates resources along the sagittal plane and whether such a process is affected by, and is likely to be based on, different functional representations of 3D space in the brain. Several models make a main action-based distinction between representations of peripersonal space and of those extrapersonal space. Accordingly, if attention has to move from one representation to another, it should be possible to observe a decrease in performance during such a transition. To test this hypothesis three experiments were run in which participants performed a cued detection task. Cue stimuli were informative and were centrally located around the fixation point. Target stimuli were displayed at four different depth planes. In the first experiment, assuming that the border between the peripersonal space and the extrapersonal space was at 1 m from the observer, half the target stimuli were located in the peripersonal space and half in the extrapersonal space. The fixation point was located at 1 m from the observer. In the second experiment, the fixation point was moved at 2 m from the observer in order to rule out the possible effects of ocular motor programming. In the third experiment, in order to rule out effects related to the spatial layout of target stimuli (i.e., centre of mass effect) two target stimuli were located in the peripersonal space and six in the extrapersonal space. In all the experiments, besides a validity effect, we observed greater reaction times when attention shift was across spatial representations than when it was within the same representation. The implications for action-oriented models of attention are discussed.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Rome, Italy

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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