Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Visual attention attuned to grabbable objects

17.03.2003


Dartmouth research group has found a new and unexpected way our attention can be grabbed – by grabbable objects. Their study, which appears in the March 17 advance online issue of Nature Neuroscience, demonstrates that objects we typically associate with grasping, such as screwdrivers, forks or pens, automatically attract our visual attention, especially if these items are on a person’s right-hand side.



In the brain, there are two primary visual pathways, one for identifying objects (perception) and one to guide your arms and legs based on what you see (action). To better understand how these two systems may interact, the Dartmouth team studied whether visual perception, specifically peripheral visual attention, influences motor systems in the brain.

"People have studied peripheral vision and how it helps perception, but nobody really talked about it in terms of helping action," says Todd C. Handy, the lead author and a research assistant professor at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Dartmouth. "There are certain things that we all know attract our attention, like flashing lights and loud noises. Yet, think about how often we grab things without directly looking at them. Now here’s evidence that, to help us do this, grabbable objects can literally grab our attention. There’s a clear association."


The researchers devised a simple test to measure this connection. They asked their subjects to look at a computer screen with two objects: one was something graspable, like a tool, the other was not graspable, like a cloud or a sailboat. After about a second, a set of horizontal bars flashed over one of the pictures. While concentrating in the center of the screen, the subjects were told to indicate whether the bars appeared on the left or right. The researchers determined where attention was focused when the bars flashed by measuring the electrical activity in the brain with an electroencephalogram (EEG).

"When the bars flashed over a graspable object, the EEG response in the visual cortex was more intense," says Handy. "It shows evidence of attention being specifically drawn to those objects. Interestingly, the effect was more profound when the tool was on the right. It suggests that attention is more strongly drawn to grabbable objects when they are on our right."

Handy’s team then used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), a method that precisely identifies areas of brain activity, to confirm their results. They found that when the tool appeared on the right, the brain’s classic motor areas responded to it. If the tool was on the left, the motor areas weren’t as active. According to Handy, this indicates that when graspable items are on the right, the motor system recognizes that there is something to grab and attention is drawn automatically to that location.

"People had already shown that simply viewing graspable objects activates motor areas in the brain," explains Handy. "What we didn’t know was that graspable items can affect visual attention, and that it matters where these things are in visual space."

The team is now trying to understand whether being right-handed or left-handed influences visual attention and motor activity.

Handy’s co-authors on the paper include Scott T. Grafton, professor of psychological and brain sciences and the Director of the Dartmouth Brain Imaging Center; Neha M. Shroff, Dartmouth alum from the Class of ’02; Sarah Ketay, research assistant; and Michael S. Gazzaniga, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Dartmouth and a professor of psychological and brain sciences.


This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Sue Knapp | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.dartmouth.edu/

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

'Lipid asymmetry' plays key role in activating immune cells

20.02.2018 | Life Sciences

MRI technique differentiates benign breast lesions from malignancies

20.02.2018 | Medical Engineering

Major discovery in controlling quantum states of single atoms

20.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>