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Michael Jigo, Marisa Carrasco; Attention alters spatial resolution by modulating second-order processing. Journal of Vision 2018;18(7):2. doi: 10.1167/18.7.2.
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Endogenous and exogenous visuospatial attention both alter spatial resolution, but they operate via distinct mechanisms. In texture segmentation tasks, exogenous attention inflexibly increases resolution even when detrimental for the task at hand and does so by modulating second-order processing. Endogenous attention is more flexible and modulates resolution to benefit performance according to task demands, but it is unknown whether it also operates at the second-order level. To answer this question, we measured performance on a second-order texture segmentation task while independently manipulating endogenous and exogenous attention. Observers discriminated a second-order texture target at several eccentricities. We found that endogenous attention improved performance uniformly across eccentricity, suggesting a flexible mechanism that can increase or decrease resolution based on task demands. In contrast, exogenous attention improved performance in the periphery but impaired it at central retinal locations, consistent with an inflexible resolution enhancement. Our results reveal that endogenous and exogenous attention both alter spatial resolution by differentially modulating second-order processing.
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