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Antonio Fernández, Hsin-Hung Li, Marisa Carrasco; How exogenous spatial attention affects visual representation. Journal of Vision 2019;19(11):4. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.11.4.
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Orienting covert spatial attention to a target location enhances visual sensitivity and benefits performance in many visual tasks. How these attention-related improvements in performance affect the underlying visual representation of low-level visual features is not fully understood. Here we focus on characterizing how exogenous spatial attention affects the feature representations of orientation and spatial frequency. We asked observers to detect a vertical grating embedded in noise and performed psychophysical reverse correlation. Doing so allowed us to make comparisons with previous studies that utilized the same task and analysis to assess how endogenous attention and presaccadic modulations affect visual representations. We found that exogenous spatial attention improved performance and enhanced the gain of the target orientation without affecting orientation tuning width. Moreover, we found no change in spatial frequency tuning. We conclude that covert exogenous spatial attention alters performance by strictly boosting gain of orientation-selective filters, much like covert endogenous spatial attention.
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