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Arianna Zuanazzi, Uta Noppeney; Modality-specific and multisensory mechanisms of spatial attention and expectation. Journal of Vision 2020;20(8):1. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.8.1.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
In our natural environment, the brain needs to combine signals from multiple sensory modalities into a coherent percept. Whereas spatial attention guides perceptual decisions by prioritizing processing of signals that are task-relevant, spatial expectations encode the probability of signals over space. Previous studies have shown that behavioral effects of spatial attention generalize across sensory modalities. However, because they manipulated spatial attention as signal probability over space, these studies could not dissociate attention and expectation or assess their interaction. In two experiments, we orthogonally manipulated spatial attention (i.e., task-relevance) and expectation (i.e., signal probability) selectively in one sensory modality (i.e., primary modality) (experiment 1: audition, experiment 2: vision) and assessed their effects on primary and secondary sensory modalities in which attention and expectation were held constant. Our results show behavioral effects of spatial attention that are comparable for audition and vision as primary modalities; however, signal probabilities were learned more slowly in audition, so that spatial expectations were formed later in audition than vision. Critically, when these differences in learning between audition and vision were accounted for, both spatial attention and expectation affected responses more strongly in the primary modality in which they were manipulated and generalized to the secondary modality only in an attenuated fashion. Collectively, our results suggest that both spatial attention and expectation rely on modality-specific and multisensory mechanisms.
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