August 2023
Volume 23, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2023
Voluntary temporal attention enhances sensory representations
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Jiating Zhu
    Boston University
  • Karen Tian
    Boston University
    New York University
  • Marisa Carrasco
    New York University
  • Rachel Denison
    Boston University
    New York University
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  This research was supported by National Institutes of Health National Eye Institute R01 EY019693 to M.C., T32 EY007136 to NYU, and F32 EY025533 and funding from Boston University to R.D.
Journal of Vision August 2023, Vol.23, 4732. doi:
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      Jiating Zhu, Karen Tian, Marisa Carrasco, Rachel Denison; Voluntary temporal attention enhances sensory representations. Journal of Vision 2023;23(9):4732.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Goal: Voluntary temporal attention, the prioritization of visual information at task-relevant points in time, improves perceptual sensitivity. However, little is known about how temporal attention affects the neural representation of visual information. Here we investigated whether and how temporal attention affects orientation representations. Methods: In two experiments, we used a two-target temporal cueing task to manipulate voluntary temporal attention and measured the effects on orientation representations using MEG decoding. On each trial, two grating targets (T1 and T2), each independently tilted around vertical or horizontal, appeared sequentially at the same location, separated by a 300-ms interval. An auditory precue (75% validity) before the targets instructed observers to attend to T1 or T2. An auditory response cue after the targets instructed observers to report the tilt (clockwise or counter-clockwise) of either T1 or T2. In trials where the precue directed temporal attention to T1, T1 was attended and T2 was unattended, and vice versa when the precue was to T2. The temporal cueing protocol was similar in the two experiments, except that in Experiment 1, the targets were presented on a gray background, whereas in Experiment 2, the targets were superimposed on 20-Hz flickering noise patches. To measure time-resolved orientation representations for each target, we decoded vertical vs. horizontal orientation across time using a linear support vector machine. Results: In both experiments, temporal attention improved behavioral accuracy, and it increased orientation decoding accuracy for T1. The improvement occurred 235-300 ms and 195-260 ms after T1 onset for Experiments 1 and 2, respectively, according to cluster permutation tests. There was no evidence for improved T2 decoding accuracy in either experiment. Conclusions: Voluntary temporal attention enhanced the orientation representation of the first target. This sensory-level change reveals a possible neural mechanism of how temporal attention could improve visual perceptual sensitivity.


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