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Prog Brain Res. 2009;176:47-63. doi: 10.1016/S0079-6123(09)17604-5.

Visual streams and shifting attention.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA.


Understanding the relationship between bottom-up and top-down processing in visual perception and attention is challenging. An important part of that challenge is studying the roles the parvocellular (P) and magnocellular (M) retino-geniculo-cortical pathways play in visual processing and attention. The P pathway provides the dominant initial input to the ventral stream which plays an important role in object processing and is assumed to be relatively more involved in object-based attention. The faster responding M pathway provides the dominant initial input to the dorsal stream which plays an important role in processing movement and spatial location information and is assumed to be relatively more involved in space-based attention. To gain insight into the relationship between M/dorsal and P/ventral activity and deploying visual attention, we used a covert cuing paradigm to manipulate attention while bottom-up and top-down perceptual stimulus variables created M/dorsal and P/ventral-biased conditions. One study examined the object advantage, where responses are faster for within-relative to equidistant between-object shifts of attention. Visual stream contributions to object- and spaced-based attention were revealed using psychophysically equiluminant conditions expected to reduce M/dorsal activity. Other studies investigating visual stream contributions to location-based inhibition of return (IOR) used IOR magnitude as an indicator of the ease or difficulty of deploying spatial attention. Greater IOR was found under P/ventral-biased conditions. Less IOR was found under M/dorsal-biased conditions. The results support the use of M/dorsal and P/ventral-biased conditions as a valuable strategy for studying the relationship between visual stream activity and shifting attention.

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