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Neural mechanisms involved in the processing of global and local aspects of hierarchically organized visual stimuli

Fink, G. R., Halligan, Peter, Marshall, J. C., Frith, C. D., Frackowiak, R. S. J. and Dolan, R. J. 1997. Neural mechanisms involved in the processing of global and local aspects of hierarchically organized visual stimuli. Brain 120 (10) , pp. 1779-1791. 10.1093/brain/120.10.1779

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We investigated the functional anatomy involved in sustaining or switching visual attention between different perceptual levels, using functional imaging measures of neural activity. Two experiments were carried out using hierarchically organized letters (i.e. large letters made out of small letters). In a divided-attention task, subjects were required to switch attention between local and global levels. The number of successive stimuli for which subjects had to sustain attention to either the global or local level co-varied significantly with temporal-parietal activations bilaterally. Other activations were also observed in the right orbitofrontal cortex, the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and the right middle temporal gyrus. The number of switches between levels co-varied significantly with activations in the left supplementary motor area and the left medial parietal cortex. In the directed-attention task, subjects were required to attend to either the global or local level of the stimuli throughout all trials; attention to the global aspect resulted in significant activation of the right lingual gyrus while attention to the local aspect significantly activated the left inferior occipital cortex. We suggest that left hemisphere activations with increasing numbers of switches between perceptual levels reflect increased demands on an executive attentional system, while sustained attention to either level activates a predominantly right hemispheric network involving temporal-parietal and dorsolateral prefrontal regions. Overall, the results provide evidence for relative hemispheric specialization for global and local processing in accordance with previous neuropsychological studies. In addition, the findings demonstrate that early visual processing mechanisms in the prestriate cortex are influenced by an attentional system in temporal-parietal areas.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 0006-8950
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 04:14

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