Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New clue on how brain processes visual information

Date:
July 23, 2012
Source:
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
Summary:
Ever wonder how the human brain, which is constantly bombarded with millions of pieces of visual information, can filter out what's unimportant and focus on what's most useful?

Ever wonder how the human brain, which is constantly bombarded with millions of pieces of visual information, can filter out what's unimportant and focus on what's most useful?

The process is known as selective attention and scientists have long debated how it works. But now, researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have discovered an important clue. Evidence from an animal study, published in the July 22 online edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience, shows that the prefrontal cortex is involved in a previously unknown way.

Two types of attention are utilized in the selective attention process -- bottom up and top down. Bottom-up attention is automatically guided to images that stand out from a background by virtue of color, shape or motion, such as a billboard on a highway. Top-down attention occurs when one's focus is consciously shifted to look for a known target in a visual scene, as when searching for a relative in a crowd.

Traditionally, scientists have believed that separate areas of the brain controlled these two processes, with bottom-up attention occurring in the posterior parietal cortex and top-down attention occurring in the prefrontal cortex.

"Our findings provide insights on the neural mechanisms behind the guidance of attention," said Christos Constantinidis, Ph.D., associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist and senior author of the study. "This has implications for conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which affects millions of people worldwide. People with ADHD have difficulty filtering information and focusing attention. Our findings suggest that both the ability to focus attention intentionally and shifting attention to eye-catching but sometimes unimportant stimuli depend on the prefrontal cortex."

In the Wake Forest Baptist study, two monkeys were trained to detect images on a computer screen while activity in both areas of the brain was recorded. The visual display was designed to let one image "pop out" due to its color difference from the background, such as a red circle surrounded by green. To trigger bottom-up attention, neither the identity nor the location of the pop-out image could be predicted before it appeared. The monkeys indicated that they detected the pop-out image by pushing a lever. The neural activity associated with identifying the pop-out images occurred in the prefrontal cortex at the same time as in the posterior parietal cortex. This unexpected finding indicates early involvement of the prefrontal cortex in bottom-up attention, in addition to its known role in top-down attention, and provides new insights into the neural mechanisms of attention.

"We hope that our findings will guide future work targeting attention deficits," Constantinidis said.

The research was supported by the National Eye Institute contract ROI EY016773 and the Tab Williams Family Endowment.

Fumi Katsuki, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow at Wake Forest Baptist, co-authored the study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Fumi Katsuki, Christos Constantinidis. Early involvement of prefrontal cortex in visual bottom-up attention. Nature Neuroscience, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nn.3164

Cite This Page:

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. "New clue on how brain processes visual information." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120723095212.htm>.
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. (2012, July 23). New clue on how brain processes visual information. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120723095212.htm
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. "New clue on how brain processes visual information." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120723095212.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google's Next Frontier: The Human Body

Google's Next Frontier: The Human Body

Newsy (July 27, 2014) Google is collecting genetic and molecular information to paint a picture of the perfectly healthy human. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A U.S. doctor has tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus, as the worst-ever outbreak continues to grow. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins