Attention in Action: Advances from Cognitive Neuroscience

Attention in Action: Advances from Cognitive Neuroscience

Attention in Action: Advances from Cognitive Neuroscience

Attention in Action: Advances from Cognitive Neuroscience

Synopsis

Over the past forty years much work has assessed how attention modulates perception, but relatively little work has evaluated the role of attention in action. This is despite the fact that recent research indicates that the relation between attention and action is a crucial factor in human performance. Attention in Action provides state-of-the-art discussion of the role of attention in action and of action in constraining attention. The research takes an interdisciplinary approach covering experimental studies of attention and action, neuropsychological studies of patients with impaired action and attention, single cell studies of cross-modal links in attention and action, and brain imaging studies on the underlying neural circuitry. Contributions from prominent international researchers both review the field and present new evidence, making this book an invaluable resource for researchers and therapists alike.

Excerpt

The external world is a complex place, full of many objects, and we have only a limited number of effectors with which we can make actions. Because of these constraints, we must limit our processing of stimuli and our planning of actions, so that we behave efficiently to meet our behavioural goals. Some of the constraints on stimulus processing may be influenced directly by our actions, so that, for example, processing is enhanced at locations and for stimulus dimensions that are relevant to a given movement (see Chapters 1, 3 and 6). Similarly, some of the ways that perception is organized can influence the programming and selection of actions to objects (see Chapters 1 and 13). There may be independent processes concerned with selecting stimuli for action and selecting the appropriate actions to make to stimuli (see Chapters 2, 7 and 10), and between the processes leading to internally and externally driven actions (see Chapters 4 and 5). Furthermore, there may be interactions between different action systems, and direct coding of complex actions based on the goal of the action (see Chapter 9), which, in turn, can influence how we attend to stimuli (see Chapter 13). The processes involved in the selection of action to objects not only operate over the short term, determining momentary priorities of stimuli and actions, but also over the longer term, modulated by (among other things) long-term inhibition of episodic memories (see Chapter 8).

Traditionally, the study of attention has tended to emphasize the processes involved in selecting stimuli for action. In contrast, the processes and brain mechanisms involved in selecting the appropriate action to objects, and the interactions between selective perception and action, have been somewhat neglected. Recently, however, this has changed. This change comes partially through the development of new procedures for measuring actions accurately, and for measuring the relations between attention and action (three-dimensional kinematic analysis, saccadic contingent display changes). The change has also been facilitated by the use of new brain imaging procedures that enable us to assess the relations between activation in neural areas concerned with perception and action (see Chapters 11 and 12), and by intervention techniques that allow us to assess the consequences of directly altering neuronal activation (see Chapters 9 and 10). These new procedures both

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