The neural basis of tactile attention

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Spatial tactile attention is the ability to improve the processing of tactile stimuli at particular, attended, parts of our body. In order to investigate the neural and behavioral characteristics of spatial tactile attention, we combined measurements of tactile sensory regions using functional magnetic resonance imaging, with a novel tactile behavioral paradigm that included an attentional manipulation. We find an improvement in amplitude discrimination performance when a cue directs attention to a particular hand, and a corresponding increment in neural activity in the primary and secondary somatosensory cortices contralateral to the attended hand. Taking inspiration from the literature on visual attention, we consider whether the observed behavioral and cortical changes are more likely to be caused by a change in processes to do with the selection of stimuli (operationalized as an offset in neural activity), or if they are instead the outcome of a change in sensitivity to stimuli (operationalized as a change in the gain of the stimulus drive). We find that both behavioral and neural data are most consistent with the selection (neural offset) hypothesis. This is consistent with findings with functional imaging in the visual attention literature, suggesting that mechanisms for allocating spatial attention in sensory regions of cortex might be similar across sensory modalities. The implications of these results are considered in light of previously documented inconsistencies between functional imaging and electrophysiological measurements in the visual attention literature.


Type of resource text
Form electronic resource; remote; computer; online resource
Extent 1 online resource.
Place California
Place [Stanford, California]
Publisher [Stanford University]
Copyright date 2018; ©2018
Publication date 2018; 2018
Issuance monographic
Language English


Author McKenzie, Cameron Ross Lloyd
Degree supervisor Gardner, Justin, 1971-
Thesis advisor Gardner, Justin, 1971-
Thesis advisor Norcia, Anthony Matthew
Thesis advisor Wagner, Anthony David
Degree committee member Norcia, Anthony Matthew
Degree committee member Wagner, Anthony David
Associated with Stanford University, Department of Psychology.


Genre Theses
Genre Text

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Cameron Ross Lloyd McKenzie.
Note Submitted to the Department of Psychology.
Thesis Thesis Ph.D. Stanford University 2018.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2018 by Cameron Ross Lloyd McKenzie

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