Competition in visual cortex impedes attention to multiple items

Paige E. Scalf, Diane M. Beck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Traditional explanations of our limited attentional capacity focus on our ability to direct attention to multiple items.Weask whether this difficulty in simultaneously attending to multiple items stems from an inability to effectively represent multiple attended items. Although attending to one of a set of neighboring stimuli can isolate it from competitive interactions in visual cortex, no such isolation should occur if multiple competing items are attended. Indeed, we find that attention is ineffective at enhancing blood oxygen level-dependent signal in visual cortical area V4 when it is directed to three stimuli simultaneously, but only when those three stimuli compete in visual cortex. This suggests that competition may prevent attention from acting as effectively on representations of multiple items as it does on representations of a single item. In contrast to traditional explanations that posit limits in the sources of attentional control, we show that mechanisms at the sites of stimulus representation may also impose limits on our ability to attend to multiple items simultaneously.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-169
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Volume30
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 6 2010

Fingerprint

Visual Cortex
Oxygen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

Cite this

Competition in visual cortex impedes attention to multiple items. / Scalf, Paige E.; Beck, Diane M.

In: Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 30, No. 1, 06.01.2010, p. 161-169.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{d4e420c4b54d4908bf620cd7b0bda548,
title = "Competition in visual cortex impedes attention to multiple items",
abstract = "Traditional explanations of our limited attentional capacity focus on our ability to direct attention to multiple items.Weask whether this difficulty in simultaneously attending to multiple items stems from an inability to effectively represent multiple attended items. Although attending to one of a set of neighboring stimuli can isolate it from competitive interactions in visual cortex, no such isolation should occur if multiple competing items are attended. Indeed, we find that attention is ineffective at enhancing blood oxygen level-dependent signal in visual cortical area V4 when it is directed to three stimuli simultaneously, but only when those three stimuli compete in visual cortex. This suggests that competition may prevent attention from acting as effectively on representations of multiple items as it does on representations of a single item. In contrast to traditional explanations that posit limits in the sources of attentional control, we show that mechanisms at the sites of stimulus representation may also impose limits on our ability to attend to multiple items simultaneously.",
author = "Scalf, {Paige E.} and Beck, {Diane M.}",
year = "2010",
month = "1",
day = "6",
doi = "10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4207-09.2010",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "30",
pages = "161--169",
journal = "Journal of Neuroscience",
issn = "0270-6474",
publisher = "Society for Neuroscience",
number = "1",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Competition in visual cortex impedes attention to multiple items

AU - Scalf, Paige E.

AU - Beck, Diane M.

PY - 2010/1/6

Y1 - 2010/1/6

N2 - Traditional explanations of our limited attentional capacity focus on our ability to direct attention to multiple items.Weask whether this difficulty in simultaneously attending to multiple items stems from an inability to effectively represent multiple attended items. Although attending to one of a set of neighboring stimuli can isolate it from competitive interactions in visual cortex, no such isolation should occur if multiple competing items are attended. Indeed, we find that attention is ineffective at enhancing blood oxygen level-dependent signal in visual cortical area V4 when it is directed to three stimuli simultaneously, but only when those three stimuli compete in visual cortex. This suggests that competition may prevent attention from acting as effectively on representations of multiple items as it does on representations of a single item. In contrast to traditional explanations that posit limits in the sources of attentional control, we show that mechanisms at the sites of stimulus representation may also impose limits on our ability to attend to multiple items simultaneously.

AB - Traditional explanations of our limited attentional capacity focus on our ability to direct attention to multiple items.Weask whether this difficulty in simultaneously attending to multiple items stems from an inability to effectively represent multiple attended items. Although attending to one of a set of neighboring stimuli can isolate it from competitive interactions in visual cortex, no such isolation should occur if multiple competing items are attended. Indeed, we find that attention is ineffective at enhancing blood oxygen level-dependent signal in visual cortical area V4 when it is directed to three stimuli simultaneously, but only when those three stimuli compete in visual cortex. This suggests that competition may prevent attention from acting as effectively on representations of multiple items as it does on representations of a single item. In contrast to traditional explanations that posit limits in the sources of attentional control, we show that mechanisms at the sites of stimulus representation may also impose limits on our ability to attend to multiple items simultaneously.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=74849136068&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=74849136068&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4207-09.2010

DO - 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4207-09.2010

M3 - Article

C2 - 20053898

AN - SCOPUS:74849136068

VL - 30

SP - 161

EP - 169

JO - Journal of Neuroscience

JF - Journal of Neuroscience

SN - 0270-6474

IS - 1

ER -