Letter | Published:

Attentional resolution and the locus of visual awareness

Nature volume 383, pages 334337 (26 September 1996) | Download Citation

Subjects

Abstract

VISUAL spatial resolution is limited by factors ranging from optics to neuronal filters in the visual cortex1,2, but it is not known to what extent it is also limited by the resolving power of attention. To investigate this, we studied adaptation to lines of specific orientation, a process that occurs in primary visual cortex3. When a single grating is presented in the periphery of the visual field, human observers are aware of its orientation, but when it is flanked by other similar gratings ('crowding'), its orientation becomes impossible to discern4,5. Nevertheless, we show that orientation-specific adaptation is not affected by crowding, implying that spatial resolution is limited by an attentional filter acting beyond the primary visual cortex. Consistent with this, we find that attentional resolution is greater in the lower than in the upper visual field, whereas there is no correspond-ing asymmetry in the primary visual cortex. We suggest that the attentional filter acts in one or more higher visual cortical areas to restrict the availability of visual information to conscious awareness6.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    & J. Physiol. 186, 558–578 (1966).

  2. 2.

    , & Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. Suppl. 36, 2010 (1995).

  3. 3.

    & J. Physiol. 203, 237–260 (1969).

  4. 4.

    Nature 226, 177–178 (1970).

  5. 5.

    & Vision Res. 32, 1349–1357 (1992).

  6. 6.

    & Nature 375, 121–123 (1995).

  7. 7.

    & Bull. Psychonom. Soc. 21, 459–461 (1983).

  8. 8.

    & Nature 377, 336–338 (1995).

  9. 9.

    Psychol. Res. 45, 147–156 (1983).

  10. 10.

    & Archives Ophthalmol. 109, 816–824 (1991).

  11. 11.

    et al. Science 268, 889–893 (1995).

  12. 12.

    et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 93, 2382–2386 (1988).

  13. 13.

    Q. J. Exp. Psychol. Human Exp Psychol. 40, 201–237 (1988).

  14. 14.

    & Spatial Vis. 3, 179–197 (1988).

  15. 15.

    , & Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. Suppl. 32, 1040 (1991).

  16. 16.

    & Psychol. Res. 48, 201–209 (1986).

  17. 17.

    & Percept. Psychophys. 12, 97–99 (1972).

  18. 18.

    Behav. Brain Sci. 13, 519–575 (1990).

  19. 19.

    Bull. Psychonom. Soc. 31, 275–278 (1993).

  20. 20.

    , & Science 271, 651–653 (1996).

  21. 21.

    & in Neurophysiological and Neuropsychological Aspects of Spatial Neglect (ed. Jeannerod, M.) 203–213 (Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1987).

  22. 22.

    Neuropsychol. Rehab. 4, 183–187 (1994).

  23. 23.

    & Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 10, 363–401 (1987).

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

    • Sheng He
    • , Patrick Cavanagh
    •  & James Intriligator

Authors

  1. Search for Sheng He in:

  2. Search for Patrick Cavanagh in:

  3. Search for James Intriligator in:

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/383334a0

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.