Article

Selective attention within the foveola

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Abstract

Efficient control of attentional resources and high-acuity vision are both fundamental for survival. Shifts in visual attention are known to covertly enhance processing at locations away from the center of gaze, where visual resolution is low. It is unknown, however, whether selective spatial attention operates where the observer is already looking—that is, within the high-acuity foveola, the small yet disproportionally important rod-free region of the retina. Using new methods for precisely controlling retinal stimulation, here we show that covert attention flexibly improves and speeds up both detection and discrimination at loci only a fraction of a degree apart within the foveola. These findings reveal a surprisingly precise control of attention and its involvement in fine spatial vision. They show that the commonly studied covert shifts of attention away from the fovea are the expression of a global mechanism that exerts its action across the entire visual field.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by National Science Foundation grants BCS-1534932 (M.P.) and 1420212 (M.R.), and National Institutes of Health grants R01-EY18363 (M.R.), R01-EY019693 (M.C) and R01-EY016200 (M.C). We thank M. Landy, S. Ling, E. Niebur, M. Spering, J. Victor, A. White and Y. Yeshurun for comments and R. Ezzo for helping with data collection.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, Boston, University, Boston Massachusetts, USA.

    • Martina Poletti
    •  & Michele Rucci
  2. Graduate Program in Neuroscience, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

    • Michele Rucci
  3. Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, New York, USA.

    • Marisa Carrasco
  4. Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York, New York, USA.

    • Marisa Carrasco

Authors

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Contributions

M.P. conceived the study and collected and analyzed the data. The three authors contributed to the design of the experiments, the interpretation of experimental data, and the writing of the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Martina Poletti.

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