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1.  Is one enough? The case for non-additive influences of visual features on crossmodal Stroop interference 
When different perceptual signals arising from the same physical entity are integrated, they form a more reliable sensory estimate. When such repetitive sensory signals are pitted against other competing stimuli, such as in a Stroop Task, this redundancy may lead to stronger processing that biases behavior toward reporting the redundant stimuli. This bias would therefore, be expected to evoke greater incongruency effects than if these stimuli did not contain redundant sensory features. In the present paper we report that this is not the case for a set of three crossmodal, auditory-visual Stroop tasks. In these tasks participants attended to, and reported, either the visual or the auditory stimulus (in separate blocks) while ignoring the other, unattended modality. The visual component of these stimuli could be purely semantic (words), purely perceptual (colors), or the combination of both. Based on previous work showing enhanced crossmodal integration and visual search gains for redundantly coded stimuli, we had expected that relative to the single features, redundant visual features would have induced both greater visual distracter incongruency effects for attended auditory targets, and been less influenced by auditory distracters for attended visual targets. Overall, reaction times were faster for visual targets and were dominated by behavioral facilitation for the cross-modal interactions (relative to interference), but showed surprisingly little influence of visual feature redundancy. Post-hoc analyses revealed modest and trending evidence for possible increases in behavioral interference for redundant visual distracters on auditory targets, however, these effects were substantially smaller than anticipated and were not accompanied by a redundancy effect for behavioral facilitation or for attended visual targets.
PMCID: PMC3813948  PMID: 24198800
multisensory conflict; stroop task; redundancy gains; stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA)
2.  Rapid brain responses independently predict gain-maximization and loss-minimization during economic decision-making 
Success in many decision-making scenarios depends on the ability to maximize gains and minimize losses. Even if an agent knows which cues lead to gains and which lead to losses, that agent could still make choices yielding suboptimal rewards. Here, by analyzing event-related potentials (ERPs) recorded in humans during a probabilistic gambling task, we show that individuals’ behavioral tendencies to maximize gains and to minimize losses are associated with their ERP responses to the receipt of those gains and losses, respectively. We focused our analyses on ERP signals that predict behavioral adjustment: the fronto-central feedback-related negativity (FRN) and two P300 (P3) subcomponents: the fronto-central P3a and the parietal P3b. We found that, across participants, gain-maximization was predicted by differences in amplitude of the P3b for suboptimal versus optimal gains (i.e., P3b amplitude difference between the least good and the best possible gains). Conversely, loss-minimization was predicted by differences in the P3b amplitude to suboptimal versus optimal losses (i.e., difference between the worst and the least bad losses). Finally, we observed that the P3a and P3b, but not the FRN, predicted behavioral adjustment on subsequent trials, suggesting a specific adaptive mechanism by which prior experience may alter ensuing behavior. These findings indicate that individual differences in gain-maximization and loss-minimization are linked to individual differences in rapid neural responses to monetary outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3683537  PMID: 23595758
3.  Figure-ground interaction in the human visual cortex 
Journal of vision  2008;8(9):8.1-819.
Discontinuities in feature maps serve as important cues for the location of object boundaries. Here we used multi-input nonlinear analysis methods and EEG source imaging to assess the role of several different boundary cues in visual scene segmentation. Synthetic figure/ground displays portraying a circular figure region were defined solely by differences in the temporal frequency of the figure and background regions in the limiting case and by the addition of orientation or relative alignment cues in other cases. The use of distinct temporal frequencies made it possible to separately record responses arising from each region and to characterize the nature of nonlinear interactions between the two regions as measured in a set of retinotopically and functionally defined cortical areas. Figure/background interactions were prominent in retinotopic areas, and in an extra-striate region lying dorsal and anterior to area MT+. Figure/background interaction was greatly diminished by the elimination of orientation cues, the introduction of small gaps between the two regions, or by the presence of a constant second-order border between regions. Nonlinear figure/background interactions therefore carry spatially precise, time-locked information about the continuity/discontinuity of oriented texture fields. This information is widely distributed throughout occipital areas, including areas that do not display strong retinotopy.
PMCID: PMC2697256  PMID: 18831644
visual cortex; scene segmentation; spatio-temporal interaction; figure-ground; source imaging; evoked potentials
4.  The Temporal Dynamics of Implicit Processing of Non-Letter, Letter, and Word-Forms in the Human Visual Cortex 
The decoding of visually presented line segments into letters, and letters into words, is critical to fluent reading abilities. Here we investigate the temporal dynamics of visual orthographic processes, focusing specifically on right hemisphere contributions and interactions between the hemispheres involved in the implicit processing of visually presented words, consonants, false fonts, and symbolic strings. High-density EEG was recorded while participants detected infrequent, simple, perceptual targets (dot strings) embedded amongst a of character strings. Beginning at 130 ms, orthographic and non-orthographic stimuli were distinguished by a sequence of ERP effects over occipital recording sites. These early latency occipital effects were dominated by enhanced right-sided negative-polarity activation for non-orthographic stimuli that peaked at around 180 ms. This right-sided effect was followed by bilateral positive occipital activity for false-fonts, but not symbol strings. Moreover the size of components of this later positive occipital wave was inversely correlated with the right-sided ROcc180 wave, suggesting that subjects who had larger early right-sided activation for non-orthographic stimuli had less need for more extended bilateral (e.g., interhemispheric) processing of those stimuli shortly later. Additional early (130–150 ms) negative-polarity activity over left occipital cortex and longer-latency centrally distributed responses (>300 ms) were present, likely reflecting implicit activation of the previously reported ‘visual-word-form’ area and N400-related responses, respectively. Collectively, these results provide a close look at some relatively unexplored portions of the temporal flow of information processing in the brain related to the implicit processing of potentially linguistic information and provide valuable information about the interactions between hemispheres supporting visual orthographic processing.
PMCID: PMC2796900  PMID: 20046826
word reading; ERPs; visual cortex; visual orthography
5.  Reward Associations Reduce Behavioral Interference by Changing the Temporal Dynamics of Conflict Processing 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53894.
Associating stimuli with the prospect of reward typically facilitates responses to those stimuli due to an enhancement of attentional and cognitive-control processes. Such reward-induced facilitation might be especially helpful when cognitive-control mechanisms are challenged, as when one must overcome interference from irrelevant inputs. Here, we investigated the neural dynamics of reward effects in a color-naming Stroop task by employing event-related potentials (ERPs). We found that behavioral facilitation in potential-reward trials, as compared to no-reward trials, was paralleled by early ERP modulations likely indexing increased attention to the reward-predictive stimulus. Moreover, reward changed the temporal dynamics of conflict-related ERP components, which may be a consequence of an early access to the various stimulus features and their relationships. Finally, although word meanings referring to potential-reward colors were always task-irrelevant, they caused greater interference compared to words referring to no-reward colors, an effect that was accompanied by a relatively early fronto-central ERP modulation. This latter observation suggests that task-irrelevant reward information can undermine goal-directed behavior at an early processing stage, presumably reflecting priming of a goal-incompatible response. Yet, these detrimental effects of incongruent reward-related words were absent in potential-reward trials, apparently due to the prioritized processing of task-relevant reward information. Taken together, the present data demonstrate that reward associations can influence conflict processing by changing the temporal dynamics of stimulus processing and subsequent cognitive-control mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3542315  PMID: 23326530
6.  The Time Course of Segmentation and Cue-Selectivity in the Human Visual Cortex 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e34205.
Texture discontinuities are a fundamental cue by which the visual system segments objects from their background. The neural mechanisms supporting texture-based segmentation are therefore critical to visual perception and cognition. In the present experiment we employ an EEG source-imaging approach in order to study the time course of texture-based segmentation in the human brain. Visual Evoked Potentials were recorded to four types of stimuli in which periodic temporal modulation of a central 3° figure region could either support figure-ground segmentation, or have identical local texture modulations but not produce changes in global image segmentation. The image discontinuities were defined either by orientation or phase differences across image regions. Evoked responses to these four stimuli were analyzed both at the scalp and on the cortical surface in retinotopic and functional regions-of-interest (ROIs) defined separately using fMRI on a subject-by-subject basis. Texture segmentation (tsVEP: segmenting versus non-segmenting) and cue-specific (csVEP: orientation versus phase) responses exhibited distinctive patterns of activity. Alternations between uniform and segmented images produced highly asymmetric responses that were larger after transitions from the uniform to the segmented state. Texture modulations that signaled the appearance of a figure evoked a pattern of increased activity starting at ∼143 ms that was larger in V1 and LOC ROIs, relative to identical modulations that didn't signal figure-ground segmentation. This segmentation-related activity occurred after an initial response phase that did not depend on the global segmentation structure of the image. The two cue types evoked similar tsVEPs up to 230 ms when they differed in the V4 and LOC ROIs. The evolution of the response proceeded largely in the feed-forward direction, with only weak evidence for feedback-related activity.
PMCID: PMC3313990  PMID: 22479566
7.  The Role of Stimulus Salience and Attentional Capture Across the Neural Hierarchy in a Stop-Signal Task 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26386.
Inhibitory motor control is a core function of cognitive control. Evidence from diverse experimental approaches has linked this function to a mostly right-lateralized network of cortical and subcortical areas, wherein a signal from the frontal cortex to the basal ganglia is believed to trigger motor-response cancellation. Recently, however, it has been recognized that in the context of typical motor-control paradigms those processes related to actual response inhibition and those related to the attentional processing of the relevant stimuli are highly interrelated and thus difficult to distinguish. Here, we used fMRI and a modified Stop-signal task to specifically examine the role of perceptual and attentional processes triggered by the different stimuli in such tasks, thus seeking to further distinguish other cognitive processes that may precede or otherwise accompany the implementation of response inhibition. In order to establish which brain areas respond to sensory stimulation differences by rare Stop-stimuli, as well as to the associated attentional capture that these may trigger irrespective of their task-relevance, we compared brain activity evoked by Stop-trials to that evoked by Go-trials in task blocks where Stop-stimuli were to be ignored. In addition, region-of-interest analyses comparing the responses to these task-irrelevant Stop-trials, with those to typical relevant Stop-trials, identified separable activity profiles as a function of the task-relevance of the Stop-signal. While occipital areas were mostly blind to the task-relevance of Stop-stimuli, activity in temporo-parietal areas dissociated between task-irrelevant and task-relevant ones. Activity profiles in frontal areas, in turn, were activated mainly by task-relevant Stop-trials, presumably reflecting a combination of triggered top-down attentional influences and inhibitory motor-control processes.
PMCID: PMC3195690  PMID: 22022611

Results 1-7 (7)