There is clear evidence that sustained experiences may affect both brain structure and function. Thus, it is quite reasonable to posit that sustained exposure to a set of cultural experiences and behavioral practices will affect neural structure and function. The burgeoning field of cultural psychology has often demonstrated the subtle differences in the way individuals process information—differences that appear to be a product of cultural experiences. We review evidence that the collectivistic and individualistic biases of East Asian and Western cultures, respectively, affect neural structure and function. We conclude that there is limited evidence that cultural experiences affect brain structure and considerably more evidence that neural function is affected by culture, particularly activations in ventral visual cortex—areas associated with perceptual processing.
fMRI; fMR-A; eye movement; cultural differences; ventral visual cortex; object; context; age
One of the main obstacles in quantitative interpretation of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) signal is that this signal is influenced by non-neural factors such as vascular properties of the brain, which effectively increases signal variability. One approach to account for non-neural components is to identify and measure these confounding factors and to include them as covariates in data analysis or interpretation. Previously, several research groups have independently identified four potential physiologic modulators of fMRI signals, including baseline venous oxygenation (Yv), cerebrovascular reactivity (CVR), resting state BOLD fluctuation amplitude (RSFA), and baseline cerebral blood flow (CBF). This study sought to directly compare the modulation effects of these indices in the same fMRI session. The physiologic parameters were measured with techniques comparable with those used in the previous studies except for CBF, which was determined globally with a velocity-based phase-contrast MRI (instead of arterial-spin-labeling MRI). Using an event-related, scene-categorization fMRI task, we showed that the fMRI signal amplitude was positively correlated with CVR (P < 0.0001) and RSFA (P = 0.002), while negatively correlated with baseline Yv (P < 0.0001). The fMRI-CBF correlation did not reach significance, although the (negative) sign of the correlation was consistent with the earlier study. Furthermore, among the physiologic modulators themselves, significant correlations were observed between baseline Yv and baseline CBF (P = 0.01), and between CVR and RSFA (P = 0.05), suggesting that some of the modulators may partly be of similar physiologic origins. These observations as well as findings in recent literature suggest that additional measurement of physiologic modulator(s) in an fMRI session may provide a practical approach to control for inter-subject variations and to improve the ability of fMRI in detecting disease or medication related differences.
BOLD fMRI; normalization; venous oxygenation; cerebrovascular reactivity; resting state BOLD fluctuation; cerebral blood flow
Limited functional imaging evidence suggests increased beta-amyloid deposition is associated with alterations in brain function, even in healthy older adults. However, the majority of these findings report on resting-state activity or functional connectivity in adults over age 60. Much less is known about the impact of beta-amyloid on neural activations during cognitive task performance, or the impact of amyloid in young and middle-aged adults. The current study measured beta-amyloid burden from PET imaging using18Florbetapir, in a large continuous age sample of highly-screened, healthy adults (N = 137; aged 30–89 years). The same participants also underwent fMRI scanning, performing a memory encoding task. Using both beta-amyloid burden and age as continuous predictors of encoding activity, we report a dose-response relationship of beta-amyloid load to neural function, beyond the effects of age. Specifically, individuals with greater amyloid burden evidence less neural activation in bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a region important for memory encoding, as well as reduced neural modulation in areas associated with default network activity: bilateral superior/medial frontal and lateral temporal cortex. Importantly, this reduction of both activation and suppression as a function of amyloid load was found across the lifespan, even in young- and middle-aged individuals. Moreover, this frontal and temporal amyloid-reduced activation/suppression was associated with poorer processing speed, verbal fluency, and fluid reasoning in a subgroup of individuals with elevated amyloid, suggesting that it is detrimental, rather than compensatory in nature.
Is it possible to enhance neural and cognitive function with cognitive training techniques? Can we delay age-related decline in cognitive function with interventions and stave off Alzheimer's disease? Does an aged brain really have the capacity to change in response to stimulation? In the present paper, we consider the neuroplasticity of the aging brain, that is, the brain's ability to increase capacity in response to sustained experience. We argue that, although there is some neural deterioration that occurs with age, the brain has the capacity to increase neural activity and develop neural scaffolding to regulate cognitive function. We suggest that increase in neural volume in response to cognitive training or experience is a clear indicator of change, but that changes in activation in response to cognitive training may be evidence of strategy change rather than indicative of neural plasticity. We note that the effect of cognitive training is surprisingly durable over time, but that the evidence that training effects transfer to other cognitive domains is relatively limited. We review evidence which suggests that engagement in an environment that requires sustained cognitive effort may facilitate cognitive function.
neuroplasticity; scaffolding; cognitive training; cognitive reserve; engagement
Emotional stimuli have been shown to preferentially engage initial attention but their sustained effects on neural processing remain largely unknown. The present study evaluated whether emotional faces engage sustained neural processing by examining the attenuation of neural repetition suppression to repeated emotional faces. Repetition suppression of neural function refers to the general reduction of neural activity when processing a repeated stimulus. Preferential processing of emotional face stimuli, however, should elicit sustained neural processing such that repetition suppression to repeated emotional faces is attenuated relative to faces with no emotional content. We measured the reduction of functional magnetic resonance imaging signals associated with immediate repetition of neutral, angry and happy faces. Whereas neutral faces elicited the greatest suppression in ventral visual cortex, followed by angry faces, repetition suppression was the most attenuated for happy faces. Indeed, happy faces showed almost no repetition suppression in part of the right-inferior occipital and fusiform gyri, which play an important role in face-identity processing. Our findings suggest that happy faces are associated with sustained visual encoding of face identity and thereby assist in the formation of more elaborate representations of the faces, congruent with findings in the behavioral literature.
emotion; faces; repetition suppression; sustained processing; ventral visual cortex
With age, the brain undergoes comprehensive changes in its function and physiology. Cerebral metabolism and blood supply are among the key physiologic processes supporting the daily function of the brain and may play an important role in age-related cognitive decline. Using MRI, it is now possible to make quantitative assessment of these parameters in a noninvasive manner. In the present study, we concurrently measured cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen (CMRO2), cerebral blood flow (CBF), and venous blood oxygenation in a well-characterized healthy adult cohort from 20 to 89 years old (N = 232). Our data showed that CMRO2 increased significantly with age, while CBF decreased with age. This combination of higher demand and diminished supply resulted in a reduction of venous blood oxygenation with age. Regional CBF was also determined, and it was found that the spatial pattern of CBF decline was heterogeneous across the brain with prefrontal cortex, insular cortex, and caudate being the most affected regions. Aside from the resting state parameters, the blood vessels’ ability to dilate, measured by cerebrovascular reactivity to 5% CO2 inhalation, was assessed and was reduced with age, the extent of which was more prominent than that of the resting state CBF.
aging; blood oxygenation; cerebral blood flow; cerebral metabolism; cerebrovascular reactivity; MRI
Previous studies have found that cortical responses to different stimuli become less distinctive as people get older. This age-related dedifferentiation may reflect the broadening of the tuning curves of category-selective neurons (broadening hypothesis) or it may be due to decreased activation of category-selective neurons (attenuation hypothesis). In this study, we evaluated these hypotheses in the context of the face-selective neural network. Over 300 participants, ranging in age from 20 to 89 years, viewed images of faces, houses, and control stimuli in a functional magnetic resonance imaging session. Regions within the core face network and extended face network were identified in individual subjects. Activation in many of these regions became significantly less face-selective with age, confirming previous reports of age-related dedifferentiation. Consistent with the broadening hypothesis, this dedifferentiation in the fusiform face area (FFA) was driven by increased activation to houses. In contrast, dedifferentiation in the extended face network was driven by decreased activation to faces, consistent with the attenuation hypothesis. These results suggest that age-related dedifferentiation reflects distinct processes in different brain areas. More specifically, dedifferentiation in FFA activity may be due to broadening of the tuning curves for face-selective neurons, while dedifferentiation in the extended face network reflects reduced face- or emotion-selective activity.
There are declines with age in speed of processing, working memory, inhibitory function, and long-term memory, as well as decreases in brain structure size and white matter integrity. In the face of these decreases, functional imaging studies have demonstrated, somewhat surprisingly, reliable increases in prefrontal activation. To account for these joint phenomena, we propose the scaffolding theory of aging and cognition (STAC). STAC provides an integrative view of the aging mind, suggesting that pervasive increased frontal activation with age is a marker of an adaptive brain that engages in compensatory scaffolding in response to the challenges posed by declining neural structures and function. Scaffolding is a normal process present across the lifespan that involves use and development of complementary, alternative neural circuits to achieve a particular cognitive goal. Scaffolding is protective of cognitive function in the aging brain, and available evidence suggests that the ability to use this mechanism is strengthened by cognitive engagement, exercise, and low levels of default network engagement.
default network; dedifferentiation; hippocampus; compensation; cognitive reserve; frontal activation
The visual recognition of letters dissociates from the recognition of numbers at both the behavioral and neural level. In this article, using fMRI, we investigate whether the visual recognition of numbers dissociates from letters, thereby establishing a double dissociation. In Experiment 1, participants viewed strings of consonants and Arabic numerals. We found that letters activated the left midfusiform and inferior temporal gyri more than numbers, replicating previous studies, whereas numbers activated a right lateral occipital area more than letters at the group level. Because the distinction between letters and numbers is culturally defined and relatively arbitrary, this double dissociation provides some of the strongest evidence to date that a neural dissociation can emerge as a result of experience. We then investigated a potential source of the observed neural dissociation. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that lateralization of visual number recognition depends on lateralization of higher-order numerical processing. In Experiment 2, the same participants performed addition, subtraction, and counting on arrays of nonsymbolic stimuli varying in numerosity, which produced neural activity in and around the intraparietal sulcus, a region associated with higher-order numerical processing. We found that individual differences in the lateralization of number activity in visual cortex could be explained by individual differences in the lateralization of numerical processing in parietal cortex, suggesting a functional relationship between the two regions. Together, these results demonstrate a neural double dissociation between letter and number recognition and suggest that higher-level numerical processing in parietal cortex may influence the neural organization of number processing in visual cortex.
A recent proposal called the Scaffolding Theory of Cognitive Aging (STAC) postulates that functional changes with aging are part of a lifespan process of compensatory cognitive scaffolding that is an attempt to alleviate the cognitive declines associated with aging. Indeed, behavioral studies have shown that aging is associated with both decline as well as preservation of selective cognitive abilities. Similarly, neuroimaging studies have revealed selective changes in the aging brain that reflect neural decline as well as compensatory neural recruitment. While aging is associated with reductions in cortical thickness, white-matter integrity, dopaminergic activity, and functional engagement in posterior brain regions such as the hippocampus and occipital areas, there are compensatory increases in frontal functional engagement that correlate with better behavioral performance in older adults. In this review, we discuss these age-related behavioral and brain findings that support the STAC model of cognitive scaffolding and additionally integrate the findings on neuroplasticity as a compensatory response in the aging brain. As such, we also examine the impact of external experiences in facilitating neuroplasticity in older adults. Finally, having laid the foundation for STAC, we briefly describe a proposed intervention trial (The Synapse Program) designed to evaluate the behavioral and neural impact of engagement in lifestyle activities that facilitates successful cognitive scaffolding using a controlled experiment where older adult participants are randomly assigned to different conditions of engagement.
Older adults often exhibit greater brain activation in prefrontal cortex compared to younger adults, and there is some evidence that this increased activation compensates for age-related neural degradation that would otherwise adversely affect cognitive performance. Less is known about aging and compensatory recruitment in the parietal cortex. In this event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we presented healthy young and old participants with two Stroop-like tasks (number magnitude and physical size). In young, the number magnitude task activated right parietal cortex and the physical size task activated left parietal cortex. In older adults, we observed contralateral parietal recruitment that depended on the task: in the number magnitude task older participants recruited left posterior parietal cortex (in addition to the right parietal activity observed in young) while in the physical size task they recruited right (in addition to left) posterior parietal cortex. In both cases, the additional parietal activity was associated with better performance suggesting that it played a compensatory role. Older adults also recruited left prefrontal cortex during both tasks and this common activation was also associated with better performance. The results provide evidence for task-specific compensatory recruitment in parietal cortex as well as task-independent compensatory recruitment in prefrontal cortex in normal aging.
Age-related compensation; Event-related fMRI; Interference resolution; Posterior parietal cortex; Prefrontal cortex
Current theories of cognitive aging argue that neural representations become less distinctive in old age, a phenomenon known as dedifferentiation. The present study used multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) to measure age differences in the distinctiveness of distributed patterns of neural activation evoked by different categories of visual images. We found that neural activation patterns within the ventral visual cortex were less distinctive among older adults. Further, we report that age differences in neural distinctiveness extend beyond the ventral visual cortex: older adults also showed decreased distinctiveness in early visual cortex, inferior parietal cortex, and medial and lateral prefrontal cortex. Neural distinctiveness scores in early and late visual areas were highly correlated, suggesting shared mechanisms of age-related decline. Finally, we investigated whether older adults can compensate for altered processing in visual cortex by encoding stimulus information across larger numbers of voxels within the visual cortex or in regions outside visual cortex. We found no evidence that older adults can increase the distinctiveness of distributed activation patterns, either within or beyond the visual cortex. Our results have important implications for theories of cognitive aging and highlight the value of MVPA to the study of neural coding in the aging brain.
aging; fMRI; MVPA; dedifferentiation; compensation; ventral visual cortex
The pathophysiological process of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is thought to begin many years before the diagnosis of AD dementia. This long “preclinical” phase of AD would provide a critical opportunity for therapeutic intervention; however, we need to further elucidate the link between the pathological cascade of AD and the emergence of clinical symptoms. The National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer's Association convened an international workgroup to review the biomarker, epidemiological, and neuropsychological evidence, and to develop recommendations to determine the factors which best predict the risk of progression from “normal” cognition to mild cognitive impairment and AD dementia. We propose a conceptual framework and operational research criteria, based on the prevailing scientific evidence to date, to test and refine these models with longitudinal clinical research studies. These recommendations are solely intended for research purposes and do not have any clinical implications at this time. It is hoped that these recommendations will provide a common rubric to advance the study of preclinical AD, and ultimately, aid the field in moving toward earlier intervention at a stage of AD when some disease-modifying therapies may be most efficacious.
Preclinical Alzheimer's disease; Biomarker; Amyloid; Neurodegeneration; Prevention
Quantifying the connectivity between arbitrary surface patches in the human brain cortex can be used in studies on brain function and to characterize clinical diseases involving abnormal connectivity. Cortical regions of human brain in their natural forms can be represented in surface formats. In this paper, we present a framework to quantify connectivity using cortical surface segmentation and labeling from structural magnetic resonance images, tractography from diffusion tensor images, and nonlinear inter-subject registration. For a single subject, the connectivity intensity of any point on the cortical surface is set to unity if the point is connected and zero if it is not connected. The connectivity proportion is defined as the ratio of the total connected surface area to the total area of the surface patch. By nonlinearly registering the connectivity data of a group of normal controls into a template space, a population connectivity metric can be defined as either the average connectivity intensity of a cortical point or the average connectivity proportion of a cortical region. In the template space, a connectivity profile and a connectivity histogram of an arbitrary cortical region of interest can then be derived from these connectivity quantification values. Results from the application of these quantification metrics to a population of schizophrenia patients and normal controls are presented, revealing connectivity signatures of specified cortical regions and detecting connectivity abnormalities.
connectivity; quantification; DTI; cortical surface; tractography
The visual word form area (VWFA) is a region of left inferior occipitotemporal cortex that is critically involved in visual word recognition. Previous studies have investigated whether and how experience shapes the functional characteristics of VWFA by comparing neural response magnitude in response to words and nonwords. Conflicting results have been obtained, however, perhaps because response magnitude can be influenced by other factors such as attention. In this study, we measured neural activity in monozygotic twins, using functional magnetic resonance imaging. This allowed us to quantify differences in unique environmental contributions to neural activation evoked by words, pseudowords, consonant strings, and false fonts in the VWFA and striate cortex. The results demonstrate significantly greater effects of unique environment in the word and pseudoword conditions compared to the consonant string and false font conditions both in VWFA and in left striate cortex. These findings provide direct evidence for environmental contributions to the neural architecture for reading, and suggest that learning phonology and/or orthographic patterns plays the biggest role in shaping that architecture.
Recent neuroimaging studies using multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) show that distributed patterns of brain activation elicited by different visual stimuli are less distinctive in older adults than in young adults. However, less is known about the effects of aging on the neural representation of movement. The present study used MVPA to compare the distinctiveness of motor representations in young and older adults. We also investigated the contributions of brain structure to age differences in the distinctiveness of motor representations. We found that neural distinctiveness was reduced in older adults throughout the motor control network. Although aging was also associated with decreased gray matter volume in these regions, age differences in motor distinctiveness remained significant after controlling for gray matter volume. Our results suggest that age-related neural dedifferentiation is not restricted to sensory perception and is instead a more general feature of the aging brain.
In this article, marking the 65th anniversary of the Journal of Gerontology, we offer a broad-brush overview of the new synthesis between neuroscientific and psychological approaches to cognitive aging. We provide a selective review of brain imaging studies and their relevance to mechanisms of cognitive aging first identified primarily from behavioral measurements. We also examine some new key discoveries, including evidence favoring plasticity and compensation that have emerged specifically from using cognitive neuroscience methods to study healthy aging. We then summarize several recent neurocognitive theories of aging, including our own model—the Scaffolding Theory of Aging and Cognition. We close by discussing some newly emerging trends and future research trajectories for investigating the aging mind and brain.
Aging; Plasticity; Cognitive Neuroscience; Imaging
Behavioral and eye-tracking studies on cultural differences have found that while Westerners have a bias for analytic processing and attend more to face features, East Asians are more holistic and attend more to contextual scenes. In this neuroimaging study, we hypothesized that these culturally different visual processing styles would be associated with cultural differences in the selective activity of the fusiform regions for faces, and the parahippocampal and lingual regions for contextual stimuli. East Asians and Westerners passively viewed face and house stimuli during an functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment. As expected, we observed more selectivity for faces in Westerners in the left fusiform face area (FFA) reflecting a more analytic processing style. Additionally, Westerners showed bilateral activity to faces in the FFA whereas East Asians showed more right lateralization. In contrast, no cultural differences were detected in the parahippocampal place area (PPA), although there was a trend for East Asians to show greater house selectivity than Westerners in the lingual landmark area, consistent with more holistic processing in East Asians. These findings demonstrate group biases in Westerners and East Asians that operate on perceptual processing in the brain and are consistent with previous eye-tracking data that show cultural biases to faces.
ventral-visual; selectivity; culture; faces; houses
Converging behavioral and neuroimaging evidence indicates that culture influences the processing of complex visual scenes. Whereas Westerners focus on central objects and tend to ignore context, East Asians process scenes more holistically, attending to the context in which objects are embedded. We investigated cultural differences in contextual processing by manipulating the congruence of visual scenes presented in an fMR-adaptation paradigm. We hypothesized that East Asians would show greater adaptation to incongruent scenes, consistent with their tendency to process contextual relationships more extensively than Westerners. Sixteen Americans and 16 native Chinese were scanned while viewing sets of pictures consisting of a focal object superimposed upon a background scene. In half of the pictures objects were paired with congruent backgrounds, and in the other half objects were paired with incongruent backgrounds. We found that within both the right and left lateral occipital complexes, Chinese participants showed significantly greater adaptation to incongruent scenes than to congruent scenes relative to American participants. These results suggest that Chinese were more sensitive to contextual incongruity than were Americans and that they reacted to incongruent object/background pairings by focusing greater attention on the object.
culture; scene perception; context; incongruence; lateral occipital cortex
Ventral-visual activity in older adults has been characterized by dedifferentiation, or reduced distinctiveness, of responses to different categories of visual stimuli such as faces and houses, that typically elicit highly specialized responses in the fusiform and parahippocampal brain regions respectively in young adults (Park et al., 2004). In the present study, we demonstrate that age-related neural dedifferentiation applies to within-category stimuli (different types of faces) as well, such that older adults process less distinctive representations for individual faces than young adults. We performed a functional magnetic resonance imaging adaptation experiment while young and older participants made same-different judgments to serially presented face-pairs that were Identical, Moderate in similarity through morphing, or Different. As expected, older adults showed adaptation in the fusiform face area (FFA), during the Identical as well as the Moderate conditions relative to the Different condition. Young adults showed adaptation during the Identical condition, but minimal adaptation to the Moderate condition. These results indicate that older adults’ FFA treated the morphed faces as Identical faces, reflecting decreased fidelity of neural representation of faces with age.
Aging; Dedifferentiation; Faces; Fusiform Area; Adaptation
In the present study, we manipulated the cognitive effort in an associative encoding task using fMRI. Older and younger adults were presented with two objects that were either semantically related or unrelated, and were required to form a relationship between the items. Both groups self-reported greater difficulty in completing the unrelated associative encoding task providing independent evidence of the associative difficulty manipulation. On both the low and high difficulty tasks, older adults showed a typical pattern of increased right inferior frontal recruitment relative to younger adults. Of particular interest was the finding that both groups showed increased activation as task difficulty increased in the left inferior frontal and left hippocampus. Overall, the results suggest that the aging brain is characterized by greater prefrontal processing, but that as cognitive demand increases, the networks used by older and younger adults are the largely the same.
Aging; Relational Memory; Prefrontal Cortex; Hippocampus; Encoding
We investigated whether individual differences in neural specificity—the distinctiveness of different neural representations—could explain individual differences in cognitive performance in older adults. Neural specificity was estimated based on how accurately multivariate pattern analysis identified neural activation patterns associated with specific experimental conditions. Neural specificity calculated from a same-different task on two categories of visual stimuli (faces and houses) significantly predicted performance on a range of fluid processing behavioral tasks (dot-comparison, digit-symbol, Trails-A, Trails-B, verbal-fluency) in older adults, whereas it did not correlate with a measure of crystallized knowledge (Shipley-vocabulary). In addition, the neural specificity measure accounted for thirty percent of the variance in a composite measure of fluid processing ability. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that loss of neural specificity, or dedifferentiation, contributes to reduced fluid processing ability in old age.
A central issue in cognitive neuroscience of aging research is pinpointing precise neural mechanisms that determine cognitive outcome in late adulthood as well as identifying early markers of less successful cognitive aging. One promising biomarker is beta amyloid (Aβ) deposition. Several new radiotracers have been developed that bind to fibrillar Aβ providing sensitive estimates of amyloid deposition in various brain regions. Aβ imaging has been primarily used to study patients with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI); however, there is now building data on Aβ deposition in healthy controls that suggest at least 20% and perhaps as much as a third of healthy older adults show significant deposition. Considerable evidence suggests amyloid deposition precedes declines in cognition and may be the initiator in a cascade of events that indirectly leads to age-related cognitive decline. We review studies of Aβ deposition imaging in AD, MCI, and normal adults, its cognitive consequences, and the role of genetic risk and cognitive reserve.
Aging; Beta-amyloid; Brain; Cognitive reserve; fMRI; PET
Associative memory deficits are pervasive with age. Memory for complex pictures, however, also seems to require the association of several scene elements into one representation, but picture memory is often age-invariant. We speculated that the natural relationships contained in pictures may explain this distinction and that memory for scenes with unusual novel relationships would be affected with aging. In three experiments, we found that, counter to our predictions, the relatedness of scene elements exerted little influence on picture memory and did not differentially affect older compared to younger adults. These data suggest that the semantically rich associations contained in pictures need not rely on prior knowledge and experiences in order to support age-invariant picture memory. Our results indicate that associative memory for complex pictures may differ from memory for inter-item associations, which may be more affected by aging.
When viewing complex scenes, East Asians attend more to contexts whereas Westerners attend more to objects, reflecting cultural differences in holistic and analytic visual processing styles respectively. This eye-tracking study investigated more specific mechanisms and the robustness of these cultural biases in visual processing when salient changes in the objects and backgrounds occur in complex pictures.
Chinese Singaporean (East Asian) and Caucasian US (Western) participants passively viewed pictures containing selectively changing objects and background scenes that strongly captured participants' attention in a data-driven manner. We found that although participants from both groups responded to object changes in the pictures, there was still evidence for cultural divergence in eye-movements. The number of object fixations in the US participants was more affected by object change than in the Singapore participants. Additionally, despite the picture manipulations, US participants consistently maintained longer durations for both object and background fixations, with eye-movements that generally remained within the focal objects. In contrast, Singapore participants had shorter fixation durations with eye-movements that alternated more between objects and backgrounds.
The results demonstrate a robust cultural bias in visual processing even when external stimuli draw attention in an opposite manner to the cultural bias. These findings also extend previous studies by revealing more specific, but consistent, effects of culture on the different aspects of visual attention as measured by fixation duration, number of fixations, and saccades between objects and backgrounds.