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1.  Individual differences in distraction by motion predicted by neural activity in MT/V5 
Individuals differ substantially in their susceptibility to distraction by irrelevant visual information. Previous research has uncovered how individual variability in the goal-driven component of attentional control influences distraction, yet it remains unknown whether other sources of variability between individuals also predict distraction. In this fMRI study, we showed that an individual's inherent sensitivity to passively viewed visual motion predicts his/her susceptibility to distraction by motion. Bilateral MT/V5 was localized in participants during passive viewing of moving stimuli, affording a baseline measure of motion sensitivity. Next, participants performed a visual search task with an irrelevant motion singleton distractor, and both behavioral and neural indices of distraction were recorded. Results revealed that both of these indices were predicted by the independent index of motion sensitivity. An additional analysis of moment-to-moment fluctuations in distraction within individuals revealed that distraction could be predicted by pretrial fMRI activity in several brain regions, including MT+, which likely reflected the observer's momentary propensity to process motion. Together, these results shed light on how variability in factors other than goal-driven processing, both within and between individuals, affects attentional control and one's perception of the visual world.
PMCID: PMC3279707  PMID: 22375110
attention capture; fMRI; motion; MT; individual differences
2.  Why Salience is Not Enough: Reflections on Top-Down Selection in Vision 
Acta psychologica  2010;135(2):130-132.
The target article represents a distillation of nearly 20 years of work dedicated to the analysis of visual selection. Throughout these years, Jan Theeuwes and his colleagues have been enormously productive in their development of a particular view of visual selection, one that emphasizes the role of bottom-up processes. This work has been very influential, as there is substantial merit to many aspects of this research. However, this endeavor has also been provocative—the reaction to this work has resulted in a large body of research that emphasizes the role of top-down processes. Here we highlight recent work not covered in Theeuwes’s review and discuss how this literature may not be compatible with Theeuwes’s theoretical perspective. In our view this ongoing debate has been one of the most interesting and productive in the field. One can only hope that in time the ultimate result will be a complete understanding of how visual selection actually works.
PMCID: PMC2948621  PMID: 20580341
3.  Age-Related Preservation of Top-Down Control over Distraction in Visual Search 
Experimental aging research  2010;36(3):249-272.
Visual search studies have demonstrated that older adults can have preserved or even increased top-down control over distraction. However, the results are mixed as to the extent of this age-related preservation. The present experiment assesses group differences in younger and older adults during visual search, with a task featuring two conditions offering varying degrees of top-down control over distraction. After controlling for generalized slowing, the analyses revealed that the age groups were equally capable of utilizing top-down control to minimize distraction. Furthermore, for both age groups, the distraction effect was manifested in a sustained manner across the reaction time distribution.
PMCID: PMC2886292  PMID: 20544447
aging; attention; visual search; singleton; distraction

Results 1-3 (3)