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Single-trial classification of parallel pre-attentive and serial attentive processes using functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Abstract : Theories of perception have proposed a basic distinction between parallel pre-attentive and serial attentive modes of processing. However, chronometric measures are often ambiguous in separating parallel and serial processes. We have used the activity of attention-related regions of the human brain, measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging, to separate parallel from serial processes at the single-trial level in a visual quantification task. In this task, some have suggested the deployment of two qualitatively different processes, a fast parallel 'subitizing' for sets of one, two or three objects and a slow serial counting for larger sets. Our results indicate that attention-related regions of the posterior parietal and frontal cortices show a sudden increase in activity only from numerosity four onwards, confirming the parallel-serial dichotomy of subitizing and counting. Moreover, using the presence or absence of attentional shifts, as inferred from the activation of posterior parietal regions, we successfully predict whether, on a given trial, subjects deployed a serial exploration of the display or a parallel apprehension. Beyond the subitizing/counting debate, this approach may prove useful to probe the attentional demands of other cognitive tasks.
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https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00349695
Contributor : Denis Le Bihan <>
Submitted on : Saturday, January 3, 2009 - 5:17:23 PM
Last modification on : Monday, July 12, 2021 - 1:24:02 PM

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Manuela Piazza, Eric Giacomini, Denis Le Bihan, Stanislas Dehaene. Single-trial classification of parallel pre-attentive and serial attentive processes using functional magnetic resonance imaging.. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Royal Society, The, 2003, 270 (1521), pp.1237-45. ⟨10.1098/rspb.2003.2356⟩. ⟨hal-00349695⟩

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