skip to main content

Title: Push-pull competition between bottom-up and top-down auditory attention to natural soundscapes
In everyday social environments, demands on attentional resources dynamically shift to balance our attention to targets of interest while alerting us to important objects in our surrounds.The current study uses electroencephalography to explore how the push-pull interaction between top-down and bottom-up attention manifests itself in dynamic auditory scenes. Using natural soundscapes as distractors while subjects attend to a controlled rhythmic sound sequence, we find that salient events in background scenes significantly suppress phase-locking and gamma responses to the attended sequence, countering enhancement effects observed for attended targets. In line with a hypothesis of limited attentional resources, the modulation of neural activity by bottom-up attention is graded by degree of salience of ambient events. The study also provides insights into the interplay between endogenous and exogenous attention during natural soundscapes, with both forms of attention engaging a common fronto-parietal network at different time lags.
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Background: Drivers gather most of the information they need to drive by looking at the world around them and at visual displays within the vehicle. Navigation systems automate the way drivers navigate. In using these systems, drivers offload both tactical (route following) and strategic aspects (route planning) of navigational tasks to the automated SatNav system, freeing up cognitive and attentional resources that can be used in other tasks (Burnett, 2009). Despite the potential benefits and opportunities that navigation systems provide, their use can also be problematic. For example, research suggests that drivers using SatNav do not develop as much environmentalmore »spatial knowledge as drivers using paper maps (Waters & Winter, 2011; Parush, Ahuvia, & Erev, 2007). With recent growth and advances of augmented reality (AR) head-up displays (HUDs), there are new opportunities to display navigation information directly within a driver’s forward field of view, allowing them to gather information needed to navigate without looking away from the road. While the technology is promising, the nuances of interface design and its impacts on drivers must be further understood before AR can be widely and safely incorporated into vehicles. Specifically, an impact that warrants investigation is the role of AR HUDS in spatial knowledge acquisition while driving. Acquiring high levels of spatial knowledge is crucial for navigation tasks because individuals who have greater levels of spatial knowledge acquisition are more capable of navigating based on their own internal knowledge (Bolton, Burnett, & Large, 2015). Moreover, the ability to develop an accurate and comprehensive cognitive map acts as a social function in which individuals are able to navigate for others, provide verbal directions and sketch direction maps (Hill, 1987). Given these points, the relationship between spatial knowledge acquisition and novel technologies such as AR HUDs in driving is a relevant topic for investigation. Objectives: This work explored whether providing conformal AR navigational cues improves spatial knowledge acquisition (as compared to traditional HUD visual cues) to assess the plausibility and justification for investment in generating larger FOV AR HUDs with potentially multiple focal planes. Methods: This study employed a 2x2 between-subjects design in which twenty-four participants were counterbalanced by gender. We used a fixed base, medium fidelity driving simulator for where participants drove while navigating with one of two possible HUD interface designs: a world-relative arrow post sign and a screen-relative traditional arrow. During the 10-15 minute drive, participants drove the route and were encouraged to verbally share feedback as they proceeded. After the drive, participants completed a NASA-TLX questionnaire to record their perceived workload. We measured spatial knowledge at two levels: landmark and route knowledge. Landmark knowledge was assessed using an iconic recognition task, while route knowledge was assessed using a scene ordering task. After completion of the study, individuals signed a post-trial consent form and were compensated $10 for their time. Results: NASA-TLX performance subscale ratings revealed that participants felt that they performed better during the world-relative condition but at a higher rate of perceived workload. However, in terms of perceived workload, results suggest there is no significant difference between interface design conditions. Landmark knowledge results suggest that the mean number of remembered scenes among both conditions is statistically similar, indicating participants using both interface designs remembered the same proportion of on-route scenes. Deviance analysis show that only maneuver direction had an influence on landmark knowledge testing performance. Route knowledge results suggest that the proportion of scenes on-route which were correctly sequenced by participants is similar under both conditions. Finally, participants exhibited poorer performance in the route knowledge task as compared to landmark knowledge task (independent of HUD interface design). Conclusions: This study described a driving simulator study which evaluated the head-up provision of two types of AR navigation interface designs. The world-relative condition placed an artificial post sign at the corner of an approaching intersection containing a real landmark. The screen-relative condition displayed turn directions using a screen-fixed traditional arrow located directly ahead of the participant on the right or left side on the HUD. Overall results of this initial study provide evidence that the use of both screen-relative and world-relative AR head-up display interfaces have similar impact on spatial knowledge acquisition and perceived workload while driving. These results contrast a common perspective in the AR community that conformal, world-relative graphics are inherently more effective. This study instead suggests that simple, screen-fixed designs may indeed be effective in certain contexts.« less
  2. In the last few years, a large number of experiments have been focused on exploring the possibility of using non-invasive techniques, such as electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG), to identify auditory-related neuromarkers which are modulated by attention. Results from several studies where participants listen to a story narrated by one speaker, while trying to ignore a different story narrated by a competing speaker, suggest the feasibility of extracting neuromarkers that demonstrate enhanced phase locking to the attended speech stream. These promising findings have the potential to be used in clinical applications, such as EEG-driven hearing aids. One major challenge inmore »achieving this goal is the need to devise an algorithm capable of tracking these neuromarkers in real-time when individuals are given the freedom to repeatedly switch attention among speakers at will. Here we present an algorithm pipeline that is designed to efficiently recognize changes of neural speech tracking during a dynamic-attention switching task and to use them as an input for a near real-time state-space model that translates these neuromarkers into attentional state estimates with a minimal delay. This algorithm pipeline was tested with MEG data collected from participants who had the freedom to change the focus of their attention between two speakers at will. Results suggest the feasibility of using our algorithm pipeline to track changes of attention in near-real time in a dynamic auditory scene.« less
  3. Abstract While the cost of sequencing genomes has decreased dramatically in recent years, this expense often remains non-trivial. Under a fixed budget, scientists face a natural trade-off between quantity and quality: spending resources to sequence a greater number of genomes or spending resources to sequence genomes with increased accuracy. Our goal is to find the optimal allocation of resources between quantity and quality. Optimizing resource allocation promises to reveal as many new variations in the genome as possible. In this paper, we introduce a Bayesian nonparametric methodology to predict the number of new variants in a follow-up study based onmore »a pilot study. When experimental conditions are kept constant between the pilot and follow-up, we find that our prediction is competitive with the best existing methods. Unlike current methods, though, our new method allows practitioners to change experimental conditions between the pilot and the follow-up. We demonstrate how this distinction allows our method to be used for more realistic predictions and for optimal allocation of a fixed budget between quality and quantity.« less
  4. This paper presents a unified grammatical framework capable of reconstructing a variety of scene types (e.g., urban, campus, country etc.) from a single input image. The key idea of our approach is to study a novel commonsense reasoning framework that mainly exploits two types of prior knowledge: (i) prior distributions over a single dimension of objects, e.g., that the length of a sedan is about 4.5 meters; (ii) pair-wise relationships between the dimensions of scene entities, e.g., that the length of a sedan is shorter than a bus. These unary or relative geometric knowledge, once extracted, are fairly stable acrossmore »different types of natural scenes, and are informative for enhancing the understanding of various scenes in both 2D images and 3D world. Methodologically, we propose to construct a hierarchical graph representation as a unified representation of the input image and related geometric knowledge. We formulate these objectives with a unified probabilistic formula and develop a data-driven Monte Carlo method to infer the optimal solution with both bottom-to-up and top-down computations. Results with comparisons on public datasets showed that our method clearly outperforms the alternative methods.« less
  5. Although inattention is a key symptom subdomain of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the mechanisms underlying this subdomain and related symptoms remain unclear. There is a need for more granular approaches that allow for greater specificity in linking disruptions in specific domains of cognitive performance (e.g., executive function and reward processing) with behavioral manifestations of ADHD. Such approaches may inform the development of more targeted therapeutic interventions. Here, we describe the results of a pilot study of elementary-aged children (ages 6–12years) with ADHD ( n =50) and typically developing children ( n =48) utilizing a cognitive science task designed to target twomore »dissociable mechanisms of attentional selection: a goal-driven mechanism (i.e., reward/value-driven) and a salience-driven mechanism. Participants were asked to optimally extract and combine information about stimulus salience and value to maximize rewards. While results of this pilot study are ambiguous due to the small sample size and limited number of task trials, data suggest that neither participants with ADHD nor typically developing participants performed optimally to maximize rewards, though typically developing participants were somewhat more successful at the task (i.e., more likely to report high-value targets) regardless of task condition. Further, the manuscript examines several follow-up questions regarding group differences in task response times and group differences in task performance as related to sustained attention across the duration of the task. Finally, the manuscript examines follow-up questions related to heterogeneity in the ADHD group (i.e., age, DSM 5 presentation, and comorbid diagnosis) in predicting task performance.« less