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Sustained Spatial Attention in Touch: Modality-Specific and Multimodal Mechanisms

Sambo, C.F. and Forster, B. (2011). Sustained Spatial Attention in Touch: Modality-Specific and Multimodal Mechanisms. THESCIENTIFICWORLDJOURNAL, 11, pp. 199-213. doi: 10.1100/tsw.2011.34

Abstract

Sustained attention to a body location results in enhanced processing of tactile stimuli presented at that location compared to another unattended location. In this paper, we review studies investigating the neural orrelates of sustained spatial attention in touch. These studies consistently show that activity within modality-specific somatosensory areas (SI and SII) is modulated by sustained tactile-spatial attention. Recent evidence suggests that these somatosensory areas may be recruited as part of a larger cortical network, also including higher-level multimodal regions involved in spatial selection across modalities. We discuss, in turn, the following multimodal effects in sustained tactile-spatial attention tasks. First, cross-modal attentional links between touch and vision, reflected in enhanced processing of task-irrelevant visual stimuli at tactually attended locations, are mediated by common (multimodal) representations of external space. Second, vision of the body modulates activity underlying sustained tactile-spatial attention, facilitating attentional modulation of tactile processing in between-hand (when hands are sufficiently far apart) and impairing attentional modulation in within-hand selection tasks. Finally, body posture influences mechanisms of sustained tactile-spatial attention, relying, at least partly, on remapping of tactile stimuli in external, visually defined, spatial coordinates. Taken together, the findings reviewed in this paper indicate that sustained spatial attention in touch is subserved by both modality-specific and multimodal mechanisms. The interplay between these mechanisms allows flexible and efficient spatial selection within and across sensory modalities.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Science & Technology, Life Sciences & Biomedicine, Environmental Sciences, Multidisciplinary Sciences, Environmental Sciences & Ecology, Science & Technology - Other Topics, spatial attention, touch, multimodal, body posture, event-related potentials (ERPs), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), positron emission tomography (PET)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Psychology
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/4565
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