— Motivated Cognition Lab

On June 16th, 2017, a mini-workshop on ‘Motivation, selection, and information-seeking’ will take place at the Center for Mind / Brain Science (CIMEC) of the University of Trento, Italy.

Confirmed speakers are:

Leonardo Chelazzi (University of Verona, IT)
Giorgio Coricelli (University of Trento, IT; University of Southern California, USA)
Jackie Gottlieb (Columbia University, USA)
Clayton Hickey (University of Trento, IT)
Jane Raymond (Birmingham University, UK)

Each speaker will give a 40 minute talk to be followed by a 20 minute question period.

The workshop will be held in the Aula Magna of Palazzo Piomarta, which is located at Corso Bettini 84, Rovereto, Italy. Talks will begin at 11 am and finish by 6pm. (Note that the workshop is preceded by a 10am colloquium at the same location by Gregor Thut of the University of Glasgow).

All are welcome, there is no fee, and no formal registration is required. Drop me a quick note if you plan on coming (clayton.hickey@unitn.it).

Hope you can join us!


Read More

Reward selectively modulates the lingering neural representation of recently attended objects in natural scenes.

Hickey & Peelen

Theories of reinforcement learning and approach behaviour suggest that reward can increase the perceptual salience of environmental stimuli, ensuring that potential predictors of outcome are noticed in the future. But outcome commonly follows visual processing of the environment, occurring even when potential reward cues have long disappeared. How can reward feedback retroactively cause now-absent stimuli to become attention-drawing in the future? One possibility is that reward and attention interact to prime lingering visual representations of attended stimuli that sustain through the interval separating stimulus and outcome. Here we test this idea using multivariate pattern analysis of fMRI data collected from male and female humans. While in the scanner, participants searched for examples of target categories in briefly-presented pictures of city- and landscapes. Correct task performance was followed by reward feedback that could randomly have either high or low magnitude. Analysis showed that high-magnitude reward feedback boosted the lingering representation of target categories while reducing the representation of nontarget categories. The magnitude of this effect in each participant predicted the behavioural impact of reward on search performance in subsequent trials. Other analyses show that sensitivity to reward – as expressed in a personality questionnaire and in reactivity to reward feedback in the dopaminergic midbrain – predicted reward-elicited variance in lingering target and nontarget representations. Credit for rewarding outcome thus appears to be assigned to the target representation, causing the visual system to become sensitized for similar objects in the future.

Read More

Jacqueline Gottljgottliebieb, of Columbia University NY, is visiting the Center for Mind / Brain Science at the University of Trento on a 10-week sabbatical.

Jackie will be speaking in a colloquium talk at 2pm on May 12th, 2017 (Fedrigotti 3rd floor conference room). All are welcome!



Read More

Session ‘Attention: Features’

Saturday, May 20th, 3pm, Talk Room 1


Read More

Ludwig Barbaro successfully defended his PhD dissertation on March 8th. He adds this degree to his existing medical diploma, so congratulations Dr. Dr. Barbaro!

Read More

Applications invited for the CIMEC Masters program. Here are a poster and brochure providing details.

Read More

Weaver, Hickey, & van Zoest (2017). The impact of salience and visual working memory on the monitoring and control of saccadic behavior: An eye-tracking and EEG study. 

In a concurrent eye-tracking and EEG study, we investigated the impact of salience on the monitoring and control of eye movement behavior and the role of visual working memory (VWM) capacity in mediating this effect. Participants made eye movements to a unique line-segment target embedded in a search display also containing a unique distractor. Target and distractor salience was manipulated by varying degree of orientation offset from a homogenous background. VWM capacity was measured using a change-detection task. Results showed greater likelihood of incorrect saccades when the distractor was relatively more salient than when the target was salient. Misdirected saccades to salient distractors were strongly represented in the error-monitoring system by rapid and robust error- related negativity (ERN), which predicted a significant adjustment of oculomotor behavior. Misdirected saccades to less-salient distractors, while arguably representing larger errors, were not as well detected or utilized by the error/ performance-monitoring system. This system was instead better engaged in tasks requiring greater cognitive control and by individuals with higher VWM capacity. Our findings show that relative salience of task-relevant and task- irrelevant stimuli can define situations where an increase in cognitive control is necessary, with individual differences in VWM capacity explaining significant variance in the degree of monitoring and control of goal-directed eye movement behavior. The present study supports a conflict-monitoring interpretation of the ERN, whereby the level of competition between different responses, and the stimuli that define these responses, was more important in the generation of an enhanced ERN than the error commission itself.

Read More

Weaver, van Zoest, & Hickey (in press). A temporal dependency account of attentional inhibition in oculomotor control. Neuroimage. <link>

We used concurrent electroencephalogram (EEG) and eye tracking to investigate the role of covert attentional mechanisms in the control of oculomotor behavior. Human participants made speeded saccades to targets that were presented alongside salient distractors. By subsequently sorting trials based on whether the distractor was strongly represented or suppressed by the visual system – as evident in the accuracy (Exp. 1) or quality of the saccade (Exp. 2) – we could characterize and contrast pre-saccadic neural activity as a function of whether oculomotor control was established. Results show that saccadic behavior is strongly linked to the operation of attentional mechanisms in visual cortex. In Experiment 1, accurate saccades were preceded by attentional selection of the target – indexed by a target-elicited N2pc component – and by attentional suppression of the distractor – indexed by early and late distractor-elicited distractor positivity (Pd) components. In Experiment 2, the strength of distractor suppression predicted the degree to which the path of slower saccades would deviate away from the distractor en route to the target. However, results also demonstrated clear dissociations of covert and overt selective control, with saccadic latency in particular showing no relationship to the latency of covert selective mechanisms. Eye movements could thus be initiated prior to the onset of attentional ERP components, resulting in stimulus-driven behaviour. Taken together, the results indicate that attentional mechanisms play a role in determining saccadic behavior, but that saccade timing is not contingent on the deployment of attention. This creates a temporal dependency, whereby attention fosters oculomotor control only when attentional mechanisms are given sufficient opportunity to impact stimuli representations before an eye movement is executed.

Read More









Daniel Schneider (second from the right) is on a short sabbatical from the ifADo, Dortmund (Leibniz Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors). Welcome Daniel!

Read More

In collaboration with Laura Battelli’s lab, first time we’ve used a stimulation technique…

van Koningsbruggen, Ficarella, Battelli, & Hickey (in press). Transcranial random noise stimulation potentiates value-driven attentional capture. Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Reward feedback following visual search causes the visual characteristics of targets to become salient and attention-drawing, but little is known about the mechanisms underlying this value-driven capture effect. Here we use transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS) to demonstrate that such reward potentiation involves induced plasticity in visual cortex. Human participants completed a feature-search reward-learning task involving the selection of a red or green colored target presented among distractors of various color. Each correct trial garnered reward and the magnitude of reward was determined by the color of the target. Three groups completed this task: two groups received tRNS over either occipital or frontal cortex, and the third group received sham stimulation as a control. In a subsequent test phase of the experiment participants searched for a unique shape presented among colored distractors. During the test phase no tRNS was applied and no reward was available. However, in some trials a single distractor had color matching that associated with reward during training. Search for the target was impacted by the presence of such reward-associated distractors in the occipital stimulation group, demonstrating that plasticity in visual cortex contributes to value-driven attentional capture.



Read More