Beyond time and space: The effect of a lateralized sustained attention task and brain stimulation on spatial and selective attention.
Shalev N., De Wandel L., Dockree P., Demeyere N., Chechlacz M.
The Theory of Visual Attention (TVA) provides a mathematical formalisation of the "biased competition" account of visual attention. Applying this model to individual performance in a free recall task allows the estimation of 5 independent attentional parameters: visual short-term memory (VSTM) capacity, speed of information processing, perceptual threshold of visual detection; attentional weights representing spatial distribution of attention (spatial bias), and the top-down selectivity index. While the TVA focuses on selection in space, complementary accounts of attention describe how attention is maintained over time, and how temporal processes interact with selection. A growing body of evidence indicates that different facets of attention interact and share common neural substrates. The aim of the current study was to modulate a spatial attentional bias via transfer effects, based on a mechanistic understanding of the interplay between spatial, selective and temporal aspects of attention. Specifically, we examined here: (i) whether a single administration of a lateralized sustained attention task could prime spatial orienting and lead to transferable changes in attentional weights (assigned to the left vs right hemi-field) and/or other attentional parameters assessed within the framework of TVA (Experiment 1); (ii) whether the effects of such spatial-priming on TVA parameters could be further enhanced by bi-parietal high frequency transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS) (Experiment 2). Our results demonstrate that spatial attentional bias, as assessed within the TVA framework, was primed by sustaining attention towards the right hemi-field, but this spatial-priming effect did not occur when sustaining attention towards the left. Furthermore, we show that bi-parietal high-frequency tRNS combined with the rightward spatial-priming resulted in an increased attentional selectivity. To conclude, we present a novel, theory-driven method for attentional modulation providing important insights into how the spatial and temporal processes in attention interact with attentional selection.