Unmasking the contribution of low-level features to the guidance of attention.
Ossandón JP., Onat S., Cazzoli D., Nyffeler T., Müri R., König P.
The role of low-level stimulus-driven control in the guidance of overt visual attention has been difficult to establish because low- and high-level visual content are spatially correlated within natural visual stimuli. Here we show that impairment of parietal cortical areas, either permanently by a lesion or reversibly by repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), leads to fixation of locations with higher values of low-level features as compared to control subjects or in a no-rTMS condition. Moreover, this unmasking of stimulus-driven control crucially depends on the intrahemispheric balance between top-down and bottom-up cortical areas. This result suggests that although in normal behavior high-level features might exert a strong influence, low-level features do contribute to guide visual selection during the exploration of complex natural stimuli.