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Serial grouping of 2D-image regions with object-based attention in humans

Research group Roelfsema
Publication year 2016
Published in eLife
Authors Danique Jeurissen, M.W. Self, P.R. Roelfsema

After an initial stage of local analysis within the retina and early visual pathways, the human visual system creates a structured representation of the visual scene by co-selecting image elements that are part of behaviorally relevant objects. The mechanisms underlying this perceptual organization process are only partially understood. We here investigate the time-course of perceptual grouping of two-dimensional image-regions by measuring the reaction times of human participants and report that it is associated with the gradual spread of object-based attention. Attention spreads fastest over large and homogeneous areas and is slowed down at locations that require small-scale processing. We find that the time-course of the object-based selection process is well explained by a ‘growth-cone’ model, which selects surface elements in an incremental, scale-dependent manner. We discuss how the visual cortical hierarchy can implement this scale-dependent spread of object-based attention, leveraging the different receptive field sizes in distinct cortical areas.

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