Poster A5, Saturday, March 24, 1:30–3:30 pm, Exhibit Hall C
Characterizing the influence of attentional state on the fidelity and connectivity of stimulus representations across large-scale brain networks
David Rothlein1, Joseph DeGutis1,2, Michael Esterman1,3; 1VA Boston Healthcare System, 2Harvard Medical School, 3Boston University School of Medicine
Attention is thought to modulate performance by facilitating the representation of task-relevant features (representational fidelity) and integrating this information with task-rule representations (representational connectivity). However, attention is not a constant but fluctuates between stable/accurate (in-the-zone) and variable/error-prone (out-of-the-zone) states. Here we ask how different attentional states affect the neural processing and transmission of task-relevant information. Specifically, during in-the-zone vs. out-of-the-zone periods: (1) Do neural representations of task stimuli have greater fidelity? (2) Is there increased communication of this stimulus information across large-scale brain networks? We used fMRI and representational similarity analysis during a visual sustained attention task (the gradCPT) to address these questions. Participants (N=146) viewed a series of city or mountain scenes, responding to cities (90% of trials) and withholding responses to mountains (10%). Representational similarity matrices (RSMs), reflecting the similarity structure of the city exemplars (n=10), were computed within visual and attention networks. Representational fidelity (RF) and representational connectivity (RC) were quantified as the cross-validated inter-participant reliability across RSMs within a given network (RF) and across a pair of networks (RC), and were computed separately from in-the-zone (low RT-variability) and out-of-the-zone (high RT-variability) trials. We found that being in-the-zone was characterized by increased RF within the visual network (p < 0.05) and increased RC between the visual and attention networks (p < 0.01), suggesting attentional state was associated with the representation and integration of stimulus information into attention networks. More broadly, this work provides a novel means to investigate how cognitive states influence information processing throughout the brain.
Topic Area: ATTENTION: Other