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Poster A19

Neural correlates of semantically driven visual search in naturalistic scenes in older adults.

Poster Session A - Saturday, April 13, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Ilenia Salsano1,2, Nathan M. Petro1,2, Giorgia Picci1,2,3, Ryan Glesinger1,2, Hannah J. Okelberry1,2, Lucy K. Horne1,2, Jason A. John1,2, Valerio Santangelo4,5, Moreno Coco6, Tony W. Wilson1,2,3; 1Institute for Human Neuroscience, Boys Town National Research Hospital, Boys Town, NE, USA, 2Center for Pediatric Brain Health, Boys Town National Research Hospital, Boys Town, NE, USA, 3Department of Pharmacology & Neuroscience, Creighton University, Omaha, NE, USA, 4Neuroimaging Laboratory, Santa Lucia Foundation IRCCS, Rome, Italy, 5Department of Philosophy, Social Sciences & Education, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy, 6Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy

Context plays a pivotal role in the cognitive processing of natural scenes, with previous research emphasizing the influence of semantic salience in determining attentional priorities, regardless of immediate perceptual features. While extensive work has delved into the neural correlates of context perception in healthy young adults, to our knowledge, none have ventured into examining this phenomenon in healthy aging, where declines in attention occur. In this study, we employed functional MRI to identify the neural regions associated with semantically driven attentional bias during a visual search task involving context-relevant objects within complex naturalistic scenes. Forty-one older adults (mean age = 63 years) viewed words representing a target object followed by an indoor scene image and were instructed to press a button when the target object was located within the scene. Half of the target objects were contextually congruent with the scene, while the other half were incongruent. Behavioral findings revealed slower response times for congruent compared to incongruent objects, suggesting that additional attentional resources are required when searching for objects that do not emerge from the scene (i.e., contextually-incongruent objects). Consistently, increased activation within the fronto-parietal attention network and occipital brain regions was observed when searching for congruent vs. incongruent objects. This underscores an attentional effort to localize objects that seamlessly blend within the scene context, contrasting with the prioritization that emerges when objects are contextually-incongruent. These initial insights in healthy aging will be further investigated through a comparative analysis with young adults.

Topic Area: ATTENTION: Development & aging


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April 13–16  |  2024