Visual Attention-Related Processing: Perspectives from Ageing, Cognitive Decline and Dementia

A special issue of Brain Sciences (ISSN 2076-3425).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2020) | Viewed by 30413

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Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
College of Human and Health Sciences, Swansea University, Swansea, UK
Interests: mild cognitive impairment; subjective cognitive impairment; Alzheimer's disease; dementia; ageing; visual attention; methodology; reaction time; intra-individual variability in reaction time
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Guest Editor
College of Human and Health Sciences, Swansea University, Swansea, UK
Interests: ageing; brain stimulation; cognitive neuroscience; inhibition & cognitive control; neuroimaging

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Visual attention is a multi-component process, which is essential for information processing and environmental interactions. Throughout the lifespan, the speed and precision of our ability to respond to visual stimuli deteriorates, in line with changes in brain structure and function. These deficits become progressively more pronounced in subjective cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and various forms of dementia. In a clinical capacity, MCI and dementia are typically characterised by performance on neuropsychological tests, which are reliant on static measures of executive function (for example, memory and language). However, these methods are likely to underestimate the impact of pathological change on behavior, as indicated by research evidence derived from the use of more dynamic measures, based on the speed of responses. Although executive function is commonly examined in such clinical populations, it represents only the integrity of high-level processing. This is despite recent literature that suggests that low-level, salience-based mechanisms are also significantly impaired, and may provide early indications of emerging pathology. Accordingly, examining the integrity of attention, in its multiple forms, will improve our understanding of a given disease process, help to explain its behavioral effects, and ultimately explain its impact upon everyday life. Using a range of methodological approaches, from cognitive test performance to neuroimaging and brain stimulation, the aim of this Special Issue is to provide an overview of evidence illustrating the integrity of a wide-range of visual attention-related processes. These investigations will target the process of healthy ageing, as compared to the prodromal stages of clinical deficits (SCD, MCI), and various aetiologies of dementia.

Prof. Andrea Tales
Dr. Claire Hanley
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • Visual attention;
  • Exogenous/endogenous attention;
  • Pre-attentive visual processing;
  • Attentional shifting/switching/dual-tasking;
  • Ageing;
  • Cognitive decline/impairment;
  • Dementia;
  • Cognitive enhancement;
  • Brain stimulation;
  • Neuroimaging

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Editorial

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4 pages, 166 KiB  
Editorial
Visual Attention-Related Processing: Perspectives from Ageing, Cognitive Decline and Dementia
by Claire J. Hanley and Andrea Tales
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(2), 206; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11020206 - 9 Feb 2021
Viewed by 2180
Abstract
Regarded as a defining factor in resource management, it is widely accepted that visual attention and related processing will deteriorate, in a global fashion, across the lifespan and produce detrimental consequences for environmental interactions [...] Full article

Research

Jump to: Editorial

21 pages, 1596 KiB  
Article
Age Differences in the Efficiency of Filtering and Ignoring Distraction in Visual Working Memory
by Mariana R. Maniglia and Alessandra S. Souza
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(8), 556; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10080556 - 14 Aug 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 3193
Abstract
Healthy aging is associated with decline in the ability to maintain visual information in working memory (WM). We examined whether this decline can be explained by decreases in the ability to filter distraction during encoding or to ignore distraction during memory maintenance. Distraction [...] Read more.
Healthy aging is associated with decline in the ability to maintain visual information in working memory (WM). We examined whether this decline can be explained by decreases in the ability to filter distraction during encoding or to ignore distraction during memory maintenance. Distraction consisted of irrelevant objects (Exp. 1) or irrelevant features of an object (Exp. 2). In Experiment 1, participants completed a spatial WM task requiring remembering locations on a grid. During encoding or during maintenance, irrelevant distractor positions were presented. In Experiment 2, participants encoded either single-feature (colors or orientations) or multifeature objects (colored triangles) and later reproduced one of these features using a continuous scale. In multifeature blocks, a precue appeared before encoding or a retrocue appeared during memory maintenance indicating with 100% certainty to the to-be-tested feature, thereby enabling filtering and ignoring of the irrelevant (not-cued) feature, respectively. There were no age-related deficits in the efficiency of filtering and ignoring distractor objects (Exp. 1) and of filtering irrelevant features (Exp. 2). Both younger and older adults could not ignore irrelevant features when cued with a retrocue. Overall, our results provide no evidence for an aging deficit in using attention to manage visual WM. Full article
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17 pages, 1522 KiB  
Article
Reduced Attentional Control in Older Adults Leads to Deficits in Flexible Prioritization of Visual Working Memory
by Sarah E. Henderson, Holly A. Lockhart, Emily E. Davis, Stephen M. Emrich and Karen L. Campbell
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(8), 542; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10080542 - 11 Aug 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 3047
Abstract
Visual working memory (VWM) resources have been shown to be flexibly distributed according to item priority. This flexible allocation of resources may depend on attentional control, an executive function known to decline with age. In this study, we sought to determine how age [...] Read more.
Visual working memory (VWM) resources have been shown to be flexibly distributed according to item priority. This flexible allocation of resources may depend on attentional control, an executive function known to decline with age. In this study, we sought to determine how age differences in attentional control affect VWM performance when attention is flexibly allocated amongst targets of varying priority. Participants performed a delayed-recall task wherein item priority was varied. Error was modelled using a three-component mixture model to probe different aspects of performance (precision, guess-rate, and non-target errors). The flexible resource model offered a good fit to the data from both age groups, but older adults showed consistently lower precision and higher guess rates. Importantly, when demands on flexible resource allocation were highest, older adults showed more non-target errors, often swapping in the item that had a higher priority at encoding. Taken together, these results suggest that the ability to flexibly allocate attention in VWM is largely maintained with age, but older adults are less precise overall and sometimes swap in salient, but no longer relevant, items possibly due to their lessened ability to inhibit previously attended information. Full article
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14 pages, 1487 KiB  
Article
Visuo-Perceptual and Decision-Making Contributions to Visual Hallucinations in Mild Cognitive Impairment in Lewy Body Disease: Insights from a Drift Diffusion Analysis
by Lauren Revie, Calum A Hamilton, Joanna Ciafone, Paul C Donaghy, Alan Thomas and Claudia Metzler-Baddeley
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(8), 540; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10080540 - 11 Aug 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2957
Abstract
Background: Visual hallucinations (VH) are a common symptom in dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB); however, their cognitive underpinnings remain unclear. Hallucinations have been related to cognitive slowing in DLB and may arise due to impaired sensory input, dysregulation in top-down influences over perception, [...] Read more.
Background: Visual hallucinations (VH) are a common symptom in dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB); however, their cognitive underpinnings remain unclear. Hallucinations have been related to cognitive slowing in DLB and may arise due to impaired sensory input, dysregulation in top-down influences over perception, or an imbalance between the two, resulting in false visual inferences. Methods: Here we employed a drift diffusion model yielding estimates of perceptual encoding time, decision threshold, and drift rate of evidence accumulation to (i) investigate the nature of DLB-related slowing of responses and (ii) their relationship to visuospatial performance and visual hallucinations. The EZ drift diffusion model was fitted to mean reaction time (RT), accuracy and RT variance from two-choice reaction time (CRT) tasks and data were compared between groups of mild cognitive impairment (MCI-LB) LB patients (n = 49) and healthy older adults (n = 25). Results: No difference was detected in drift rate between patients and controls, but MCI-LB patients showed slower non-decision times and boundary separation values than control participants. Furthermore, non-decision time was negatively correlated with visuospatial performance in MCI-LB, and score on visual hallucinations inventory. However, only boundary separation was related to clinical incidence of visual hallucinations. Conclusions: These results suggest that a primary impairment in perceptual encoding may contribute to the visuospatial performance, however a more cautious response strategy may be related to visual hallucinations in Lewy body disease. Interestingly, MCI-LB patients showed no impairment in information processing ability, suggesting that, when perceptual encoding was successful, patients were able to normally process information, potentially explaining the variability of hallucination incidence. Full article
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22 pages, 2333 KiB  
Article
Age-Related Changes in Attentional Refocusing during Simulated Driving
by Eleanor Huizeling, Hongfang Wang, Carol Holland and Klaus Kessler
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(8), 530; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10080530 - 7 Aug 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3127
Abstract
We recently reported that refocusing attention between temporal and spatial tasks becomes more difficult with increasing age, which could impair daily activities such as driving (Callaghan et al., 2017). Here, we investigated the extent to which difficulties in refocusing attention extend to naturalistic [...] Read more.
We recently reported that refocusing attention between temporal and spatial tasks becomes more difficult with increasing age, which could impair daily activities such as driving (Callaghan et al., 2017). Here, we investigated the extent to which difficulties in refocusing attention extend to naturalistic settings such as simulated driving. A total of 118 participants in five age groups (18–30; 40–49; 50–59; 60–69; 70–91 years) were compared during continuous simulated driving, where they repeatedly switched from braking due to traffic ahead (a spatially focal yet temporally complex task) to reading a motorway road sign (a spatially more distributed task). Sequential-Task (switching) performance was compared to Single-Task performance (road sign only) to calculate age-related switch-costs. Electroencephalography was recorded in 34 participants (17 in the 18–30 and 17 in the 60+ years groups) to explore age-related changes in the neural oscillatory signatures of refocusing attention while driving. We indeed observed age-related impairments in attentional refocusing, evidenced by increased switch-costs in response times and by deficient modulation of theta and alpha frequencies. Our findings highlight virtual reality (VR) and Neuro-VR as important methodologies for future psychological and gerontological research. Full article
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13 pages, 1002 KiB  
Article
The Disengagement of Visual Attention: An Eye-Tracking Study of Cognitive Impairment, Ethnicity and Age
by Megan Polden, Thomas D. W. Wilcockson and Trevor J. Crawford
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(7), 461; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10070461 - 18 Jul 2020
Cited by 17 | Viewed by 4535
Abstract
Various studies have shown that Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is associated with an impairment of inhibitory control, although we do not have a comprehensive understanding of the associated cognitive processes. The ability to engage and disengage attention is a crucial cognitive operation of inhibitory [...] Read more.
Various studies have shown that Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is associated with an impairment of inhibitory control, although we do not have a comprehensive understanding of the associated cognitive processes. The ability to engage and disengage attention is a crucial cognitive operation of inhibitory control and can be readily investigated using the “gap effect” in a saccadic eye movement paradigm. In previous work, various demographic factors were confounded; therefore, here, we examine separately the effects of cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease, ethnicity/culture and age. This study included young (N = 44) and old (N = 96) European participants, AD (N = 32), mildly cognitively impaired participants (MCI: N = 47) and South Asian older adults (N = 94). A clear reduction in the mean reaction times was detected in all the participant groups in the gap condition compared to the overlap condition, confirming the effect. Importantly, this effect was also preserved in participants with MCI and AD. A strong effect of age was also evident, revealing a slowing in the disengagement of attention during the natural process of ageing. Full article
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12 pages, 864 KiB  
Article
Lacking Pace but Not Precision: Age-Related Information Processing Changes in Response to a Dynamic Attentional Control Task
by Anna Torrens-Burton, Claire J. Hanley, Rodger Wood, Nasreen Basoudan, Jade Eloise Norris, Emma Richards and Andrea Tales
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(6), 390; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10060390 - 19 Jun 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3610
Abstract
Age-related decline in information processing can have a substantial impact on activities such as driving. However, the assessment of these changes is often carried out using cognitive tasks that do not adequately represent the dynamic process of updating environmental stimuli. Equally, traditional tests [...] Read more.
Age-related decline in information processing can have a substantial impact on activities such as driving. However, the assessment of these changes is often carried out using cognitive tasks that do not adequately represent the dynamic process of updating environmental stimuli. Equally, traditional tests are often static in their approach to task complexity, and do not assess difficulty within the bounds of an individual’s capability. To address these limitations, we used a more ecologically valid measure, the Swansea Test of Attentional Control (STAC), in which a threshold for information processing speed is established at a given level of accuracy. We aimed to delineate how older, compared to younger, adults varied in their performance of the task, while also assessing relationships between the task outcome and gender, general cognition (MoCA), perceived memory function (MFQ), cognitive reserve (NART), and aspects of mood (PHQ-9, GAD-7). The results indicate that older adults were significantly slower than younger adults but no less precise, irrespective of gender. Age was negatively correlated with the speed of task performance. Our measure of general cognition was positively correlated with the task speed threshold but not with age per se. Perceived memory function, cognitive reserve, and mood were not related to task performance. The findings indicate that while attentional control is less efficient in older adulthood, age alone is not a defining factor in relation to accuracy. In a real-life context, general cognitive function, in conjunction with dynamic measures such as STAC, may represent a far more effective strategy for assessing the complex executive functions underlying driving ability. Full article
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11 pages, 994 KiB  
Article
Optimising Cognitive Enhancement: Systematic Assessment of the Effects of tDCS Duration in Older Adults
by Claire J. Hanley, Sophie L. Alderman and Elinor Clemence
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(5), 304; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10050304 - 16 May 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 3634
Abstract
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been shown to support cognition and brain function in older adults. However, there is an absence of research specifically designed to determine optimal stimulation protocols, and much of what is known about subtle distinctions in tDCS parameters [...] Read more.
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been shown to support cognition and brain function in older adults. However, there is an absence of research specifically designed to determine optimal stimulation protocols, and much of what is known about subtle distinctions in tDCS parameters is based on young adult data. As the first systematic exploration targeting older adults, this study aimed to provide insight into the effects of variations in stimulation duration. Anodal stimulation of 10 and 20 min, as well as a sham-control variant, was administered to dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Stimulation effects were assessed in relation to a novel attentional control task. Ten minutes of anodal stimulation significantly improved task-switching speed from baseline, contrary to the sham-control and 20 min variants. The findings represent a crucial step forwards for methods development, and the refinement of stimulation to enhance executive function in the ageing population. Full article
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13 pages, 1794 KiB  
Article
The Relation between Sustained Attention and Incidental and Intentional Object-Location Memory
by Efrat Barel and Orna Tzischinsky
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(3), 145; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10030145 - 4 Mar 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2955
Abstract
The role of attention allocation in object-location memory has been widely studied through incidental and intentional encoding conditions. However, the relation between sustained attention and memory encoding processes has scarcely been studied. The present study aimed to investigate performance differences across incidental and [...] Read more.
The role of attention allocation in object-location memory has been widely studied through incidental and intentional encoding conditions. However, the relation between sustained attention and memory encoding processes has scarcely been studied. The present study aimed to investigate performance differences across incidental and intentional encoding conditions using a divided attention paradigm. Furthermore, the study aimed to examine the relation between sustained attention and incidental and intentional object-location memory performance. Based on previous findings, an all women sample was recruited in order to best illuminate the potential effects of interest. Forty-nine women participated in the study and completed the psychomotor vigilance test, as well as object-location memory tests, under both incidental and intentional encoding divided attention conditions. Performance was higher in the incidental encoding condition than in the intentional encoding condition. Furthermore, sustained attention correlated with incidental, but not with intentional memory performance. These findings are discussed in light of the automaticity hypothesis, specifically as it regards the role of attention allocation in encoding object-location memory. Furthermore, the role of sustained attention in incidental memory performance is discussed in light of previous animal and human studies that have examined the brain regions involved in these cognitive processes. We conclude that under conditions of increased mental demand, executive attention is associated with incidental, but not with intentional encoding, thus identifying the exact conditions under which executive attention influence memory performance. Full article
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