Behavioural and neuroimaging investigations of the relationship between visual attention, affordance and action
In this thesis the relationship between visual attention, affordance and action was investigated using a combination of neuroimaging and behavioural studies. Neuronal activity and movement construction were assessed when individuals passively viewed or produced action towards stimuli varying in their affordance and/or attentional attributes. The main findings were: (i) the passive perception of both object and abstract visual patterns was associated with decreased alpha and/or beta activity in sensori-motor cortex, occipito-temporal cortex and cerebellum. These are brain regions associated with the planning and production of visually guided action; (ii) for object patterns, decreased alpha and beta activity was also observed in regions of superior parietal and premotor cortex. These regions contain neurons argued to be essential for matching hand kinematics with manipulate objects; and (iii) in both control participants and a deafferented individual, studies of planned and unplanned pointing manoeuvres revealed that the attentional bias of a stimulus was critical for fast, efficient action production whereas the affordance bias was critical in determining end-point accuracy. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that affordance is not a necessary prerequisite for the potential of motor codes. Rather, affordance enables the construction of motor responses that reflect object functionality and/or manipulability. They further demonstrate that visual attention is associated with the potentiation of motor codes. Indeed, directed visual attention would appear critical for speeded responses. These findings provide new insights into the roles of directed visual attention and affordance upon action.