Attentional Control, Its Development & Malleability by Experience

The work of Dr. Matusz aims to provide much-needed clarification into the mechanisms of attentional control engaged by multisensory stimuli for attentional selection and their role in shaping basic and high-level vision.

First, his work demonstrated that multisensory objects, unlike purely visual objects, can capture visual attention in a purely bottom-up fashion, despite high task demands (Matusz & Eimer, 2011 PBR). Second, he demonstrated that early selective processing of visual objects is controlled by integrated attentional multisensory object templates (Matusz & Eimer, 2013 PP), flexibly, by alternating the brain networks recruited by the visual objects (Matusz et al., in prep.). Third, multisensory distracters interfere with visual search independently of perceptual-load task demands (Matusz et al., 2015 Cognition). Additionally, the developmentally-inspired design in Matusz et al. 2015 Cognition helped to reveal that young school-age children were paradoxically “shielded” from interference from multisensory distracters.

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These collective findings call for the revision of the existing models of attentional control. Specifically, they should take into account: a) for the adult brain - the challenges posed by multisensory information, b) for the developing brain - the oversimplification in portraying the development of attentional control processes as involving simple progressive improvement thereof till they reach “adult state”, on behalf of models encompassing the dynamic interaction between developing selective-attention processes and accrued experience.

Since 2016, he has been employing electrical neuroimaging methods to shed light onto how the healthy developing brain controls attending to task-relevant and distracting objects in multisensory environments and how these processes shape the learning of fundamental cognitive abilities in health as well as after developmental impairments (e.g. Thelen*, Matusz* & Murray, 2014 CB; Matusz*, Thelen* et al. 2015 EJN; Murray, Matusz, & Amedi 2015 CB). This work is funded by the Pierre Mercier Foundation for Science.

Since 2018 and as part of the IIS at the HES-SO in Valais, Dr. Matusz has been extending this approach to assess the role of unisensory and multisensory attention in the etiology and rehabilitation of visual functions in paediatric amblyopia. This entails the combination of new VR/AR technologies with assessment of real-world cognitive functions in conjunction with electrical neuroimaging and neuro-ophthalmological approaches. This work is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation as well as the Fondation Asile des Aveugles.

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