Publications by authors named "Anna Martinez-Alvarez"

5 Publications

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Rethinking attention in time: Expectancy violations reconcile contradictory developmental evidence.

J Exp Child Psychol 2021 Jun 15;206:105070. Epub 2021 Feb 15.

Department of Cognition, Development and Educational Psychology, University of Barcelona, 08035 Barcelona, Spain; Institute of Neurosciences, University of Barcelona, 08035 Barcelona, Spain; Cognition and Brain Plasticity Unit, Institut d'Investigació Biomèdica de Bellvitge (IDIBELL), 08908 L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain; Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA), 08010 Barcelona, Spain.

Temporal expectations critically influence perception and action. Previous research reports contradictory results in children's ability to endogenously orient attention in time as well as the developmental course. To reconcile this seemingly conflicting evidence, we put forward the hypothesis that expectancy violations-through the use of invalid trials-are the source of the mixed evidence reported in the literature. With the aim of offering new results that could reconcile previous findings, we tested a group of young children (4- to 7-year-olds), an older group (8- to 12-year-olds), and a group of adults. Temporal cues provided expectations about target onset time, and invalid trials were used such that the target appeared at the unexpected time in 25% of the trials. In both experiments, the younger children responded faster in valid trials than in invalid trials, showing that they benefited from the temporal cue. These results show that young children rely on temporal expectations to orient attention in time endogenously. Importantly, younger children exhibited greater validity effects than older children and adults, and these effects correlated positively with participants' performance in the invalid (unexpected) trials. We interpret the reduction of validity effects with age as an index of better adaptation to the invalid (unexpected) condition. By using invalid trials and testing three age groups, we demonstrate that previous findings are not inconsistent. Rather, evidence converges when considering the presence of expectancy violations that require executive control mechanisms, which develop progressively during childhood. We propose a distinction between rigid and flexible mechanisms of temporal orienting to accommodate all findings.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2020.105070DOI Listing
June 2021

Integrating when and what information in the left parietal lobe allows language rule generalization.

PLoS Biol 2020 11 2;18(11):e3000895. Epub 2020 Nov 2.

Cognition and Brain Plasticity Unit, IDIBELL, L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Spain.

A crucial aspect when learning a language is discovering the rules that govern how words are combined in order to convey meanings. Because rules are characterized by sequential co-occurrences between elements (e.g., "These cupcakes are unbelievable"), tracking the statistical relationships between these elements is fundamental. However, purely bottom-up statistical learning alone cannot fully account for the ability to create abstract rule representations that can be generalized, a paramount requirement of linguistic rules. Here, we provide evidence that, after the statistical relations between words have been extracted, the engagement of goal-directed attention is key to enable rule generalization. Incidental learning performance during a rule-learning task on an artificial language revealed a progressive shift from statistical learning to goal-directed attention. In addition, and consistent with the recruitment of attention, functional MRI (fMRI) analyses of late learning stages showed left parietal activity within a broad bilateral dorsal frontoparietal network. Critically, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) on participants' peak of activation within the left parietal cortex impaired their ability to generalize learned rules to a structurally analogous new language. No stimulation or rTMS on a nonrelevant brain region did not have the same interfering effect on generalization. Performance on an additional attentional task showed that this rTMS on the parietal site hindered participants' ability to integrate "what" (stimulus identity) and "when" (stimulus timing) information about an expected target. The present findings suggest that learning rules from speech is a two-stage process: following statistical learning, goal-directed attention-involving left parietal regions-integrates "what" and "when" stimulus information to facilitate rapid rule generalization.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000895DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7660506PMC
November 2020

Endogenous temporal attention in the absence of stimulus-driven cues emerges in the second year of life.

PLoS One 2017 8;12(9):e0184698. Epub 2017 Sep 8.

Department of Cognition, Development, and Educational Psychology, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

Anticipating both where and when an object will appear is a critical ability for adaptation. Research in the temporal domain in adults indicate that dissociable mechanisms relate to endogenous attention driven by the properties of the stimulus themselves (e.g. rhythmic, sequential, or trajectory cues) and driven by symbolic cues. In infancy, we know that the capacity to endogenously orient attention progressively develops through infancy. However, the above-mentioned distinction has not yet been explored since previous studies involved stimulus-driven cues. The current study tested 12- and 15-month-olds in an adaptation of the anticipatory eye movement procedure to determine whether infants were able to anticipate a specific location and temporal interval predicted only by symbolic pre-cues. In the absence of stimulus-driven cues, results show that only 15-month-olds could show anticipatory behavior based on the temporal information provided by the symbolic cues. Distinguishing stimulus-driven expectations from those driven by symbolic cues allowed dissecting more clearly the developmental progression of temporal endogenous attention.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0184698PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5590992PMC
October 2017

Temporal Attention as a Scaffold for Language Development.

Front Psychol 2016 2;7:44. Epub 2016 Feb 2.

Department of Basic Psychology, University of BarcelonaBarcelona, Spain; Department of Basic Psychology, Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior (IR3C), University of BarcelonaBarcelona, Spain.

Language is one of the most fascinating abilities that humans possess. Infants demonstrate an amazing repertoire of linguistic abilities from very early on and reach an adult-like form incredibly fast. However, language is not acquired all at once but in an incremental fashion. In this article we propose that the attentional system may be one of the sources for this developmental trajectory in language acquisition. At birth, infants are endowed with an attentional system fully driven by salient stimuli in their environment, such as prosodic information (e.g., rhythm or pitch). Early stages of language acquisition could benefit from this readily available, stimulus-driven attention to simplify the complex speech input and allow word segmentation. At later stages of development, infants are progressively able to selectively attend to specific elements while disregarding others. This attentional ability could allow them to learn distant non-adjacent rules needed for morphosyntactic acquisition. Because non-adjacent dependencies occur at distant moments in time, learning these dependencies may require correctly orienting attention in the temporal domain. Here, we gather evidence uncovering the intimate relationship between the development of attention and language. We aim to provide a novel approach to human development, bridging together temporal attention and language acquisition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00044DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4735410PMC
February 2016