Publications by authors named "Merle-Marie Ahrens"

3 Publications

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Both dorsal and ventral attention network nodes are implicated in exogenously driven visuospatial anticipation.

Cortex 2019 08 13;117:168-181. Epub 2019 Mar 13.

Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK. Electronic address:

Neuroimaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) studies have implicated a dorsal fronto-parietal network in endogenous attention control and a more ventral set of areas in exogenous attention shifts. However, the extent and circumstances under which these cortical networks overlap and/or interact remain unclear. Crucially, whereas previous studies employed experimental designs that tend to confound exogenous with endogenous attentional engagement, we used a cued target discrimination paradigm that behaviourally dissociates exogenous from endogenous attention processes. Participants engaged with endogenous attention cues, while simultaneous apparent motion cues were driving exogenous attention along the motion path towards or away from the target position. To interfere with dorsal or ventral attention networks, we delivered neuronavigated double-pulse TMS over either right intraparietal sulcus (rIPS) or right temporo-parietal junction (rTPJ) towards the end of the cue target interval, and compared the effects to a sham-TMS condition. For sham-TMS, endogenous and exogenous cueing both benefitted discrimination accuracy. Target discrimination was enhanced at validly versus invalidly cued locations (endogenous cueing benefit) as well as when targets appeared in versus out of the motion path (exogenous cueing benefit), despite motion being uninformative and task-irrelevant, replicating previous findings. Interestingly, both rIPS- and rTPJ-TMS abolished attention benefits from exogenous cueing, while endogenous cueing benefits were unaffected. Our findings provide evidence against independent involvement of the dorsal and ventral attention network nodes in exogenous attention processes.
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August 2019

Visual Benefits in Apparent Motion Displays: Automatically Driven Spatial and Temporal Anticipation Are Partially Dissociated.

PLoS One 2015 1;10(12):e0144082. Epub 2015 Dec 1.

Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Many behaviourally relevant sensory events such as motion stimuli and speech have an intrinsic spatio-temporal structure. This will engage intentional and most likely unintentional (automatic) prediction mechanisms enhancing the perception of upcoming stimuli in the event stream. Here we sought to probe the anticipatory processes that are automatically driven by rhythmic input streams in terms of their spatial and temporal components. To this end, we employed an apparent visual motion paradigm testing the effects of pre-target motion on lateralized visual target discrimination. The motion stimuli either moved towards or away from peripheral target positions (valid vs. invalid spatial motion cueing) at a rhythmic or arrhythmic pace (valid vs. invalid temporal motion cueing). Crucially, we emphasized automatic motion-induced anticipatory processes by rendering the motion stimuli non-predictive of upcoming target position (by design) and task-irrelevant (by instruction), and by creating instead endogenous (orthogonal) expectations using symbolic cueing. Our data revealed that the apparent motion cues automatically engaged both spatial and temporal anticipatory processes, but that these processes were dissociated. We further found evidence for lateralisation of anticipatory temporal but not spatial processes. This indicates that distinct mechanisms may drive automatic spatial and temporal extrapolation of upcoming events from rhythmic event streams. This contrasts with previous findings that instead suggest an interaction between spatial and temporal attention processes when endogenously driven. Our results further highlight the need for isolating intentional from unintentional processes for better understanding the various anticipatory mechanisms engaged in processing behaviourally relevant stimuli with predictable spatio-temporal structure such as motion and speech.
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June 2016

Gender differences in the temporal voice areas.

Front Neurosci 2014 30;8:228. Epub 2014 Jul 30.

Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, University of Glasgow Glasgow, UK ; Institut des Neurosciences de la Timone, UMR 7289, CNRS and Université Aix-Marseille Marseille, France ; International Laboratories for Brain, Music and Sound, Department of Psychology, Université de Montréal, McGill University Montreal, QC, Canada.

There is not only evidence for behavioral differences in voice perception between female and male listeners, but also recent suggestions for differences in neural correlates between genders. The fMRI functional voice localizer (comprising a univariate analysis contrasting stimulation with vocal vs. non-vocal sounds) is known to give robust estimates of the temporal voice areas (TVAs). However, there is growing interest in employing multivariate analysis approaches to fMRI data (e.g., multivariate pattern analysis; MVPA). The aim of the current study was to localize voice-related areas in both female and male listeners and to investigate whether brain maps may differ depending on the gender of the listener. After a univariate analysis, a random effects analysis was performed on female (n = 149) and male (n = 123) listeners and contrasts between them were computed. In addition, MVPA with a whole-brain searchlight approach was implemented and classification maps were entered into a second-level permutation based random effects models using statistical non-parametric mapping (SnPM; Nichols and Holmes, 2002). Gender differences were found only in the MVPA. Identified regions were located in the middle part of the middle temporal gyrus (bilateral) and the middle superior temporal gyrus (right hemisphere). Our results suggest differences in classifier performance between genders in response to the voice localizer with higher classification accuracy from local BOLD signal patterns in several temporal-lobe regions in female listeners.
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August 2014