Perceptual-motor abilities in pre-school preterm children,Early Hum Dev. 

BACKGROUND: Several studies report a high percentage of premature infants presenting perceptual motor difficulties at school age. The new version of the Movement Assessment Battery for Children allows the assessment of perceptual-motor abilities in children from the age of 3years. AIMS: To evaluate early perceptual-motor abilities in prematurely born children below the age of 4years. STUDY DESIGN: The Movement Assessment Battery for Children 2nd edition was administered to 105 low-risk prematurely born children (<32weeks gestation) and in a control group of 105 term-born children matched for age and sex. All children were assessed between the age of 3years and 3years-11months. RESULTS: 63 children (60%) had total scores above the 15th percentile, 15 (14.3%) had scores between the 5th and the 15th percentile, and 13 (12.4%) below the 5th percentile. The remaining 14 children (13.3%) refused to perform or to complete the test. The difference between preterm and control group was significant for total scores, Manual Dexterity and Aiming and Catching scores. In the preterm group there was a correlation between age at testing, total scores and Aiming and Catching subscores. The Movement ABC-2 subscores were significantly lower in children born below 29weeks. CONCLUSION: Perceptual-motor difficulties can already be detected on the assessment performed before the age of 4years. Prematurely born children assessed between 3years and 3years-3months appeared to have more difficulties in performing the test than the older ones or their age matched term-born peers. These findings support the possibility of a delayed maturation in the younger age group.

BOLD human responses to chromatic spatial features,Eur J Neurosci, 2 (38), 2290-2299.

Animal physiological and human psychophysical studies suggest that an early step in visual processing involves the detection and identification of features such as lines and edges, by neural mechanisms with even- and odd-symmetric receptive fields. Functional imaging studies also demonstrate mechanisms with even- and odd-receptive fields in early visual areas, in response to luminance-modulated stimuli. In this study we measured fMRI BOLD responses to 2-D stimuli composed of only even or only odd symmetric features, and to an amplitude-matched random noise control, modulated in red-green equiluminant colour contrast. All these stimuli had identical power but different phase spectra, either highly congruent (even or odd symmetry stimuli) or random (noise). At equiluminance, V1 BOLD activity showed no preference between congruent- and random-phase stimuli, as well as no preference between even and odd symmetric stimuli. Areas higher in the visual hierarchy, both along the dorsal pathway (caudal part of the intraparietal sulcus, dorsal LO and V3A) and the ventral pathway (V4), responded preferentially to odd symmetry over even symmetry stimuli, and to congruent over random phase stimuli. Interestingly, V1 showed an equal increase in BOLD activity at each alternation between stimuli of different symmetry, suggesting the existence of specialised mechanisms for the detection of edges and lines such as even- and odd-chromatic receptive fields. Overall the results indicate a high selectivity of colour-selective neurons to spatial phase along both the dorsal and the ventral pathways in humans.

Contextual effects in interval-duration judgements in vision, audition and touch,Exp Brain Res.

We examined the effect of temporal context on discrimination of intervals marked by auditory, visual and tactile stimuli. Subjects were asked to compare the duration of the interval immediately preceded by an irrelevant “distractor” stimulus with an interval with no distractor. For short interval durations, the presence of the distractor affected greatly the apparent duration of the test stimulus: short distractors caused the test interval to appear shorter and vice versa. For very short reference durations (< o =100 ms), the contextual effects were large, changing perceived duration by up to a factor of two. The effect of distractors reduced steadily for longer reference durations, to zero effect for durations greater than 500 ms. We found similar results for intervals defined by visual flashes, auditory tones and brief finger vibrations, all falling to zero effect at 500 ms. Under appropriate conditions, there were strong cross-modal interactions, particularly from audition to vision. We also measured the Weber fractions for duration discrimination and showed that under the conditions of this experiment, Weber fractions decreased steadily with duration, following a square-root law, similarly for all three modalities. The magnitude of the effect of the distractors on apparent duration correlated well with Weber fraction, showing that when duration discrimination was relatively more precise, the context dependency was less. The results were well fit by a simple Bayesian model combining noisy estimates of duration with the action of a resonance-like mechanism that tended to regularize the sound sequence intervals.

Erratum to: Contextual effects in interval-duration judgements in vision, audition and touch,Exp Brain Res.

The vertical-horizontal illusion: assessing the contributions of anisotropy, abutting, and crossing to the misperception of simple line stimuli,J Vis, 8 (13).

Mamassian and de Montalembert (2010) have proposed a simple model of the vertical-horizontal illusion. This model identified two components, an anisotropy which results in horizontal lines being perceived approximately 6% shorter than verticals and a bisection component which results in a bisected line being perceived approximately 16% shorter. We have shown that this bisection component confounds two effects: One when lines cross one another and a second effect when one line abuts another. We propose an extension to the Mamassian-de Montalembert model in which their bisection component is replaced by separate crossing and abutting components.

Visual sustained attention and numerosity sensitivity correlate with math achievement in children,J Exp Child Psychol, 2 (116), 380-391.

In this study, we investigated in school-age children the relationship among mathematical performance, the perception of numerosity (discrimination and mapping to number line), and sustained visual attention. The results (on 68 children between 8 and 11years of age) show that attention and numerosity perception predict math scores but not reading performance. Even after controlling for several variables, including age, gender, nonverbal IQ, and reading accuracy, attention remained correlated with math skills and numerosity discrimination. These findings support previous reports showing the interrelationship between visual attention and both numerosity perception and math performance. It also suggests that attentional deficits may be implicated in disturbances such as developmental dyscalculia.

Blood oxygen level-dependent activation of the primary visual cortex predicts size adaptation illusion,J Neurosci, 40 (33), 15999-16008.

In natural scenes, objects rarely occur in isolation but appear within a spatiotemporal context. Here, we show that the perceived size of a stimulus is significantly affected by the context of the scene: brief previous presentation of larger or smaller adapting stimuli at the same region of space changes the perceived size of a test stimulus, with larger adapting stimuli causing the test to appear smaller than veridical and vice versa. In a human fMRI study, we measured the blood oxygen level-dependent activation (BOLD) responses of the primary visual cortex (V1) to the contours of large-diameter stimuli and found that activation closely matched the perceptual rather than the retinal stimulus size: the activated area of V1 increased or decreased, depending on the size of the preceding stimulus. A model based on local inhibitory V1 mechanisms simulated the inward or outward shifts of the stimulus contours and hence the perceptual effects. Our findings suggest that area V1 is actively involved in reshaping our perception to match the short-term statistics of the visual scene.

Optimal Multimodal Integration in Spatial Localization,J Neurosci 33(35):14259-14268.

Saccadic eye movements facilitate rapid and efficient exploration of visual scenes, but also pose serious challenges to establishing reliable spatial representations. This process presumably depends on extraretinal information about eye position, but it is still unclear whether afferent or efferent signals are implicated and how these signals are combined with the visual input. Using a novel gaze-contingent search paradigm with highly controlled retinal stimulation, we examined the performance of human observers in locating a previously fixated target after a variable number of saccades, a task that generates contrasting predictions for different updating mechanisms.Weshow that while localization accuracy is unaffected by saccades, localization precision deteriorates nonlinearly, revealing a statistically optimal combination of retinal and extraretinal signals. These results provide direct evidence for optimal multimodal integration in the updating of spatial representations and elucidate the contributions of corollary discharge signals and eye proprioception.

Spatial position information accumulates steadily over time, J Neurosci 33(47):18396-18401.

One of the more enduring mysteries of neuroscience is how the visual system constructs robust maps of the world that remain stable in the face of frequent eye-movements. Here we show that encoding the position of objects in external space is a relatively slow process, building up over hundreds of milliseconds. We display targets to which human subjects saccade after a variable preview duration. As they saccade, the target is displaced leftwards or rightwards, and subjects report the displacement direction. When subjects saccade to targets without delay, sensitivity is poor: but if the target is viewed for 300-500 ms before saccading, sensitivity is similar to that during fixation with a strong visual mask to dampen transients. These results suggest that the poor displacement thresholds usually observed in the “saccadic suppression of displacement” paradigm do not reflect the action of special mechanisms conferring saccadic stability, but the fact that the target has had insufficient time to be encoded in memory. Under more natural conditions, trans-saccadic displacement detection is as good as in fixation, when the displacement transients are masked.

Selective tuning for contrast in macaque area V4,J Neurosci, 47 (33), 18583-18596.

Visually responsive neurons typically exhibit a monotonic-saturating increase of firing with luminance contrast of the stimulus and are able to adapt to the current spatiotemporal context by shifting their selectivity, therefore being perfectly suited for optimal contrast encoding and discrimination. Here we report the first evidence of the existence of neurons showing selective tuning for contrast in area V4d of the behaving macaque (Macaca mulatta), i.e., narrow bandpass filter neurons with peak activity encompassing the whole range of visible contrasts and pronounced attenuation at contrasts higher than the peak. Crucially, we found that contrast tuning emerges after a considerable delay from stimulus onset, likely reflecting the contribution of inhibitory mechanisms. Selective tuning for luminance contrast might support multiple functions, including contrast identification and the attentive selection of low contrast stimuli.