Improving the Sensitivity of Pre-attentive Change Detection by Motivational Value Association Training

Project: Research

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The human brain constantly and unconsciously monitors the environment for unexpected changes. For example, even when we are driving and focusing on the traffic in front of us, we can detect a pedestrian jumping onto the road from the side. The ability to detect changes from the environment without paying attention is essential to our survival. The pre-attentive change detection ability is typically studied using an event-related brain potential (ERP) component, the mismatch negativity (MMN). The MMN has also been used as biomarkers for normal aging and disease populations, such as schizophrenia. Given the central importance of the pre-attentive change detection system in survival, it is highly desirable if we can improve this system in healthy individuals, and even more critically, to provide rehabilitative training for individuals who have a compromised change detection system, e.g., schizophrenia patients. Previous studies have shown that MMN can be improved through long term experience. However, years of experiences or an intensive training scheme are required to change the MMN response; the application of modulating the pre-attentive process through training is limited. In this proposal, our first objective is to use motivational value association training to improve pre-attentive change detection ability. Recent studies have found that a task irrelevant stimuli feature, e.g., color, associated with reward or punishment during a training session, affects task performance in a subsequent testing session. This learning effect can last for months without retraining. As attention is not required to process the rewards or punishments associated stimuli during training, populations having difficulties in following instructions, e.g., children with attention problems and disease groups with low compliance, can also greatly benefit from this training scheme. Furthermore, for people with different sensitivities to rewards and punishments, training focusing on rewards or punishments can be tailor-made to the individual. The second objective of the proposed study is to investigate how individuals’ sensitivity to reward and punishment modulates the motivational-value association training effect on pre-attentive change detection. From a theoretical perspective, the proposed study will be the first that demonstrates longitudinal training effect in the pre-attentive change detection system, at both behavioral and neural levels. From a practical perspective, such a training scheme can be further developed to help road users to improve driving safety, and disease populations whose compromised visual pre-attentive change detection ability impairs their daily life, but nonetheless can benefit from such training because their reward/punishment learning system is intact. 


Project number9043106
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/19 → …