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Effects of Attention and Perceptual Uncertainty on Cerebellar Activity During Visual Motion Perception

Abstract

Recent clinical and neuroimaging studies have revealed that the human cerebellum plays a role in visual motion perception, but the nature of its contribution to this function is not understood. Some reports suggest that the cerebellum might facilitate motion perception by aiding attentive tracking of visual objects. Others have identified a particular role for the cerebellum in discriminating motion signals in perceptually uncertain conditions. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to determine the degree to which cerebellar involvement in visual motion perception can be explained by a role in sustained attentive tracking of moving stimuli in contrast to a role in visual motion discrimination. While holding the visual displays constant, we manipulated attention by having participants attend covertly to a field of random-dot motion or a colored spot at fixation. Perceptual uncertainty was manipulated by varying the percentage of signal dots contained within the random-dot arrays. We found that attention to motion under high perceptual uncertainty was associated with strong activity in left cerebellar lobules VI and VII. By contrast, attending to motion under low perceptual uncertainty did not cause differential activation in the cerebellum. We found no evidence to support the suggestion that the cerebellum is involved in simple attentive tracking of salient moving objects. Instead, our results indicate that specific subregions of the cerebellum are involved in facilitating the detection and discrimination of task-relevant moving objects under conditions of high perceptual uncertainty. We conclude that the cerebellum aids motion perception under conditions of high perceptual demand.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DE120100535), a UQ Foundation Research Excellence Award and a UQ Early Career Researcher Grant to OB. JBM was supported by an Australian Research Council Australian Laureate Fellowship (FL110100103).

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that no financial or personal competing interests exist.

Author information

Correspondence to Oliver Baumann.

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Baumann, O., Mattingley, J.B. Effects of Attention and Perceptual Uncertainty on Cerebellar Activity During Visual Motion Perception. Cerebellum 13, 46–54 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12311-013-0519-2

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Keywords

  • Cerebellum
  • fMRI
  • Perception
  • Attention
  • Motion
  • Uncertainty