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Haptics-mediated approaches for enhancing sustained attention: framework and challenges


Sustained attention is essential in the daily human activities of perception, manipulation, and locomotion. An improvement in sustained attention exhibits potential impacts in several scenarios, including the treatment of mental disorders, such as the attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and the training of certain professionals, such as aircraft pilots, who work under environments with heavy cognitive loads. In this study, we review the haptics-mediated sustained attention-training approaches from the afferent and efferent perspectives based on the bidirectional information flow in the haptic channel. Subsequently, the feasibility of modulating and enhancing attention via the haptic channel is analyzed based on the studies that have investigated the correlation between attention and the afferent/efferent pathways of the haptic channel. We identify several research questions, including how to design diverse haptic training tasks via the afferent and/or efferent pathways and which adaptive strategies can be used to adjust the difficulty levels of haptic training tasks to ensure user engagement. Furthermore, we examine the behavioral and biological evidence that can be used to validate the training efficacy, the manner in which the neural mechanisms underlying the attention-enhancing process can be understood, and the effective variables that can be attributed to the near- and far-transfer effects. In addition, we discuss the difficulties associated with the development of novel haptic technologies. In this study, we intend to investigate the potential impact of haptic stimuli on neuroplasticity and to promote the study of haptics-mediated sustained attention training.

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This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 61572055), and also partially supported by National Key R&D Program of China (Grant No. 2017YFB1002803), and Academic Excellence Foundation of BUAA for Ph.D. Students.

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Correspondence to Dangxiao Wang.

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Wang, D., Li, T., Afzal, N. et al. Haptics-mediated approaches for enhancing sustained attention: framework and challenges. Sci. China Inf. Sci. 62, 211101 (2019).

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  • sustained attention
  • attention enhancement
  • haptic interaction
  • robotics
  • electroencephalogram
  • virtual reality
  • human-computer interaction