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Read about the latest research published in Psychological Science:

Loss Attention in a Dual-Task Setting

Eldad Yechiam and Guy Hochman

Can losses actually make you perform better? The authors tested the hypothesis known as the loss-attention model, in which losses draw attention to the current task and, as a result, increase sensitivity to the task’s incentive structure. Participants performed a decision-making task involving gains or losses. The task was performed alone (single-task condition) or with a secondary task (dual-task condition). In support of the loss-attention model, losses led to better performance than equivalent gains only when participants were given a time limit for making their choices and when the task was a secondary rather than a primary task.

Intercommunication Between Prefrontal and Posterior Brain Regions for Protecting Visual Working Memory From Distractor Interference

Anna M. Liesefeld, Heinrich R. Liesefeld, and Hubert D. Zimmer

The capacity of visual working memory is limited, which means filtering mechanisms that limit access to visual working memory are extremely important, but the ways these filtering mechanisms work are not well known. Electroencephalograms were recorded while participants viewed and then were tested on their memory for an array that contained targets only or both targets and distractors. Analysis of event-related components indicated a chain of events that contribute to filtering, such as the detection of distractors, initiation of filtering, and exclusion of distractors from visual working memory.

Inhibition Drives Early Feature-Based Attention

Jeff Moher, Balaji M. Lakshmanan, Howard E. Egeth, and Joshua B. Ewen

Research has demonstrated the role of inhibition in feature-based attention; however, this inhibition has been shown only in later stages of visual processing. Electroencephalographic data were recorded as participants performed a visual-processing task that included colored target and distractor dots presented in one hemifield. Task-irrelevant sets of dots (probes) that were the same color as the target dots, the same color as the distractor dots, or an unrelated color were presented in the opposite hemifield. Changes in the amplitude of the P1 response — a reflection of early visual processing — in relation to the different types of probe stimuli provide evidence of feature-based inhibition at early stages of visual processing.

The Value of Exercising Control Over Monetary Gains and Losses

Lauren A. Leotti and Mauricio R. Delgado

Do brain regions associated with affective and motivational processes activate when choices involve the avoidance of negative outcomes rather than the acquisition of positive outcomes? Participants completed a task in which they or a computer chose between two options associated with monetary gains (gain condition) or losses (loss condition). The researchers found greater activity in the ventral striatum (involved with reward anticipation) and midbrain when participants anticipated choices leading to gains. However, activity changes in the loss condition were more variable and were related to participants’ like or dislike of making the choice themselves, suggesting that activation of reward areas of the brain by gain- or loss-based choices varies among individuals and is sensitive to context.

Feeling Better: Separate Pathways for Targeted Enhancement of Spatial and Temporal Touch

Jeffrey M. Yau, Pablo Celnik, Steven S. Hsiao, and John E. Desmond          

In a study examining the brain regions involved in neural processing related to spatial and temporal information conveyed through touch, participants performed a task meant to measure tactile spatial acuity (experiments 1 and 2) or vibration-frequency sensitivity (experiments 3 and 4) before, during, and after receiving transcranial direct-current stimulation or sham stimulation to their visual or auditory cortexes. Stimulation over the visual cortex was found to increase tactile perception of spatial information, whereas stimulation of the auditory cortex enhanced the tactile perception of temporal frequency, indicating that each is supported by a separate cortical pathway.