Early multisensory attention as a foundation for learning in multicultural Switzerland


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PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
Early multisensory attention as a foundation for learning in multicultural Switzerland
Turoman Nora
Murray Micah
Matusz Pawel
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Université de Lausanne, Faculté de biologie et médecine
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Traditional laboratory research on visual attentional control has largely focused on adults, treated one sensory modality at a time, and neglected factors that are a constituent part of information processing in real-world contexts. Links between visual-only attentional control and children’s educational skills have emerged, but they still do not provide enough information about school learning. The present thesis addressed these gaps in knowledge through the following aims: 1) to shed light on the development of the neuro-cognitive mechanisms of attention engaged by multisensory objects in a bottom-up fashion, together with attentional control over visual objects in a top-down fashion, 2) to investigate the links between developing visual and multisensory attentional control and children’s basic literacy and numeracy attainment, and 3) to explore how contextual factors, such as the temporal predictability of a stimulus or the semantic relationships between stimulus features, further influence attentional control mechanisms. To investigate these aims, 115 primary school children and 39 adults from the French-speaking part of Switzerland were tested on their behavioural performance on a child-friendly, multisensory version of the Folk et al. (1992) spatial cueing paradigm, while 129-channel EEG was recorded. EEG data were analysed in a traditional framework (the N2pc ERP component) and a multivariate Electrical Neuroimaging (EN) framework. Taken together, our results demonstrated that children’s visual attentional control reaches adult-like levels at around 7 years of age, or 3rd grade, although children as young as 5 (at school entry) may already be sensitive to the goal- relevance of visual objects. Multisensory attentional control may develop only later. Namely, while 7-year-old children (3rd grade) can be sensitive to the multisensory nature of objects, such sensitivity may only reach an adult-like state at 9 years of age (5th grade). As revealed by EN, both bottom-up multisensory control of attention and top-down visual control of attention are supported by the recruitment of distinct networks of brain generators at each level of schooling experience. Further, at each level of schooling, the involvement of specific sets of brain generators was correlated with literacy and numeracy attainment. In adults, visual and multisensory attentional control were further jointly influenced by contextual factors. The semantic relationship between stimulus features directly influenced visual and multisensory attentional control. In the absence of such semantic links, however, it was the predictability of stimulus onset that influenced visual and multisensory attentional control. Throughout this work, the N2pc component was not sensitive to multisensory or contextual effects in adults, or even traditional visual attention effects in children, and it was owing to EN that the mechanisms of visual and multisensory attentional control were clarified. The present thesis demonstrates the strength of combining behavioural and EEG/ERP markers of attentional control with advanced EEG analytical techniques for investigating the development of attentional control in settings that closely approximate those that we encounter in everyday life.
attentional control, multisensory, real-world, development, context, ERP, Electrical Neuroimaging
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21/06/2020 13:03
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03/09/2020 11:02
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