Europhys. Lett.
Volume 76, Number 6, December 2006
Page(s) 1029 - 1035
Section General
Published online 16 November 2006
Europhys. Lett., 76 (6), pp. 1029-1035 (2006)
DOI: 10.1209/epl/i2006-10377-0

Stochastic resonance in attention control

K. Kitajo1, 2, 3, K. Yamanaka2, L. M. Ward3 and Y. Yamamoto2

1  Laboratory for Dynamics of Emergent Intelligence, RIKEN Brain Science Institute 2-1 Hirosawa, Wako, Saitama 351-0198, Japan
2  Educational Physiology Laboratory, Graduate School of Education, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, 113-0033, Japan
3  Psychophysics and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Department of Psychology The University of British Columbia - 2136 West Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada

received 24 July 2006; accepted in final form 18 October 2006
published online 16 November 2006

We investigated the beneficial role of noise in a human higher brain function, namely visual attention control. We asked subjects to detect a weak gray-level target inside a marker box either in the left or the right visual field. Signal detection performance was optimized by presenting a low level of randomly flickering gray-level noise between and outside the two possible target locations. Further, we found that an increase in eye movement (saccade) rate helped to compensate for the usual deterioration in detection performance at higher noise levels. To our knowledge, this is the first experimental evidence that noise can optimize a higher brain function which involves distinct brain regions above the level of primary sensory systems -switching behavior between multi-stable attention states- via the mechanism of stochastic resonance.

05.40.Ca - Noise.
87.19.Bb - Sensory perceptions.
87.19.Dd - Information processing in vision and hearing.

© EDP Sciences 2006