Rapid extraction of the spatial distribution of physical saliency and semantic informativeness from natural scenes in the human brain


Attention may be attracted by physically salient objects, such as flashing lights, but humans must also be able to direct their attention to meaningful parts of scenes. Understanding how we direct attention to meaningful scene regions will be important for developing treatments for disorders of attention and for designing roadways, cockpits, and computer user interfaces. Information about saliency appears to be extracted rapidly by the brain, but little is known about the mechanisms that determine the locations of meaningful information. To address this gap, we showed people photographs of real-world scenes and measured brain activity. We found that information related to the locations of meaningful scene elements was extracted rapidly, shortly after the emergence of saliency-related information.

Journal of Neuroscience