Accurate estimates of the time-to-contact (TTC) of approaching objects are crucial for survival. We used an ecologically valid driving simulation to compare and contrast the neural substrates of egocentric (head-on approach) and allocentric (lateral approach) TTC tasks in a fully factorial, event-related fMRI design. Compared to colour control tasks, both egocentric and allocentric TTC tasks activated left ventral premotor cortex/frontal operculum and inferior parietal cortex, the same areas that have previously been implicated in temporal attentional orienting. Despite differences in visual and cognitive demands, both TTC and temporal orienting paradigms encourage the use of temporally predictive information to guide behaviour, suggesting these areas may form a core network for temporal prediction. We also demonstrated that the temporal derivative of the perceptual index tau (tau-dot) held predictive value for making collision judgements and varied inversely with activity in primary visual cortex (V1). Specifically, V1 activity increased with the increasing likelihood of reporting a collision, suggesting top-down attentional modulation of early visual processing areas as a function of subjective collision. Finally, egocentric viewpoints provoked a response bias for reporting collisions, rather than no-collisions, reflecting increased caution for head-on approaches. Associated increases in SMA activity suggest motor preparation mechanisms were engaged, despite the perceptual nature of the task.
Keywords: attention; collision; fMRI; parietal; prediction; premotor; timing; visual.