As we plan to reach or manipulate objects, we generally orient our body so as to face them. Other objects occupying the same portion of space will likely represent potential obstacles for the intended action. Thus, either as targets or as obstacles, the objects located straight in front of us are often endowed with a special behavioral status. Here, we review a set of recent electrophysiological, imaging and behavioral studies bringing converging evidence that the objects which lie straight-ahead are subject to privileged visual processing. More precisely, these works collectively demonstrate that when gaze steers central vision away from the straight-ahead direction, the latter is still prioritized in peripheral vision. Straight-ahead objects evoke (1) stronger neuronal responses in macaque peripheral V1 neurons, (2) stronger EEG and fMRI activations across the human visual cortex and (3) faster reactive hand and eye movements. Here, we discuss the functional implications and underlying mechanisms behind this phenomenon. Notably, we propose that it can be considered as a new type of visuospatial attentional mechanism, distinct from the previously documented classes of endogenous and exogenous attention.
Keywords: Attention; Gain fields; Gaze; Straight-ahead; Visual cortex.
© 2021. The Author(s).