Attentional demand and processing of relevant visual information during simulated driving: A MEG study
Fort, A, Martin, R, Jacquet, A, Combe-Pangaud, A, Foliot, G, Daligaulte, S, Delpueche, C
It is a well-known fact that attention is crucial for driving a car. This innovative study aims to assess the impact of attentional workload modulation on cerebral activity during a simulated driving task using magnetoencephalography (MEG). A car simulator equipped with a steering wheel, turn indicators, an accelerator and a brake pedal has been specifically designed to be used with MEG. Attentional demand has been modulated using a radio broadcast. During half of the driving scenarios, subjects could ignore the broadcast (simple task, ST) and during the other half, they had to actively listen to it in order to answer 3 questions (dual task, DT). Evoked magnetic responses were computed in both conditions separately for two visual stimuli of interest: traffic lights (from green to amber) and direction signs (arrows to the right or to the left) shown on boards. The cortical sources of these activities have been estimated using a minimum-norm current estimates modeling technique. Results show the activation of a large distributed network similar in ST and DT and similar for both the traffic lights and the direction signs. This network mainly involves sensory visual areas as well as parietal and frontal regions known to play a role in selective attention and motor areas. The increase of attentional demand affects the neuronal processing of relevant visual information for driving, as early as the perceptual stage. By demonstrating the feasibility of recording MEG activity during an interactive simulated driving task, this study opens new possibilities for investigating issues regarding drivers' activity.
MEG; Simulated car driving; Attentional demand; Human perception; Decision-making