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SCIENCE CHINA Information Sciences, Volume 62, Issue 11: 211101(2019) https://doi.org/10.1007/s11432-018-9931-1

Haptics-mediated approaches for enhancing sustained attention: framework and challenges

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  • ReceivedNov 19, 2018
  • AcceptedJun 3, 2019
  • PublishedOct 8, 2019

Abstract

Sustained attention is essential in the daily human activities of perception, manipulation, and locomotion. An improvement in sustained attention exhibits potential impacts in several scenarios, including the treatment of mental disorders, such as the attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and the training of certain professionals, such as aircraft pilots, who work under environments with heavy cognitive loads. In this study, we review the haptics-mediated sustained attention-training approaches from the afferent and efferent perspectives based on the bidirectional information flow in the haptic channel. Subsequently, the feasibility of modulating and enhancing attention via the haptic channel is analyzed based on the studies that have investigated the correlation between attention and the afferent/efferent pathways of the haptic channel. We identify several research questions, including how to design diverse haptic training tasks via the afferent and/or efferent pathways and which adaptive strategies can be used to adjust the difficulty levels of haptic training tasks to ensure user engagement. Furthermore, we examine the behavioral and biological evidence that can be used to validate the training efficacy, the manner in which the neural mechanisms underlying the attention-enhancing process can be understood, and the effective variables that can be attributed to the near- and far-transfer effects. In addition, we discuss the difficulties associated with the development of novel haptic technologies. In this study, we intend to investigate the potential impact of haptic stimuli on neuroplasticity and to promote the study of haptics-mediated sustained attention training.


Acknowledgment

This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 61572055), and also partially supported by National Key RD Program of China (Grant No. 2017YFB1002803), and Academic Excellence Foundation of BUAA for Ph.D. Students.


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  • Figure 1

    (Color online) A framework for classifying the haptics-mediated attention-training tasks inspired by the bilateral information flow feature of the human haptic channel.

  • Figure 2

    Performance of the TOVA tests in pre-test and post-test stage. Performance is measured based on the omission error, commission error, and reaction time. (a) Average number of errors, where the left-hand side indicates the omission error and the right-hand side indicates the commission error. (b) Average reaction time (ms).

  • Figure 3

    (Color online) The hardware system used for haptic training. (a) Subject held the stylus of two haptic devices and wore eye-shielding glasses and noise-resistant headphones. He used his right hand to grasp the handle of a haptic device to exert a constant force against the virtual wall. The force control status was obtained based on the vibration cues using the haptic stylus in his left hand. (b) Detailed view of bimanual operation using two haptic devices.

  • Figure 4

    (Color online) Comparison of the performances of the test group and three control groups in attention tests. Error bars represent the standard error of the mean. In the legend, A represents the test group, whereas B0, B1, and B2 represent the three control groups. The ordinate represents the improvement in the post-test scores when compared with the pre-test scores. It should be noted that for the Schulte test, the negative value in case of group A represents the reduced time cost, which implies improved attentional control after haptic training.

  • Figure 5

    (Color online) Immersive visuo-haptic game comprising stimulus-response tasks using fingertip pressure control in a virtual reality environment.

  • Figure 6

    (Color online) Attention training using a slow and repetitive motion. (a) First, a user selects a preferred color for meditation (here, the color is blue). Next, the user begins to follow the white circle with the finger on the screen while the audio is playing. (b) An amorphous floating air bubble appears. The screen text instructs the user to move the finger slowly. (c) The user freely moves the finger over the entire screen repetitively, continuously, and slowly. (d) Pause continues to generate feedback while there is a slow, continuous, and repetitive finger movement. The floating bubble of air gets larger, and audio continues to play. (e) The bubble size increases, provided that the user does not stop moving the finger and does not move it too quickly. If the movement is not sustained within these parameters, the bubble fades away to remind the user to return to the activity and maintain necessary attention. In case of lost attention, the user must repeat the process from step (b) to return to a properly attended interaction. (f) Finally, the floating air bubble covers the entire screen, and Pause instructs the user to close his/her eyes and continue the finger movement. Users should continue moving in a slow and repetitive manner; otherwise, the feedback fades to remind the users to return their attention to the task. (Adapted from Niksirat et al. [109], @Copyright 2017 Association for Computing Machinery, Inc.)

  • Figure 7

    (Color online) Closed-loop attention training through multiple sensory stimuli based on the Hebbian learning theory.

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