The attentional effects of peripheral cueing as revealed by two event-related potential studies

S Fu, S Fan, L Chen, Y Zhuo
Clinical Neurophysiology: Official Journal of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology 2001, 112 (1): 172-85

OBJECTIVE: The mechanism of visual spatial attention elicited by peripheral cueing was investigated in two studies.

METHOD: Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded when the subjects were performing a spatial frequency discrimination task and a location discrimination task. Stimuli were randomly flashed in the left or right visual field. Prior to each stimulus a peripheral cue was presented with a validity of 75%.

RESULTS: The subjects responded faster to valid trials than to invalid trials. The earliest visual ERP component, C1, was not modulated by the cue validity, suggesting that visual spatial attention elicited by peripheral cueing does not involve striate cortex. Valid trials elicited larger contralateral P1 but a smaller contralateral N1 than invalid trials. The early onsets of these attentional effects show that spatial attention affects stimulus processing at early sensory/perceptual stages. The latencies of contralateral P1 and contralateral N1 were shorter for invalid trials, however. The ipsilateral N1 was enhanced by valid trials in the spatial frequency discrimination task but was not in the location discrimination task, whereas the contralateral N1 was larger for invalid trials than for valid trials in both tasks.

CONCLUSION: The results indicate that involuntary allocation of attention involves different mechanisms from voluntary allocation of attention.

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