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Modulations of early somatosensory ERP components by transient and sustained spatial attention

Martin Eimer, Bettina Forster
Experimental Brain Research. Experimentelle Hirnforschung. Expérimentation Cérébrale 2003, 151 (1): 24-31
12756516
To investigate when and how spatial attention affects somatosensory processing, event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded in response to mechanical tactile stimuli delivered to the left and right hand while attention was directed to one of these hands. The attended hand either remained constant throughout an experimental block (sustained attention), or was changed across successive trials (transient attention). Attentional modulations of the N140 component and a sustained 'processing negativity' for attended stimuli were observed in both attention conditions. However, attentional effects on earlier somatosensory components differed systematically. Sustained attention resulted in a contralateral negativity overlapping with the N80 component, while transient attention was reflected by a bilateral positivity overlapping with the P100 component. This dissociation indicates that sustained and transient attention affect different somatosensory areas. It is suggested that sustained attention can modulate tactile processing within primary somatosensory cortex (S1), while effects of transient attention are located beyond S1. Overall, results demonstrate that spatial selectivity in touch is mediated by activity modulations in modality-specific somatosensory cortex.

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