On the control of visual spatial attention: evidence from human electrophysiology

Pierre Jolicoeur, Paola Sessa, Roberto Dell'Acqua, Nicolas Robitaille
Psychological Research 2006, 70 (6): 414-24
We used electrophysiological methods to track the deployment of visual spatial attention while observers were engaged in concurrent central attentional processing, using a variant of the attentional blink paradigm. Two visual targets (T1, T2) were presented at a stimulus onset asynchrony of either 200 ms or 800 ms. T1 was a white digit among white letters presented on a dark background using rapid serial visual presentation at fixation. T2 was another digit that was presented to the left or right of fixation simultaneously with a distractor digit in the opposite visual field, each followed by a pattern mask. In each T2 display, one digit was red and one was green. Half of the subjects reported the red digit and ignored the green one, whereas the other half reported the green digit and ignored the red one. T1 and T2 were reported in one block of trials, and only T2 in another block (order counterbalanced across subjects). Accuracy of report of T2 was lower at short SOA than at long SOA when both T1 and T2 were reported, but was similar across SOA when only T2 was reported. The electrophysiological results focused on the N2pc component, which was used as an index of the locus of spatial attention. N2pc was reduced in amplitude when subjects reported T1, and particularly so at the short SOA. The results suggest that attention to T1 interfered with the deployment of visual spatial attention to T2.

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