JOURNAL ARTICLE

Spatial attention freezes during the attention blink

R Dell'Acqua, P Sessa, P Jolicoeur, N Robitaille
Psychophysiology 2006, 43 (4): 394-400
16916436
A variant of the rapid serial visual presentation paradigm was used to display sequentially two lateral sequences of stimuli, one to the left and one to the right of fixation, embedding two pairs of target stimuli, T1 and T2. T1 was composed of a pair of alphanumeric characters, and subjects had either to ignore T1 or to encode T1 for a delayed response. T2 was a lateral square of a prespecified color. The square had a small gap in one side, and the task for this stimulus was to report which side had the gap. When subjects were required to ignore T1, the T2-locked ERP produced a clear N2pc, that is, a greater negativity at electrode sites contralateral to the position occupied by T2. This N2pc was followed by a sustained posterior contralateral negativity (SPCN). When subjects were required to monitor T1 in addition to T2, both the N2pc and the SPCN components amplitude depended on the difficulty of the task associated with T1. If T1 was composed of digits that had to be encoded for a delayed same/different judgment, both the N2pc and the SPCN components were entirely suppressed. Although attenuated, such components were present when T1 was composed of a pair of symbols that subjects could disregard. The results suggest that a set of mechanisms subserving the allocation of attention in the spatial domain, resulting in the N2pc, suffer significant interference from concurrent cognitive operations required to encode information into visual short-term memory.

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