Orienting and maintenance of spatial attention in audition and vision: An event-related brain potential study

  • Salmi J
  • Rinne T
  • Degerman A
 et al. 
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We examined the effects of orienting and maintenance of attention on performance and event-related brain potentials (ERPs) in audition and vision. Our subjects selectively attended to sounds or pictures in one location (Maintenance of attention) or alternated the focus of their auditory or visual attention between left and right locations (Orienting of attention) in order to detect and press a response button to infrequent targets among the attended stimuli. Reaction times were longer in the Auditory Orienting condition and hit rates were lower and false alarm rates higher in the Visual Orienting condition than in the corresponding Maintenance conditions. Comparison of ERPs to the attended and unattended stimuli in the Auditory and Visual Orienting and Maintenance conditions revealed attention-related modulations of ERPs. In each modality, ERPs to attended stimuli were negatively displaced in relation to unattended stimuli at 100-250 ms from stimulus onset. These negative differences (Nds) showed modality-specific distributions and they were larger over the hemisphere contralateral to the attended sounds and pictures than over the ipsilateral hemisphere. Moreover, the Nd was larger in the Auditory Orienting condition than in the Auditory Maintenance condition, while no such difference was observed in the visual modality. In addition to the Nd, attended visual stimuli elicited a late positive response (LPR) in both Orienting and Maintenance conditions. In contrast to our recent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study employing the same experimental paradigm and indicating orienting-related activity in the frontal and parietal cortices, no ERP responses specifically related to orienting were found in either modality.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Auditory attention
  • Human brain
  • Late positive response (LPR)
  • Negative difference (Nd)
  • Visual attention

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