Effects of attentional load on early visual processing depend on stimulus timing

Authors

  • Karsten Rauss,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Neuroscience, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
    2. Geneva Neuroscience Center, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
    3. Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
    • Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology, University of Tübingen, Gartenstr. 29, 72074 Tübingen, Germany
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  • Gilles Pourtois,

    1. Department of Experimental Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
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  • Patrik Vuilleumier,

    1. Department of Neuroscience, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
    2. Geneva Neuroscience Center, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
    3. Department of Neurology, Geneva University Hospital, Geneva, Switzerland
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  • Sophie Schwartz

    1. Department of Neuroscience, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
    2. Geneva Neuroscience Center, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
    3. Department of Experimental Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
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Abstract

A growing number of studies suggest that early visual processing is not only affected by low-level perceptual attributes but also by higher order cognitive factors such as attention or emotion. Using high-density electroencephalography, we recently demonstrated that attentional load of a task at fixation reduces the response of primary visual cortex to irrelevant peripheral stimuli, as indexed by the C1 component. In the latter study, peripheral stimuli were always presented during intervals without task-relevant stimuli. Here, we use a similar paradigm but present central task stimuli and irrelevant peripheral stimuli simultaneously while keeping all other stimulus characteristics constant. Results show that rather than to suppress responses to peripheral stimulation, high attentional load elicits higher C1 amplitudes under these conditions. These findings suggest that stimulus timing can profoundly alter the effects of attentional load on the earliest stages of processing in human visual cortex. Hum Brain Mapp, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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