Somatosensory responses during selective spatial attention: The N120-to-N140 trasition


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The somatosensory evoked potential negative components in the 100–150-ms range were studied under conditions where attention was directed either toward or away from the probe stimulus. An N120 component, not sensitive to spatial attention, appeared in all conditions, including the no-task condition. Its distribution was consistent with an origin in the second somatic area. A later N140 response, not recorded in neutral conditions, was highly sensitive to spatial attention and reached its maximum to stimulation of the attended hand; its behavior was consistent with that of a processing negativity. The N140 was bilaterally distributed, but the hemisphere contralateral to stimulation appeared to be involved earlier than the ipsilateral one. Although the exogenous N120 may be influenced by somatosensory awareness and perhaps tactile recognition, the N140 appears linked to the spatial components of attention and results from the activation of several areas in both hemispheres.