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Neurobehavioral correlates of the rapid formation of the symbolic control of visuospatial attention


  • We thank Bernhard Hommel and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and criticisms of earlier drafts of this article. Hommel's comments gave rise to additional experiments and a more extensive piece of work. This research was supported by Army grant #W911NF-07-2-0023, through The Center for Strategic and Innovative Technologies at The University of Texas at Austin, and NIH grant #5T32MH065728-08, through the Texas Consortium in Behavioral Neuroscience Diversity Training Program. We also thank Cassandra Jacobs and David Johnson for help with data collection and analysis.

Address correspondence to: Logan T. Trujillo, Ph.D., 1 University Station A8000, University of Texas, Austin, TX, 78712, USA. E-mail:


Prior research suggests that nonpredictive symbolic central cues can produce nonvoluntary shifts of endogenous attention when associations between cues and spatial locations are overlearned during cognitive development. The present ERP study extends this research by first showing that overlearned cue–spatial location associations necessary to support nonvoluntary attentional orienting can be rapidly formed in adult humans. A second experiment indicates that the nonvoluntary orienting formed by such rapid learning is semireflexive (amenable to top-down influence) rather than reflexive (resistant to top-down influence). A third experiment suggests that the rapid formation of endogenous nonvoluntary orienting requires explicit rather than implicit learning of cue–location associations. These findings provide further support for a strong connection between neurocognitive representations of space, symbol meaning, and attentional control.