ERP time course of perceptual and post-perceptual mechanisms of spatial selection
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Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded from volunteers performing a task requiring simple judgements about the spatial location of a single target that could appear with equal probability to the left or right of fixation. A robust finding in the ERP literature is a dichotomy between attentional selection for spatial and non-spatial features. Visual spatial selection is manifest as a modulation of early components (P1, N1) that reveal exogenous processes, while non-spatial selection is revealed by the presence of longer latency endogenous components (N2). We present an analysis of several conditions that require different degrees of visual analysis to confirm the location of the single target, and show that spatial selection can be manifest at early (N1) or later (N2) stages. Observers identified the location of targets that were more salient (2D line drawings with abrupt onset) or less salient (2D line drawings without abrupt onset or 3D objects embedded in random-dot stereograms). We examined differences in amplitude, latency, and topography of early ERP components (P1, N1, P2, N2), and compared responses measured over the left and right hemispheres in response to left and right targets. The results support the hypothesis that the processes involved in spatial selection can be manifest at early or late stages, dependent on the quality of the incoming data. Moreover, the iterative process by which the percept is established benefits from a change in the visual input that is specific to the target.
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