Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
April 2018, Vol. 30, No. 4, Pages 482-497
© 2017 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Event-related Electroencephalographic Lateralizations Mark Individual Differences in Spatial and Nonspatial Visual Selection
Article PDF (1.32 MB)
Selective attention controls the distribution of our visual system's limited processing resources to stimuli in the visual field. Two independent parameters of visual selection can be quantified by modeling an individual's performance in a partial-report task based on the computational theory of visual attention (TVA): (i) top–down control α, the relative attentional weighting of relevant over irrelevant stimuli, and (ii) spatial bias
wλ, the relative attentional weighting of stimuli in the left versus right hemifield. In this study, we found that visual event-related electroencephalographic lateralizations marked interindividual differences in these two functions. First, individuals with better top–down control showed higher amplitudes of the posterior contralateral negativity than individuals with poorer top–down control. Second, differences in spatial bias were reflected in asymmetries in earlier visual event-related lateralizations depending on the hemifield position of targets; specifically, individuals showed a positivity contralateral to targets presented in their prioritized hemifield and a negativity contralateral to targets presented in their nonprioritized hemifield. Thus, our findings demonstrate that two functionally different aspects of attentional weighting quantified in the respective TVA parameters are reflected in two different neurophysiological measures: The observer-dependent spatial bias influences selection by a bottom–up processing advantage of stimuli appearing in the prioritized hemifield. By contrast, task-related target selection governed by top–down control involves active enhancement of target, and/or suppression of distractor, processing. These results confirm basic assumptions of the TVA framework, complement the functional interpretation of event-related lateralization components in selective attention studies, and are of relevance for the development of neurocognitive attentional assessment procedures.