Independent effects of attentional gain control and competitive interactions on visual stimulus processing

Keitel, C. , Andersen, S. K., Quigley, C. and Muller, M. M. (2013) Independent effects of attentional gain control and competitive interactions on visual stimulus processing. Cerebral Cortex, 23(4), pp. 940-946. (doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhs084)

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Attention filters behaviorally relevant stimuli from the constant stream of sensory information comprising our environment. Research into underlying neural mechanisms in humans suggests that visual attention biases mutual suppression between stimuli resulting from competition for limited processing resources. As a consequence, processing of an attended stimulus is facilitated. This account makes 2 assumptions: 1) An attended stimulus is released from mutual suppression with competing stimuli and 2) an attended stimulus experiences greater gain in the presence of competing stimuli than when it is presented alone. Here, we tested these assumptions by recording frequency-tagged potentials elicited in early visual cortex that index stimulus-specific processing. We contrasted the processing of a given stimulus when its location was attended or unattended and in the presence or the absence of a nearby competing stimulus. At variance with previous findings, competition similarly suppressed processing of attended and unattended stimuli. Moreover, the magnitude of attentional gain was comparable in the presence or the absence of competing stimuli. We conclude that visuospatial selective attention does not directly modulate mutual suppression between stimuli but instead acts as a signal gain, which biases processing toward attended stimuli independent of competition.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (grant number GRK- 1182—Graduate program ‘‘Function of Attention in Cognition’’)
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Keitel, Dr Christian
Authors: Keitel, C., Andersen, S. K., Quigley, C., and Muller, M. M.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Psychology & Neuroscience
Journal Name:Cerebral Cortex
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN (Online):1460-2199
Published Online:17 April 2012

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