Viewing the body modulates neural mechanisms underlying sustained spatial attention in touch

Sambo, C.F., Gillmeister, H. & Forster, B. (2009). Viewing the body modulates neural mechanisms underlying sustained spatial attention in touch. EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE, 30(1), pp. 143-150. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2009.06791.x

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Cross-modal links between vision and touch have been extensively shown with a variety of paradigms. The present event-related potential (ERP) study aimed to clarify whether neural mechanisms underlying sustained tactile-spatial attention may be modulated by visual input, and the sight of the stimulated body part (i.e. hands) in particular. Participants covertly attended to one of their hands throughout a block to detect infrequent tactile target stimuli at that hand while ignoring tactile targets at the unattended hand, and all tactile non-targets. In different blocks, participants performed this task under three viewing conditions: full vision; hands covered from view; and blindfolded. When the participants’ hands were visible attention was found to modulate somatosensory ERPs at early latencies (i.e. in the time range of the somatosensory P100 and the N140 components), as well as at later time intervals, from 200 ms after stimulus onset. By contrast, when participants were blindfolded and, crucially, even when only their hands were not visible, attentional modulations were found to arise only at later intervals (i.e. from 200 ms post-stimulus), while earlier somatosensory components were not affected by spatial attention. The behavioural results tallied with these electrophysiological findings, showing faster response times to tactile targets under the full vision condition compared with conditions when participants’ hands were covered, and when participants were blindfolded. The results from this study provide the first evidence of the profound impact of vision on mechanisms underlying sustained tactile-spatial attention, which is enhanced by the sight of the body parts (i.e. hands).

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: event-related potentials (ERPs), multisensory, somatosensory, vision
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: School of Social Sciences > Department of Psychology

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