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The attentive homunculus: ERP evidence for somatotopic allocation of attention in tactile search

Forster, B., Tziraki, M. & Jones, A. (2016). The attentive homunculus: ERP evidence for somatotopic allocation of attention in tactile search. Neuropsychologia, 84, pp. 158-166. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.02.009


Our brain constantly receives tactile information from the body’s surface. We often only become aware of this information when directing our attention towards the body. Here, we report a study investigating the behavioural and neural response when selecting a target amongst distractor vibrations presented simultaneously to several locations either across the hands or body. Comparable visual search studies have revealed the N2pc as the neural correlate of visual selective attention. Analogously, we describe an enhanced negativity contralateral to the tactile target side. This effect is strongest over somatosensory areas and lasts approximately 200 ms from the onset of the somatosensory N140 ERP component. Based on these characteristics we named this electrophysiological signature of attentional tactile target selection during tactile search the N140-central-contralateral (N140cc). Furthermore, we present supporting evince that the N140cc reflects attentional enhancement of target rather than suppression of distractor locations; the component was not reliably altered by distractor but rather by target location changes. Taken together, our findings present a novel electrophysiological marker of tactile search and show how attentional selection of touch operates by mainly enhancing task relevant locations within the somatosensory homunculus.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2016, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
Publisher Keywords: Somatosensory system; Tactile attention; Tactile search; Attentional selection; Body
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Text - Accepted Version
Available under License : See the attached licence file.

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