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Searching for bodies: ERP evidence for independent somatosensory processing during visual search for body-related information

Arslanova, I., Galvez-Pol, A., Calvo-Merino, B. ORCID: 0000-0003-4669-4573 & Forster, B. ORCID: 0000-0001-5126-7854 (2019). Searching for bodies: ERP evidence for independent somatosensory processing during visual search for body-related information. Neuroimage, 195, pp. 140-149. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.03.037


Attention allows us to select relevant information by modulating neural activity within sensory brain areas processing that information. Previous research has shown that visual perception of body stimuli recruits visual cortices together with observer's body representation in somatosensory cortex, which is known for processing body-related information (e.g., haptics, kinematics). However, whether attentional selection of visual body stimuli involves just visual or additional somatosensory areas remains elusive. Here we elicited visual and somatosensory evoked activity during a visual search task, whereby participants searched for target hand images defined by either visual (colour) or bodily (posture) features. In line with previous studies, we found electrophysiological evidence for attentional selection over visual areas (i.e., N2pc) regardless of the feature type. Importantly, after dissociating somatosensory from visual evoked activity, we show that only attentional selection of hand posture - but not hand colour - elicits modulation of somatosensory evoked electrocortical activity over somatosensory cortex. This suggests that attention may not only modulate cortical activity associated with the input-sensory modality (in this case, visual), but, depending on the type of attended information, it may also modulate cortical activity associated with another task-relevant sensory modality (in this case, somatosensory). Overall, our results provide evidence for a flexible attention mechanism that operates according to specific behavioural goals and the information embedded in the percept.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Body perception, Attention, Sensory recruitment, Visual search, Embodiment, Somatosensory cortex, SEPs
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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Text - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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