Visual event-related potentials index focused attention within bilateral stimulus arrays. II. Functional dissociation of P1 and N1 components

S J Luck, H J Heinze, G R Mangun, and S A Hillyard (1990). Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol, 75(6):528-42.

Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded from 12 subjects as they attended to the left or right hemifield of a visual display while fixating a central point. Stimuli were presented to the left or right visual fields on separate trials (unilateral stimuli) or to both fields simultaneously (bilateral stimuli). In different conditions, the stimulus sequences contained only bilateral stimuli, only unilateral stimuli, or a mixture of unilateral and bilateral stimuli. Bilateral stimuli elicited an enhanced positivity lasting from about 75 to 250 msec that was largest at posterior electrode sites contralateral to the attended hemifield. The early phase of this attention-related positivity appeared to be an enhancement of the exogenous P1 component. In contrast, both the posterior P1 and N1 components were enhanced in response to attended unilateral stimuli. Moreover, the N1 attention effect was reduced when the preceding stimulus contained elements in the attended field. It was concluded that modulations of the N1 and P1 components in these experiments represent different aspects of visual spatial attention: N1 may represent the orienting of attention to a task-relevant stimulus, whereas P1 may represent a facilitation of early sensory processing for items presented to a location where attention is already focused.