Neural processes associated with two aspects of visual-spatial attention were investigated with event-related potential (ERPs): those that direct spatial attention to a given point in space and those that modulate the processing of sensory input after attention has been directed. The subjects were 6- to 9-year-old children (51 boys and 35 girls). An arrow cue directed attention from the central to peripheral visual field; targets were then flashed in the attended or ignored visual field 600 msec after the cue.
The directing of attention to the left vs. right visual field was associated with hemispheric differences in slow potentials prior to the presentation of the targets. The earliest potential, which started about 200 msec after the cue and was negative over the hemisphere contralateral to the direction of attention, was greatest over the parietal area and appeared to reflect processes directing attention per se. The last potential, which peaked 60 msec after the target and was positive over the hemisphere contralateral to the direction of attention, was greatest over the occipital-parietal region. It appeared to reflect the modulation of cortical excitability in the regions receiving input from the relevant and irrelevant visual fields. The effects of spatial attention on P1, N1, and P3 ERP components following the targets replicated previous results. Boys appeared more aroused (as indicated by CNVs) and reflected faster and greater selective processing (as indicated by reaction time, and N1-P1 latency and amplitude) than girls.