This work addressed early selection based on nonspatial visual features, using event-related potentials (ERPs) with high temporal resolution and dipole-source modeling. Subjects were presented rapid sequences of gratings varying in spatial frequency and orientation, and were instructed to attend to gratings with one spatial frequency and ignore those with another. Attention effects started at 120-msec latency as anterior positivity and proceeded as posterior negativity (200 msec) and anterior negativity (265 msec). Dipole-source modeling suggested that these effects reflect the sequential selective activation of, on average, posterior dorsal–medial, posterior ventral–lateral, and anterior medial cortical areas. In contrast, stimulus-specific activity was observed well before 100-msec latency and characterized by dipoles with locations significantly posterior to those of the attention-modulated activity. These results indicate that even with highly discriminable spatial frequencies, selection is not as early as before the 100-msec latency, unlike what is often found for location selection. It is also separated in time and anatomically from the earliest stimulus-specific cortical activity. Reducing discriminability of the selection feature resulted in longer selection latencies, becoming manifest only at 175 msec as an apparent combination of posterior and anterior negativities, and in an elevated criterion for overt responding.

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