Mechanisms of implicit spatial and temporal orienting were investigated by using a moving auditory stimulus. Expectations were set up implicitly, using the information inherent in the movement of a sound, directing attention to a specific moment in time with respect to a specific location. There were four conditions of expectation: temporal and spatial expectation; temporal expectation only; spatial expectation only; and no expectation. Event-related brain potentials were recorded while participants performed a go/no-go task, set up by anticipation of the reappearance of a target tone through a white noise band. Results showed that (1) temporal expectations alone speeded reaction time and increased response accuracy; and (2) implicit temporal expectations alone independently enhanced target detection at early processing stages, prior to motor response. This was reflected at stages of perceptual analysis, indexed by P1 and N1 components, as well as in task-related stages indexed by N2; and (3) spatial expectations had an effect at later response-related processing stages but only in combination with temporal expectations, indexed by the P3 component. Thus, the results, in addition to indicating a primary role for temporal orienting in audition, suggest that multiple mechanisms of attention interact in different phases of auditory target detection. Our results are consistent with the view from vision research that spatial and temporal attentional control is based on the activity of partly overlapping, and partly functionally specialized neural networks.

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