Abstract

We explored the flow of information during visual search by examining activity indexing visual attention (N2pc) and the subsequent processing of the selected objects in visual short-term memory (SPCN) time-locked to stimulus presentation and to the motor response. We measured event-related activity at posterior sites (PO7/PO8) for 96 participants during a simple visual search task. A response-locked posterior contralateral negativity (RLpcN) was observed with a scalp distribution similar to that of the N2pc and SPCN. The RLpcN was compared with the stimulus-locked activity (N2pc and SPCN) across experimental manipulations (targets were either closer or farther from fixation in visual space, and the response was either more frequent [75%] or less frequent [25%]) and across response speeds (EEG data were separated into tertiles by RT both within-subjects and between-subjects). The leading edge and early portion of the RLpcN appeared to reflect the initial deployment of attention (N2pc), whereas the later portion (up to peak amplitude) reflected subsequent processing of visual information (SPCN). SPCN and RLpcN also had similar modulations in amplitude for both analyses. Moreover, whereas very small N2pc and SPCN onset latency differences were observed when data were separated into tertiles by RT, there were large onset differences for the RLpcN, with earlier RLpcN onsets for longer RTs, suggesting that RT variance is in large determined by processing after the initial deployment of attention. The results show how we can bisect processing responsible for variations in RT relative to the onset of visual spatial attention.

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