A long-standing question in attention research is the extent to which selection involves gates in the sensory stream and the extent to which they involve added secondary processes. Intermodal attention paradigms are useful for examining this issue since different modalities involve readily distinguished cortical regions. Evoked potential studies have identified an attention-related frontal negativity labeled the Nd in auditory attention studies. It has been suggested that it arises from modulation of the auditory cortex (compatible with gating mechanisms) or of the frontal cortex (compatible with secondary processes such as short-term memory buffers). Efforts to localize the Nd have been impaired by the finding that the Nd comprises multiple components. Some novel procedures utilizing principal components analysis, in conjunction with high-density 64-channel recordings, were used to address this issue. Results suggest that the major source of the early Nd (the portion of most interest) resides in the frontal cortex, supporting the secondary process view for this particular mechanism.

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