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Shifts of attention in the early blind: an ERP study of attentional control processes in the absence of visual spatial information

By J. van Velzen, Alison F. Eardley, B. Forster and Martin Eimer

Abstract

To investigate the role of visual spatial information in the control of spatial attention, event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded during a tactile attention task for a group of totally blind participants who were either congenitally blind or had lost vision during infancy, and for an age-matched, sighted control group who performed the task in the dark. Participants had to shift attention to the left or right hand (as indicated by an auditory cue presented at the start of each trial) in order to detect infrequent tactile targets delivered to this hand. Effects of tactile attention on the processing of tactile events, as reflected by attentional modulations of somatosensory ERPs to tactile stimuli, were very similar for early blind and sighted participants, suggesting that the capacity to selectively process tactile information from one hand versus the other does not differ systematically between the blind and the sighted. ERPs measured during the cue–target interval revealed an anterior directing attention negativity (ADAN) that was present for the early blind group as well as for the sighted control group. In contrast, the subsequent posterior late direction attention negativity (LDAP) was absent in both groups. These results suggest that these two components reflect functionally distinct attentional control mechanisms which differ in their dependence on the availability of visually coded representations of external space

Topics: psyc
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2006
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.bbk.ac.uk.oai2:434

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