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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Electrical neuroimaging evidence that spatial frequency-based selective attention affects V1 activity as early as 40-60 ms in humans

Alice M Proverbio1*, Marzia Del Zotto2 and Alberto Zani3

Author Affiliations

1 Dept. of Psychology, University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan, Italy

2 Laboratory of Experimental Neuropsychology, Neuropsychology Unit, Geneva University Hospital, Switzerland

3 Inst. of Bioimaging and Molecular Physiology, CNR, Milano-Segrate, Italy

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BMC Neuroscience 2010, 11:59  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-11-59

Published: 6 May 2010



Karns and Knight (2009) [1] demonstrated by using ERP and gamma band oscillatory responses that intermodal attention modulates visual processing at the latency of the early phase of the C1 response (62-72 ms) thought to be generated in the primary visual cortex. However, the timing of attentional modulation of visual cortex during object-based attention remains a controversial issue.


In this study, EEG recording and LORETA source reconstruction were performed. A large number of subjects (29) and of trial repetitions were used (13,312). EEG was recorded from 128 scalp sites at a sampling rate of 512 Hz. Four square-wave gratings (0.75, 1.5, 3, 6 c/deg) were randomly presented in the 4 quadrants of the visual field. Participants were instructed to pay conjoined attention to a given stimulus quadrant and spatial frequency. The C1 and P1 sensory-evoked components of ERPs were quantified by measuring their mean amplitudes across time within 5 latency ranges 40-60, 60-80, 80-100, 100-120 and 120-140 ms.


Early attention effects were found in the form of an enhanced C1 response (40-80 ms) to frequency-relevant gratings. LORETA, within its spatial resolution limits, identified the neural generators of this effect in the striate cortex (BA17), among other areas.