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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Temporal dynamics of selective attention and conflict resolution during cross-dimensional go-nogo decisions

Bruno Kopp*, Sandra Tabeling, Carsten Moschner and Karl Wessel

Author Affiliations

Research Institute of Cognitive Neurology, Klinikum Braunschweig, and University of Technology Carolo-Wilhelmina at Braunschweig, Salzdahlumer Str. 90, 38126 Braunschweig, Germany

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BMC Neuroscience 2007, 8:68  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-8-68

Published: 17 August 2007



Decision-making is a fundamental capacity which is crucial to many higher-order psychological functions. We recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) during a visual target-identification task that required go-nogo choices. Targets were identified on the basis of cross-dimensional conjunctions of particular colors and forms. Color discriminability was manipulated in three conditions to determine the effects of color distinctiveness on component processes of decision-making.


Target identification was accompanied by the emergence of prefrontal P2a and P3b. Selection negativity (SN) revealed that target-compatible features captured attention more than target-incompatible features, suggesting that intra-dimensional attentional capture was goal-contingent. No changes of cross-dimensional selection priorities were measurable when color discriminability was altered. Peak latencies of the color-related SN provided a chronometric measure of the duration of attention-related neural processing. ERPs recorded over the frontocentral scalp (N2c, P3a) revealed that color-overlap distractors, more than form-overlap distractors, required additional late selection. The need for additional response selection induced by color-overlap distractors was severely reduced when color discriminability decreased.


We propose a simple model of cross-dimensional perceptual decision-making. The temporal synchrony of separate color-related and form-related choices determines whether or not distractor processing includes post-perceptual stages. ERP measures contribute to a comprehensive explanation of the temporal dynamics of component processes of perceptual decision-making.