The strength of anticipatory spatial biasing predicts target discrimination at attended locations: A high-density EEG study

Simon P. Kelly, Manuel Gomez-Ramirez, John J. Foxe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

145 Scopus citations


Cueing relevant spatial locations in advance of a visual target results in modulated processing of that target as a consequence of anticipatory attentional deployment, the neural signatures of which remain to be fully elucidated. A set of electrophysiological processes has been established as candidate markers of the invocation and maintenance of attentional bias in humans. These include spatially-selective event-related potential (ERP) components over the lateral parietal (around 200-300 ms post-cue), frontal (300-500 ms) and ventral visual (> 500 ms) cortex, as well as oscillatory amplitude changes in the alpha band (8-14 Hz). Here, we interrogated the roles played by these anticipatory processes in attentional orienting by testing for links with subsequent behavioral performance. We found that both target discriminability (d') and reaction times were significantly predicted on a trial-by-trial basis by lateralization of alpha-band amplitude in the 500 ms preceding the target, with improved speed and accuracy resulting from a greater relative decrease in alpha over the contralateral visual cortex. Reaction time was also predicted by a late posterior contralateral positivity in the broad-band ERP in the same time period, but this did not influence d'. In a further analysis we sought to identify the control signals involved in generating the anticipatory bias, by testing earlier broad-band ERP amplitude for covariation with alpha lateralization. We found that stronger alpha biasing was associated with a greater bilateral frontal positivity at ∼390 ms but not with differential amplitude across hemispheres in any time period. Thus, during the establishment of an anticipatory spatial bias, while the expected target location is strongly encoded in lateralized activity in parietal and frontal areas, a distinct non-spatial control process seems to regulate the strength of the bias.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2224-2234
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number11
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Alpha
  • Biasing
  • Cueing
  • Electroencephalography
  • Human
  • Spatial attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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