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    A new method for tracking the preparatory activation of target templates for visual search with high temporal precision

    Dodwell, Gordon and Nako, Rebecca and Eimer, Martin (2024) A new method for tracking the preparatory activation of target templates for visual search with high temporal precision. Psychophysiology , ISSN 0048-5772.

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    Efficiently selecting task-relevant objects during visual search depends on foreknowledge of their defining characteristics, which are represented within attentional templates. These templates bias attentional processing towards template-matching sensory signals and are assumed to become anticipatorily activated prior to search display onset. However, a direct neural signal for such preparatory template activation processes has so far remained elusive. Here, we introduce a new high-definition rapid serial probe presentation paradigm (RSPP-HD), which facilitates high temporal resolution tracking of target template activation processes in real time via monitoring of the N2pc component. In the RSPP-HD procedure, task-irrelevant probe displays are presented in rapid succession throughout the period between task-relevant search displays. The probe and search displays are homologously formed by lateralized “clouds” of coloured dots, yielding probes that occur at task-relevant locations without confounding template-guided and salience-driven attentional shifts. Target colour probes appearing at times when a corresponding target template is active should attract attention, thereby eliciting an N2pc. In a condition where new probe displays appeared every 50 ms, probe N2pcs were reliably elicited during the final 800 ms prior to search display onset, increasing in amplitude towards the end of this preparation period. Analogous temporal profiles were also observed with longer intervals between probes. These findings show that search template activation processes are transient, and that their temporal profile can be reliably monitored at high sampling frequencies with the RSPP-HD paradigm. This procedure offers a new route to approach various questions regarding the content and temporal dynamics of attentional control processes.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Psychological Sciences
    Depositing User: Martin Eimer
    Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2024 13:02
    Last Modified: 25 Apr 2024 06:05


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