Scientific article
Open access

Evidence of target enhancement and distractor suppression in early visual areas

Published inAttention, perception & psychophysics, vol. 85, no. 3, p. 734-748
Publication date2023-03-14
First online date2023-03-14

Although the mechanisms of target enhancement and distractor suppression have been investigated along the visual processing hierarchy, there remains some unknown as to the role of perceptual load on the competition between different task-related information as attention deployment is manipulated. We present an fMRI spatial cueing paradigm, in which 32 participants had to attend to either a left or a right hemifield location and to indicate the orientation of the target Gabor that was presented simultaneously to a noise patch distractor. Critically, the target could appear at either the cued, valid location or at the uncued, invalid location; in the latter, the noise patch distractor appeared at the cued location. Perceptual load was manipulated by the presence or absence of high-contrast Gabor patches close to the fixation cross, which acted as lateral masks. Behavioural results indicated that participants performed more efficiently in validly cued trials compared to invalidly cued trials and under low compared to high load. Enhancement effects for targets and suppression effects for noise patches were greater in early visual areas at high load, that is in the presence of lateral masks. These results are in line with the hypothesis that attention results in both target enhancement and distractor suppression, and that these effects are most marked under high perceptual load. Theoretical implications of these results for different models of attention are discussed.

  • Attentional control
  • Distractor suppression
  • Perceptual load
  • Retinotopic mapping
  • Target enhancement
Citation (ISO format)
FÖCKER, Julia, BEER, Anton L., BAVELIER, Daphné. Evidence of target enhancement and distractor suppression in early visual areas. In: Attention, perception & psychophysics, 2023, vol. 85, n° 3, p. 734–748. doi: 10.3758/s13414-023-02673-w
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal1943-3921

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