Distractor Inhibition Predicts Individual Differences in Recovery from the Attentional Blink

Heleen A. Slagter, Katerina Georgopoulou

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background:The attentional blink (AB) refers to an impairment in detecting the second of two target stimuli presented in close succession in a rapid stream of distractors. Recent studies indicate that the AB results, in part, from distractor suppression mechanisms, that may be mediated by striatal dopamine. Yet, it is currently unclear how distractor suppression ability may contribute to the AB. Here, we examined whether distractor suppression ability is predictive of an individual's AB depth and/or recovery. In addition, we investigated the relationship between individual spontaneous eye blink rate (sEBR), a marker of striatal dopaminergic functioning, and AB performance.Methodology/Principal findings:Subjects were presented with rapid streams of letters containing white distractors, a red T1 and a green T2. T2 was presented either at Lag2, Lag4 or Lag10, and preceded by a distractor that shared the same identity as T2 (T2 primed) or not (T2 not primed). Replicating previous work [1], we found that slow AB recovery (poor T2 performance in Lag4 vs. Lag10) was associated with a failure to inhibit distractors, as indexed by greater positive priming. However, no relationship was observed between a subject's ability to suppress distractors and AB depth (Lag10 vs. Lag2). Moreover, no relationship between sEBR and AB performance was observed.Results/Significance:These results indicate that a failure to inhibit distracting information impairs AB recovery, possibly by interfering with target encoding in working memory - but does not affect AB magnitude. The absence of a relationship between individual sEBR and AB performance may be explained by task specifics.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere64681
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2013
Externally publishedYes


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