Neural mechanisms underlying expectation-dependent inhibition of distracting information

Dirk van Moorselaar, Eline Lampers, Elisa Cordesius, Heleen A Slagter

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Predictions based on learned statistical regularities in the visual worldhave been shown to facilitate attention and goal-directed behavior by sharpening the sensory representation of goal-relevant stimuli in advance. Yet, how the brain learns to ignore predictable goal-irrelevant or distracting information is unclear.Here, we used EEG anda visual search task in which the predictability of a distractor's location and/or spatial frequency was manipulated to determine how spatial and feature distractor expectations are neurally implemented and reduce distractor interference. We find that expected distractor features could not only be decoded pre-stimulus, but their representation differed from the representation of that same feature when part of the target. Spatial distractor expectations did not induce changes in preparatory neural activity, but a strongly reduced Pd, an ERP index of inhibition. These results demonstrate that neural effects of statistical learning critically depend on the task relevance and dimension (spatial, feature) of predictions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere61048
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2020


This research was supported by a European Research Council (ERC) starting grant (679399) to HAS. H2020 European Research Council 679399 Heleen A Slagter

FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme679399
H2020 European Research Council
European Research Council


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