Spatio-temporal dynamics of top-down control: Directing attention to location and/or color as revealed by ERPs and source modeling

Heleen A. Slagter*, Albert Kok, Nisan Mol, J. Leon Kenemans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This study investigated the nature and dynamics of the top-down control mechanisms that afford attentional selection using event-related potentials (ERPs) and dipole-source modeling. Subjects performed a task in which they were cued to direct attention to color, location, a conjunction of color and location or no specific feature on a trial-by-trial basis. Overall, similar ERP patterns were observed for directing attention to color and location, suggesting that spatial and non-spatial attention rely to a great extent on similar control mechanisms. The earliest attention-directing effect, at 340 ms, was localized to ventral posterior cortex and may reflect processes by which the cue is linked to its associated feature. Only late in the cue-target interval, differences in ERP were observed between directing attention to color and location. These originated from anterior and ventral posterior areas and may represent differences in, respectively, maintenance and perceptual biasing processes. The ventral posterior sources estimated for these late effects of directing attention to location and color were located posterior to those estimated for the modulatory effects of, respectively, spatial and non-spatial attention. This suggests that the precise neural populations involved in perceptual biasing and attentional modulation may differ. Conjunction cues initially elicited less posterior positivity than color and location cues, but evoked greater central positivity from 540 ms on. This central effect may reflect feature integration or ongoing processes related to cue-symbol translation. These results extend our understanding of the spatio-temporal dynamics of top-down attentional control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-348
Number of pages16
JournalCognitive Brain Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Attentional control
  • Attentional selection
  • Dipole modeling
  • Event-related potentials
  • Non-spatial
  • Spatial


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