Intermodal auditory, visual, and tactile attention modulates early stages of neural processing.J Cogn Neurosci. 2009 Apr; 21(4):669-83.JC
We used event-related potentials (ERPs) and gamma band oscillatory responses (GBRs) to examine whether intermodal attention operates early in the auditory, visual, and tactile modalities. To control for the effects of spatial attention, we spatially coregistered all stimuli and varied the attended modality across counterbalanced blocks in an intermodal selection task. In each block, participants selectively responded to either auditory, visual, or vibrotactile stimuli from the stream of intermodal events. Auditory and visual ERPs were modulated at the latencies of early cortical processing, but attention manifested later for tactile ERPs. For ERPs, auditory processing was modulated at the latency of the Na (29 msec), which indexes early cortical or thalamocortical processing and the subsequent P1 (90 msec) ERP components. Visual processing was modulated at the latency of the early phase of the C1 (62-72 msec) thought to be generated in the primary visual cortex and the subsequent P1 and N1 (176 msec). Tactile processing was modulated at the latency of the N160 (165 msec) likely generated in the secondary association cortex. Intermodal attention enhanced early sensory GBRs for all three modalities: auditory (onset 57 msec), visual (onset 47 msec), and tactile (onset 27 msec). Together, these results suggest that intermodal attention enhances neural processing relatively early in the sensory stream independent from differential effects of spatial and intramodal selective attention.