Attenuation of neural responses in primary visual cortex during the attentional blink

Mark A. Williams, Troy A W Visser, Ross Cunnington, Jason B. Mattingley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

33 Citations (Scopus)


Information-processing bottlenecks are characteristic of many cognitive and neural systems. One such bottleneck is revealed by tasks in which rapidly successive stimulus events must be reported. Here, observers missed the second of two visual targets if it occurred within 700 ms of the first [an "attentional blink" (AB)], even though this second target could be reported accurately when the first item was ignored. Isolating neural responses to such rapid events has proven difficult because current magnetic resonance imaging methods rely on relatively sluggish changes in the brain's physiological response to sensory inputs. Here, we overcame this limitation by presenting successive visual targets at different spatial locations, thereby exploiting the retinotopic organization of early cortical visual areas to distinguish neural activity associated with successive target events. We show that neural activity in primary visual cortex is significantly modulated during the AB, and that this activity mirrors behavioral measures of target identification accuracy. The findings suggest that the neural signature of perceptual suppression during processing of rapidly successive stimuli is evident at the earliest stages of cortical sensory processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9890-9894
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number39
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sep 2008

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