The role of the magnocellular visual pathway in the attentional blink

Geoffrey W. Stuart*, Sandra E. Lambeth, Ross H. Day, Ian C. Gould, Anne E. Castles

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Visual attention has temporal limitations. In the attentional blink (AB) a stream of stimuli such as letters or digits are presented to a participant on a computer monitor at a rapid rate. Embedded in the stream are two targets that the participant must try to identify. Identification of the second target is severely impaired if it is presented within approximately 500. ms of the first target. This is the 'blink' in visual attention. In this study we examined the role of the magnocellular visual pathway in the AB. This fast conducting pathway has high temporal resolution and contrast sensitivity. It is also insensitive to the direction of chromatic contrast, and this attribute was exploited in order to isolate its contributions to temporal attention. Colour defined, luminance noise masked AB streams were compared to AB streams of varying achromatic contrast. The four observers, (2F and 2M) aged between 21 and 35. years, had normal visual acuity and colour vision. The colour stimuli produced a similar blink to the moderate contrast achromatic stimuli. This indicates that the magnocellular pathway does not have a privileged role in the attentional blink. We provide an explanation of previous apparently contradictory findings in terms of the role of different types of visual masking in the attentional blink.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-104
Number of pages6
JournalBrain and Cognition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012

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