Sites of overt and covert attention define simultaneous spatial reference centers for visuomotor response

Yang Zhou, Lixin Liang, Yujun Pan, Ning Qian, Mingsha Zhang, Scientific Reports, 2017, 7: 46556; doi: 10.1038/srep46556.
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The site of overt attention (fixation point) defines a spatial reference center that affects visuomotor response as indicated by the stimulus-response-compatibility (SRC) effect: When subjects press, e.g., a left key to report stimuli, their reaction time is shorter when stimuli appear to the left than to the right of the fixation. Covert attention to a peripheral site appears to define a similar reference center but previous studies did not control for confounding spatiotemporal factors or investigate the relationship between overt- and covert-attention-defined centers. Using an eye tracker to monitor fixation, we found an SRC effect relative to the site of covert attention induced by a flashed cue dot, and a concurrent reduction, but not elimination, of the overt-attention SRC effect. The two SRC effects jointly determined the overall motor reaction time. Since trials with different cue locations were randomly interleaved, the integration of the two reference centers must be updated online. When the cue was invalid and diminished covert attention, the covert-attention SRC effect disappeared and the overt-attention SRC effect retained full strength, excluding non-attention-based interpretations. We conclude that both covert- and overt-attention sites define visual reference centers that simultaneously contribute to motor response.

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