Attention may be oriented exogenously (i.e., involuntarily) to the location of salient stimuli, resulting in improved perception. However, it is unknown whether exogenous attention improves perception by facilitating processing of attended information, suppressing processing of unattended information, or both. To test this question, we measured behavioral performance and cue-elicited neural changes in the electroencephalogram as participants (N = 19) performed a task in which a spatially non-predictive auditory cue preceded a visual target. Critically, this cue was either presented at a peripheral target location or from the center of the screen, allowing us to isolate spatially specific attentional activity. We found that both behavioral performance and visual-cortical processing were enhanced at the location of a peripheral cue, but that both measures were equivalent to baseline (i.e., following a central cue) at the unattended location. These results suggest that exogenous attention operates solely via facilitation of information at an attended location.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience