October 27, 2020

Steady-state visually evoked potentials and feature-based attention: Pre-registered null results and a focused review of methodological considerations.

Feature-based attention is the ability to selectively attend to a particular feature (e.g., attend to red but not green items while looking for the ketchup bottle in your refrigerator), and steady-state visually evoked potentials (SSVEPs) measured from the human electroencephalogram (EEG) signal have been used to track the neural deployment of feature-based attention. Although many published studies suggest that we can use trial-by-trial cues to enhance relevant feature information (i.e., greater SSVEP response to the cued color), there is ongoing debate about whether participants may likewise use trial-by-trial cues to ignore a particular feature. Here, we report the results of a pre-registered study in which participants either were cued to attend or to ignore a color. Counter to prior work, we found no attention-related modulation of the SSVEP response in either cue condition. However, positive control analyses revealed that participants paid some degree of attention to the cued color (i.e., we observed a greater P300 component to targets in the attended versus the unattended color). In light of these unexpected null results, we conducted a focused review of methodological considerations for studies of feature-based attention using SSVEPs. In the review, we quantify potentially important stimulus parameters that have been used in the past (e.g., stimulation frequency; trial counts) and we discuss the potential importance of these and other task factors (e.g., feature-based priming) for SSVEP studies.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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