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The effects of spatial selective attention upon ERPs associated with the processing of word stimuli were investigated. While subjects maintained central eye fixation, ERPs were recorded to words presented to the left and right visual fields. In each of 6 runs, subjects focussed attention to alternate fields to perform a category-detection task. Pairs of semantically related and repeated words were embedded in the word lists presented to the attended and unattended visual fields. Consistent with prior studies, the P1-N1 visual ERP was larger when elicited by words in attended spatial locations. A large negative slow wave identified as N400 was elicited by attended, but not unattended, words. For attended words, N400 was smaller for semantically primed or repeated words. We concluded that spatial selective attention can modulate the degree to which words are processed, and that the cognitive processes associated with N400 are not automatic.

Original publication




Journal article


Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol

Publication Date





210 - 219


Adolescent, Adult, Analysis of Variance, Attention, Brain, Brain Mapping, Electroencephalography, Electrooculography, Evoked Potentials, Female, Humans, Male, Reaction Time, Semantics, Space Perception, Task Performance and Analysis, Visual Fields