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The blinking spotlight of attention

VanRullen, Rufin and Carlson, Thomas and Cavanagh, Patrick (2007) The blinking spotlight of attention. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104 (49). pp. 19204-19209. ISSN 0027-8424. PMCID PMC2148268.

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Increasing evidence suggests that attention can concurrently select multiple locations; yet it is not clear whether this ability relies on continuous allocation of attention to the different targets (a "parallel" strategy) or whether attention switches rapidly between the targets (a periodic "sampling" strategy). Here, we propose a method to distinguish between these two alternatives. The human psychometric function for detection of a single target as a function of its duration can be used to predict the corresponding function for two or more attended targets. Importantly, the predicted curves differ, depending on whether a parallel or sampling strategy is assumed. For a challenging detection task, we found that human performance was best reflected by a sampling model, indicating that multiple items of interest were processed in series at a rate of approximately seven items per second. Surprisingly, the data suggested that attention operated in this periodic regime, even when it was focused on a single target. That is, attention might rely on an intrinsically periodic process.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle Information
VanRullen, Rufin0000-0002-3611-7716
Additional Information:© 2007 by the National Academy of Sciences. Edited by Dale Purves, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, and approved October 19, 2007 (received for review August 6, 2007). Published online on November 27, 2007, 10.1073/pnas.0707316104. This work was supported by grants from the Philippe Foundation and the Fyssen Foundation, Agence Nationale de la Recherche Grant 06-JC-0154-01 (to R.V.), the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO Pionier) (to T.C.), and National Eye Institute Grant EY09258 (to P.C.).
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Philippe FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Fyssen FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Agence Nationale pour la Recherche (ANR)06-JC-0154-01
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:oscillation; parallel vs. serial
Issue or Number:49
PubMed Central ID:PMC2148268
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:RULpnas07
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:The blinking spotlight of attention Rufin VanRullen, Thomas Carlson, Patrick Cavanagh Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Dec 2007, 104 (49) 19204-19209; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0707316104
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:10176
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:28 May 2008
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 00:07

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