Target consolidation under high temporal processing demands as revealed by MEG

Klaus Kessler, Frank Schmitz, Joachim Gross, Bernhard Hommel, Kimron Shapiro, Alfons Schnitzler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated the nature of resource limitations during visual target processing by imposing high temporal processing demands on the cognitive system. This was achieved by embedding target stimuli into rapid-serial-visual-presentation-streams (RSVP). In RSVP streams, it is difficult to report the second of two targets (T2) if the second follows the first (T1) within 500 ms. This effect is known as the attentional blink (AB). For the AB to occur, it is essential that T1 is followed by a mask, as without such a stimulus, the AB is significantly attenuated. Usually, it is thought that T1 processing is delayed by the mask, which in turn delays T2 processing, increasing the likelihood for T2 failures (AB). Predictions regarding amplitudes and latencies of cortical responses (M300, the magnetic counterpart to the P300) to targets were tested by investigating the neurophysiological effects of the post-T1 item (mask) by means of magnetoencephalography (MEG). Cortical M300 responses to targets drawn from prefrontal sources – areas associated with working memory – revealed accelerated T1 yet delayed T2 processing with an intervening mask. The explanation we are proposing assumes that “protection” of ongoing T1 processing necessitated by the occurrence of the mask suppresses other activation patterns, which boosts T1 yet also hinders further processing. Our data shed light on the mechanisms employed by the human brain for ensuring visual target processing under high temporal processing demands, which is hypothesized to occur at the expense of subsequently presented information.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1030-1041
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Early online date19 Apr 2005
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2005


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