The anticipation of upcoming events is a key-feature of cognition. Previous investigations on anticipatory visuospatial attention mainly adopted transient and–more rarely–sustained tasks, whose main difference consists in the presence of transient or sustained cue stimuli and different involvement of top-down or bottom-up forms of attention. In particular, while top-down control has been suggested to drive sustained attention, it is not clear whether both endogenous and exogenous controls are recruited in transient attention task, or whether the cue-evoked attention may be interpreted as a mainly bottom-up guided process. To solve this issue, the present study focused on the preparatory brain activity of participants performing a sustained and a transient attention task. To this aim, the focus was on pre-stimulus event-related potential (ERP) components, i.e., the prefrontal negativity (pN) and the visual negativity (vN), associated with cognitive and sensorial preparation, emerging from prefrontal and visual areas, respectively. Results indicated that the pN was specific for the sustained task, while the vN emerged for both tasks, although smaller in the transient task, with a hemispheric lateralization contralateral to the attended hemifield. The present findings support the interpretation of the vN as a modality-specific index of attentional preparation, and suggest the presence of cognitive endogenous control in sustained tasks only, as revealed by the presence of a prefrontal activity that was interpreted as the locus of the top-down attentional modulation during the stimulus expectancy stage.
- Prefrontal negativity
- Preparatory attention
- Top-down control
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience