Sustained visuospatial attention enhances lateralized anticipatory ERP activity in sensory areas

Francesco Di Russo, Marika Berchicci, Valentina Bianco, Elena Mussini, Rinaldo Livio Perri, Sabrina Pitzalis, Federico Quinzi, Sara Tranquilli, Donatella Spinelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The existence of neural correlates of spatial attention is not limited to the reactive stage of stimulus processing: neural activities subtending spatial attention are deployed well ahead of stimulus onset. ERP evidence supporting this proactive (top-down) attentional control is based on trial-by-trial S1–S2 paradigms, where the onset of a directional cue (S1) indicates on which side attention must be directed to respond to an upcoming target stimulus (S2). Crucially, S1 onset trigger both attention and motor preparation, therefore, these paradigms are not ideal to demonstrate the effect of attention at preparatory stage of processing. To isolate top-down anticipatory attention, the present study used a sustained attention paradigm based on a steady cue that indicates the attended side constantly throughout an entire block of trials, without any onset of an attentional cue. The main result consists in the description of the attention effect on the visual negativity (vN) component, a growing neural activity starting before stimulus presentation in extrastriate visual areas. The vN was consistently lateralized in the hemisphere contralateral to the attended side, regardless of the hand to be used. At the opposite, the lateralized motor activity emerged long after, confirming that the hand-selection process followed the spatial attention orientation process. The present study confirms the anticipatory nature of the vN component and corroborate its role in terms of preparatory visuospatial attention.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain Structure and Function
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Anticipatory attention
  • ERP
  • Pre-stimulus activity
  • Visuospatial attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Histology


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