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Unexpected Sounds Nonselectively Inhibit Active Visual Stimulus Representations.


ABSTRACT: The brain's capacity to process unexpected events is key to cognitive flexibility. The most well-known effect of unexpected events is the interruption of attentional engagement (distraction). We tested whether unexpected events interrupt attentional representations by activating a neural mechanism for inhibitory control. This mechanism is most well characterized within the motor system. However, recent work showed that it is automatically activated by unexpected events and can explain some of their nonmotor effects (e.g., on working memory representations). Here, human participants attended to lateralized flickering visual stimuli, producing steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEPs) in the scalp electroencephalogram. After unexpected sounds, the SSVEP was rapidly suppressed. Using a functional localizer (stop-signal) task and independent component analysis, we then identified a fronto-central EEG source whose activity indexes inhibitory motor control. Unexpected sounds in the SSVEP task also activated this source. Using single-trial analyses, we found that subcomponents of this source differentially relate to sound-induced SSVEP changes: While its N2 component predicted the subsequent suppression of the attended-stimulus SSVEP, the P3 component predicted the suppression of the SSVEP to the unattended stimulus. These results shed new light on the processes underlying fronto-central control signals and have implications for phenomena such as distraction and the attentional blink.

PROVIDER: S-EPMC7869093 | BioStudies |

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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