Irrelevant digits affect feature-based attention depending on the overlap of neural circuits

Wim Fias, Johan Lauwereyns, Jan Lammertyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

155 Citations (Scopus)


Feature-based attention was investigated by examining the effect of irrelevant information on the processing of relevant information. In all experiments, irrelevant information consisted of digits whose semantic information is known to be processed in parietal areas. Between experiments we varied the degree of parietal involvement in the processing of the relevant feature. The influence of the irrelevant digit on the binary manual response task on the relevant feature was measured by the SNARC effect, a spatial numerical association of response codes demonstrating faster left than right hand responses for small numbers and faster right than left hand responses for large numbers. When processing of the relevant feature depended on parietal cortex, as is the case for orientation processing (exps. 1 and 4), there was an effect of the digit's semantic value on response times. Conversely, there was no effect of the irrelevant digit on the processing of color (exps. 2 and 3) or shape (exp. 5), which rely only minimally on parietal resources. After ruling out alternative explanations we conclude that the efficiency of feature-based attention is determined by the degree of neural overlap of structures dedicated to process relevant and irrelevant information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-423
Number of pages9
JournalCognitive Brain Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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