Internal and external spatial attention examined with lateralized EEG power spectra

Rob H J Van der Lubbe, Carsten Bundt, Elger L Abrahamse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Several authors argued that retrieval of an item from visual short term memory (internal spatial attention) and focusing attention on an externally presented item (external spatial attention) are similar. Part of the neuroimaging support for this view may be due to the employed experimental procedures. Furthermore, as internal spatial attention may have a more induced than evoked nature some effects may not have been visible in event related analyses of the electroencephalogram (EEG), which limits the possibility to demonstrate differences. In the current study, a colored frame cued which stimulus, one out of four presented in separate quadrants, required a response, which depended on the form of the cued stimulus (circle or square). Importantly, the frame occurred either before (precue), simultaneously with (simultaneous cue), or after the stimuli (postcue). The precue and simultaneous cue condition both concern external attention, while the postcue condition implies the involvement of internal spatial attention. Event-related lateralizations (ERLs), reflecting evoked effects, and lateralized power spectra (LPS), reflecting both evoked and induced effects, were determined. ERLs revealed a posterior contralateral negativity (PCN) only in the precue condition. LPS analyses on the raw EEG showed early increased contralateral theta power at posterior sites and later increased ipsilateral alpha power at occipito-temporal sites in all cue conditions. Responses were faster when the internally or externally attended location corresponded with the required response side than when not. These findings provide further support for the view that internal and external spatial attention share their underlying mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-92
Number of pages14
JournalBrain Research
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Alpha Rhythm/physiology
  • Attention/physiology
  • Brain/physiology
  • Cues
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time
  • Space Perception/physiology
  • Theta Rhythm/physiology
  • Young Adult


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