Intra-modal and cross-modal spatial attention to auditory and visual stimuli. An event-related brain potential study

Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 1999 Oct 25;8(3):327-43. doi: 10.1016/s0926-6410(99)00037-3.


This study investigated cross-modal interactions in spatial attention by means of recording event-related brain potentials (ERPs). Noise bursts and light flashes were presented in random order to both left and right field locations separated by 60 degrees in free-field. One group of subjects was instructed to attend selectively to the noise bursts (attend-auditory group), and a second group attended only to the flashes (attend-visual group). On different runs attention was directed to either the right or left field stimuli of the designated modality. In the attend-auditory group, noise bursts at the attended location elicited a broad, biphasic negativity (Nd) beginning at 70 ms. The cross-modal spatial attention effect on the auditory ERPs in the attend-visual group was very similar in morphology, but the Nd was reduced in amplitude relative to the intra-modal effect. In the attend-visual group, flashes at the attended location elicited enhanced early (100-200 ms) and late (200-350 ms) ERP components relative to unattended-location flashes. The cross-modal effect in the attend-auditory group included small but significant enhancements of early components of the visual ERPs. It was concluded that spatial attention has a multi-modal organization such that the processing of stimuli at attended locations is facilitated at an early, sensory level, even for stimuli of an unattended modality.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology*