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Psychophysiology. 2006 Nov;43(6):541-9.

Attentional capacity for processing concurrent stimuli is larger across sensory modalities than within a modality.

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Center for Cognitive Neurosciences, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA.


One finding in attention research is that visual and auditory attention mechanisms are linked together. Such a link would predict a central, amodal capacity limit in processing visual and auditory stimuli. Here we show that this is not the case. Letter streams were accompanied by asynchronously presented streams of auditory, visual, and audiovisual objects. Either the letter streams or the visual, auditory, or audiovisual parts of the object streams were attended. Attending to various aspects of the objects resulted in modulations of the letter-stream-elicited steady-state evoked potentials (SSVEPs). SSVEPs were larger when auditory objects were attended than when either visual objects alone or when auditory and visual object stimuli were attended together. SSVEP amplitudes were the same in the latter conditions, indicating that attentional capacity between modalities is larger than attentional capacity within one and the same modality.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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