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Brain Cogn. 2010 Oct;74(1):35-46. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2010.06.001. Epub 2010 Jul 15.

Spatial cueing in time-space synesthetes: An event-related brain potential study.

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Department of Cognitive Science, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, 92093-0515, United States.


Some people report that they consistently and involuntarily associate time events, such as months of the year, with specific spatial locations; a condition referred to as time-space synesthesia. The present study investigated the manner in which such synesthetic time-space associations affect visuo-spatial attention via an endogenous cuing paradigm. Reaction times and ERPs were recorded as 12 time-space synesthetes and 12 control participants did a peripheral target detection task, cued by three different types of centrally presented cues: arrows pointing left or right, direction words "left" or "right", and month names associated with either the left or the right side of the synesthete's mental calendar (e.g., "October" or "May"). Cues were followed by probes on the left or right side of the screen, and participants responded to the probes with button presses. Behavioral and ERP data suggested that for synesthetes, month words functioned more effectively as cues to direct attention in space. In synesthetes but not controls, a comparison of ERPs to probes cued by months revealed effects of cue validity on the P3b component peaking 370 ms post-onset and on the subsequent positive slow wave (pSW) observed 600-900 ms post-onset (both larger for invalid probes). No effects of cue validity were observed on early visual potentials (N1) for probes cued by months. The findings suggest that in these time-space synesthetes cue validity influenced post-perceptual processes, such as stimulus evaluation and categorization, with no evidence for enhanced visual processing.

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