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Psychophysiology. 2003 Jul;40(4):572-85.

The mind's eye, looking inward? In search of executive control in internal attention shifting.

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Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1109, USA.


In studies of mental counting, participants are faster to increment a count that was just incremented (no-switch trial) than to increment a different count (switch trial). Investigators have attributed the effect to a shift in the internal focus of attention on switch trials. Here we report evidence for other bottom-up and top-down contributions. Two stimuli were mapped to each of two counts. The no-switch facilitation was greater when stimuli repeated than when they were different. Event-related potential (ERP) activity associated with repetitions was anterior to that associated with switching. Runs of no-switch trials elicited faster responses and frontal ERP activity. Runs of switches and large counts both elicited slow responses and reduced P300 amplitudes. Bottom-up processes may include priming on no-switch trials and conflict on switch trials. Top-down processes may control conflict, subvocal rehearsal, and the contents of working memory.

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