Improvements in perceptual performance can be obtained when events in the environment are temporally predictable—and temporal predictability improves attention and sensory processing. The amplitude of the steady-state visual evoked potential (SSVEP) has been shown to correlate with attention paid to a flickering stimulus even if the flickering stimulus is irrelevant for the task. However, to our knowledge, the validity of the SSVEP to study temporal attention has not been established. Therefore, we designed an SSVEP temporal attention task to evaluate whether the SSVEP and its temporal dynamics can be used to study temporal attention. We used a forced- choice perceptual detection task while presenting task-irrelevant visual flicker at alpha (10 Hz) and two surrounding frequencies (6 or 15 Hz). Temporal predictability was manipulated by having the interstimulus intervals (ISI) be constant or variable. Behavioral results replicated previous studies confirming the benefits of temporal expectations on performance for trials with constant ISI. EEG analyses revealed robust SSVEP amplitudes for all flicker frequencies, although a main effect of temporal expectations on SSVEP amplitude was not significant. Additional analyses revealed temporal predictability-related modulations of SSVEP amplitude at 10 Hz and its second harmonic (20 Hz). The effect of temporal predictability was also observed for the 6 Hz flicker, but not for 15 Hz for any ISI condition. These results provide some evidence for the feasibility of the SSVEP technique to study temporal attention for stimuli with flicker frequencies around the alpha band.

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Keywords attention, EEG, methods, SSVEP
Persistent URL,
Series VSNU Open Access deal
Journal Psychophysiology: an international journal
Note corresponding author at UVA
Mora Cortes, A, Ridderinkhof, K.R, & Cohen, M.X. (2020). Evaluating the feasibility of the steady-state visual evoked potential (SSVEP) to study temporal attention. Psychophysiology: an international journal, 55(5), 1–15. doi:10.1111/psyp.13029