It takes two to tango: Suppression of task-irrelevant features requires (spatial) competition

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Abstract

In a recent electrophysiological study, we reported on global facilitation but local suppression of color stimuli in feature-based attention in human early visual cortex. Subjects attended to one of two centrally located superimposed red/blue random dot kinematograms (RDKs). Task-irrelevant single RDKs in the same colors were presented in the left and right periphery, respectively. Suppression of the to-be-ignored color was only present in the centrally located RDK but not in the one with the same color in the periphery. This result was at odds with the idea of active suppression of task-irrelevant features across the entire visual field. In the present study, we introduced competition in the periphery by superimposing the RDKs at the task-irrelevant location as well. With such competition, we found suppression of the task-irrelevant color in the centrally and peripherally located RDKs. Results clearly demonstrate that suppression of task-irrelevant features at task-irrelevant locations requires (spatial) competitive interactions and is not an inherent neural mechanism in feature-based attention as was found for global facilitation.

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