Right hemisphere control of visuospatial attention in near space

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Traditionally, the right cerebral hemisphere has been considered to be specialized for spatial attention and orienting. A large body of research has demonstrated dissociable representations of the near space immediately surrounding the body and the more distance far space. In this study, we investigated whether right hemisphere activations commonly reported for tasks involving spatial attention (such as the line bisection and landmark tasks) are specific to stimuli presented in near space. In separate blocks of trials, participants judged either whether a vertical transector was to the left or right of the centre of a line (landmark task) or whether the line was red or blue (colour task). Stimuli were seen from four distances (30, 60, 90, 120 cm). We used EEG to measure an ERP component (the ‘line-bisection effect’) specific to the direction of spatial attention (i.e., landmark minus colour). Consistent with previous results, spatial attention produced a right-lateralized negativity over occipito-parietal channels. The magnitude of this negativity was inversely related to viewing distance, being largest in near space and reduced in far space. These results suggest that the right occipito-temporal cortex may be specialized not just for the orientation of spatial attention generally, but specifically for orienting attention in the near space immediately surrounding the body.

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