Enhancement and suppression in the visual field under perceptual load

Nathan A. Parks, Diane M. Beck, Arthur F. Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The perceptual load theory of attention proposes that the degree to which visual distractors are processed is a function of the attentional demands of a task-greater demands increase filtering of irrelevant distractors. The spatial configuration of such filtering is unknown. Here, we used steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEPs) in conjunction with time-domain event-related potentials (ERPs) to investigate the distribution of load-induced distractor suppression and task-relevant enhancement in the visual field. Electroencephalogram (EEG) was recorded while subjects performed a foveal go/no-go task that varied in perceptual load. Load-dependent distractor suppression was assessed by presenting a contrast reversing ring at one of three eccentricities (2, 6, or 11°) during performance of the go/no-go task. Rings contrast reversed at 8.3 Hz, allowing load-dependent changes in distractor processing to be tracked in the frequency-domain. ERPs were calculated to the onset of stimuli in the load task to examine load-dependent modulation of task-relevant processing. Results showed that the amplitude of the distractor SSVEP (8.3 Hz) was attenuated under high perceptual load (relative to low load) at the most proximal (2°) eccentricity but not at more eccentric locations (6 or 11°). Task-relevant ERPs revealed a significant increase in N1 amplitude under high load. These results are consistent with a center-surround configuration of load-induced enhancement and suppression in the visual field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberArticle 275
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - 2013


  • Attention
  • N1
  • Perceptual load
  • Steady-state visual evoked potential (SSVEP)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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