Scientific Reports (May 2017)

Multivariate EEG analyses support high-resolution tracking of feature-based attentional selection

  • Johannes Jacobus Fahrenfort,
  • Anna Grubert,
  • Christian N. L. Olivers,
  • Martin Eimer

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 7, no. 1
pp. 1 – 15


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Abstract The primary electrophysiological marker of feature-based selection is the N2pc, a lateralized posterior negativity emerging around 180–200 ms. As it relies on hemispheric differences, its ability to discriminate the locus of focal attention is severely limited. Here we demonstrate that multivariate analyses of raw EEG data provide a much more fine-grained spatial profile of feature-based target selection. When training a pattern classifier to determine target position from EEG, we were able to decode target positions on the vertical midline, which cannot be achieved using standard N2pc methodology. Next, we used a forward encoding model to construct a channel tuning function that describes the continuous relationship between target position and multivariate EEG in an eight-position display. This model can spatially discriminate individual target positions in these displays and is fully invertible, enabling us to construct hypothetical topographic activation maps for target positions that were never used. When tested against the real pattern of neural activity obtained from a different group of subjects, the constructed maps from the forward model turned out statistically indistinguishable, thus providing independent validation of our model. Our findings demonstrate the power of multivariate EEG analysis to track feature-based target selection with high spatial and temporal precision.