Parietal neuronal populations have been found which respond bimodally to visual and somatosensory input regarding one’s own limbs or even perceived haptic input of a false limb (Graziano et al., Science 290:1782–1785, 2000). Further, neuronal populations have been observed which respond preferentially to visual stimuli presented in spatial congruence with our hands (Graziano, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 96:10418–10421, 1999). In this study, we examined event-related potentials (ERPs) elicited by laser dots projected onto or above participants’ index and middle fingers during a sustained-attention task. We hypothesized that visual stimuli projected onto the hand would elicit differences in ERP deflections related to sensory gating and categorization in comparison to when projected close to the hand. Participants responded via a footswitch to rare target flashes of light occurring on or directly above the middle finger of the attended hand. We found enhanced amplitudes of the N1 and P3 deflections when the stimuli fell onto the finger tips as opposed to above them. Furthermore, the N1 for unattended stimuli was less suppressed when the lasers were projected onto the fingers. Behaviorally, participants were less accurate to targets when the lasers fell onto the fingers. We conclude that when the lasers appear to “touch” the participants, they act to automatically draw participants’ attention. Thus visual stimuli projected onto the fingers of the ‘unattended’ hand are harder to filter out, leading to decreases in accuracy during task performance.
Multisensory Visuo-haptic Body schema Event-related potentials (ERPs) Attention