Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 235, Issue 5, pp 1575–1591 | Cite as

Exploring the temporal dynamics of sustained and transient spatial attention using steady-state visual evoked potentials

  • Dan ZhangEmail author
  • Bo Hong
  • Shangkai Gao
  • Brigitte Röder
Research Article


While the behavioral dynamics as well as the functional network of sustained and transient attention have extensively been studied, their underlying neural mechanisms have most often been investigated in separate experiments. In the present study, participants were instructed to perform an audio–visual spatial attention task. They were asked to attend to either the left or the right hemifield and to respond to deviant transient either auditory or visual stimuli. Steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEPs) elicited by two task irrelevant pattern reversing checkerboards flickering at 10 and 15 Hz in the left and the right hemifields, respectively, were used to continuously monitor the locus of spatial attention. The amplitude and phase of the SSVEPs were extracted for single trials and were separately analyzed. Sustained attention to one hemifield (spatial attention) as well as to the auditory modality (intermodal attention) increased the inter-trial phase locking of the SSVEP responses, whereas briefly presented visual and auditory stimuli decreased the single-trial SSVEP amplitude between 200 and 500 ms post-stimulus. This transient change of the single-trial amplitude was restricted to the SSVEPs elicited by the reversing checkerboard in the spatially attended hemifield and thus might reflect a transient re-orienting of attention towards the brief stimuli. Thus, the present results demonstrate independent, but interacting neural mechanisms of sustained and transient attentional orienting.


Steady-state visual evoked potential Spatial attention Sustained attention Transient attentional orienting 


Compliance with ethical standards

Support Funding

The Sino-German Research Training Group CINACS, German Research Foundation (DFG GK 1247/1) and DFG TRR 169/1 Crossmodal Learning, National Key Research and Development Plan of China under Grant No. 2016YFB1001200 and Tsinghua University Initiative Scientific Research Program (2014z21043).

Supplementary material

221_2017_4907_MOESM1_ESM.docx (3.4 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 3512 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dan Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Bo Hong
    • 2
  • Shangkai Gao
    • 2
  • Brigitte Röder
    • 1
  1. 1.Biological Psychology and NeuropsychologyUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical Engineering, School of MedicineTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina
  3. 3.Department of Psychology, School of Social SciencesTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina

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