Concurrent brain responses to separate auditory and visual targets.


In the attentional blink, a target event (T1) strongly interferes with perception of a second target (T2) presented within a few hundred milliseconds. Concurrently, the brain's electromagnetic response to the second target is suppressed, especially a late negative-positive EEG complex including the traditional P3 wave. An influential theory proposes that conscious perception requires access to a distributed, frontoparietal global workspace, explaining the attentional blink by strong mutual inhibition between concurrent workspace representations. Often, however, the attentional blink is reduced or eliminated for targets in different sensory modalities, suggesting a limit to such global inhibition. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we confirm that visual and auditory targets produce similar, distributed patterns of frontoparietal activity. In an attentional blink EEG/MEG design, however, an auditory T1 and visual T2 are identified without mutual interference, with largely preserved electromagnetic responses to T2. The results suggest parallel brain responses to target events in different sensory modalities.