Reinforcement history shapes primary visual cortical responses: An SSVEP study

Oren Griffiths, O. Scott Gwinn, Salvatore Russo, Irina Baetu, Michael E.R. Nicholls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Efficient learning requires allocating limited attentional resources to meaningful stimuli and away from irrelevant stimuli. This prioritization may occur via covert attention, evident in the activity of the visual cortex. We used steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEPs) to assess whether associability-driven changes in stimulus processing were evident in visuocortical responses. Participants were trained on a learned-predictiveness protocol, whereby one stimulus on each trial accurately predicted the correct response for that trial, and the other was irrelevant. In a second phase the task was arranged so that all cues were objectively predictive. Participants’ overt attention (eye gaze) was affected by each cue's reinforcement history, as was their covert attention (SSVEP responses). These biases persisted into Phase 2 when all stimuli were objectively predictive, thereby demonstrating that learned attentional processes are evident in basic sensory processing, and exert an effect on covert attention above and beyond the effects of overt gaze bias.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108004
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Associability
  • Attention
  • Brain oscillatory responses
  • Conditioning
  • Electrophysiology


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