The modulation of the somatosensory N140 was examined in a selective attention task where a control condition was applied and the interstimulus interval (ISI) was varied. Electrical stimuli were randomly presented to the left index (p=0.4) and middle fingers (p=0.1), and right index (p=0.4) and middle fingers (p=0.1). In the attend-right condition, subjects were instructed to count silently the number of infrequent target stimuli presented to the right middle finger, and to the left middle finger in the attend-left condition. They had no task in the control condition. Each condition was performed with two different sets of ISI (mean 400 vs. 800 ms). The somatosensory N140 elicited by frequent standard stimuli was analyzed. The N140 amplitude was larger for the attended ERP compared to the control and unattended ERPs. This attention effect was more marked at the frontal electrodes compared to the temporal electrodes contralateral to the stimulation side. Furthermore, the attention effect at the frontal electrode was larger when the ISI was 800 ms than when it was 400 ms. The N140 amplitude did not differ between the control and unattended ERPs, which might show that a small processing negativity (PN) occurred during the control condition or difference in vigilance level between them. In conclusion, the early lateral ("temporal") and late midline ("frontal") components of the N1 (N140) show different behavior, and thus may have different functional significance. Enhancement of the attention effect at the frontal electrode in the longer ISI condition supports the hypothesis that it is related to stronger, voluntary maintenance of the attentional trace.
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