Combined effects of attention and inversion on event-related potentials to human bodies and faces

Tarik N. Mohamed, Markus F. Neumann, Stefan R. Schweinberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


We investigated effects of attentional load and inversion on event-related potentials to body or face distractors. Participants performed demanding (high load) or less demanding (low load) unrelated letter-search tasks. Bodies and faces were intact (Experiment 1) or without heads or eyes (Experiment 2). We measured prominent P100, N170, and late occipito-temporal negative (LNC) components. N170 to bodies had smaller and more anterior maxima than faces. N170 to intact bodies and faces was increased by inversion, relatively independently of load. Inversion effects were dramatically reduced for headless bodies, and even reversed for eyeless faces. Load effects were most prominent in LNC, with enhanced negativity under low load. We suggest that N170 reflects mandatory, category-specific initial distractor encoding in body- or face-sensitive cortical areas, a process which may depend on interactive encoding of hierarchical cues (bodies, heads, eyes). By contrast, LNC mainly reflects residual capacity allocated to extended processing of task-irrelevant distractors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-146
Number of pages9
JournalCognitive Neuroscience
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Correspondence should be addressed to: Tarik N. Mohamed or Stefan R. Schweinberger, Department of General Psychology, Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Am Steiger 3, Haus 1, 07743 Jena, Germany. E-mails:, We thank Dr. Denise Soria Bauser for providing images of human bodies, and Kathrin Rauscher for helping with data collection. T.N.M.’s research is supported by a PhD grant by the University of Hellwan, Egypt; M.F.N.’s research is supported by a start-up grant by the University of Jena, and S.R.S.’s is supported by the DFG Research Unit Person Perception.


  • Attention
  • Body
  • Event-related potential (ERP)
  • Face
  • N170

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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