Perceptual load manipulation reveals sensitivity of the face-selective N170 to attention

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


It has been controversial whether the face-sensitive N170 is affected by selective attention. We manipulated attention sensu Lavie's perceptual load theory to short (200 ms) presentations of task-irrelevant unfamiliar faces or houses, while participants identified superimposed target letters 'X' versus 'N'. These targets were strings of either six identical (low load) or six different letters (high load). Under low load, we found a prominent face-selective N170 response. Under high load, however, we not only observed a dramatic reduction of the face N170 but also an unexpected enhancement of the house N170, such that face selectivity was almost completely lost We conclude that the early stages of face processing indexed by the N170 strongly depend on selective attention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)782-787
Number of pages6
Issue number8
StatePublished - 27 May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention
  • Event-related brain potentials
  • Face
  • N170
  • Perceptual load theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Perceptual load manipulation reveals sensitivity of the face-selective N170 to attention'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this