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Open Access Research

Event-related potentials reveal rapid registration of features of infrequent changes during change blindness

Pessi Lyyra*, Jan Wikgren and Piia Astikainen

Author Affiliations

Department of Psychology, PO Box 35, FI-40014 University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland

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Behavioral and Brain Functions 2010, 6:12  doi:10.1186/1744-9081-6-12

Published: 9 February 2010

Abstract

Background

Change blindness refers to a failure to detect changes between consecutively presented images separated by, for example, a brief blank screen. As an explanation of change blindness, it has been suggested that our representations of the environment are sparse outside focal attention and even that changed features may not be represented at all. In order to find electrophysiological evidence of neural representations of changed features during change blindness, we recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) in adults in an oddball variant of the change blindness flicker paradigm.

Methods

ERPs were recorded when subjects performed a change detection task in which the modified images were infrequently interspersed (p = .2) among the frequently (p = .8) presented unmodified images. Responses to modified and unmodified images were compared in the time window of 60-100 ms after stimulus onset.

Results

ERPs to infrequent modified images were found to differ in amplitude from those to frequent unmodified images at the midline electrodes (Fz, Pz, Cz and Oz) at the latency of 60-100 ms even when subjects were unaware of changes (change blindness).

Conclusions

The results suggest that the brain registers changes very rapidly, and that changed features in images are neurally represented even without participants' ability to report them.