Attentional dynamics mediated by subcortical mechanisms.
Following a salient cue that attracts attention to a specific spatial location, perceptual processing of information at that location is facilitated if the interval between the cue and target is brief, or, is inhibited if the interval between the cue and target is long. The mechanisms mediating these attentional dynamics continue to be the subject on ongoing debate. On one classic account, facilitation and inhibition of return (IOR) are two ends of a continuum, generated by the same underlying mechanism. Other accounts have postulated that these two attentional processes emerge from independent systems. To address these alternatives, we report data from three experiments in which a cue and its ensuing target are presented to the same or different eyes at varying cue-target intervals. Whereas the onset of facilitation was apparent earlier when the cue and target shared the eye-of-origin, the onset of IOR was not affected by the eye to which the cue and target were presented. This finding implicates at least some, if not full, independence in the system(s) that give rise to attentional facilitation and IOR, and, moreover, suggests that facilitation may be more reliant on subcortical levels of the visual pathways than IOR.