Neural differences between chromatic- and luminance-driven attentional salience in visual search

Amanda Claire Hardman, Thomas Töllner, Jasna Martinovic*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Previous electroencephalographic research on attentional salience did not fully capture the complexities of low-level vision, which relies on both cone-opponent chromatic and cone-additive luminance mechanisms. We systematically varied color and luminance contrast using a visual search task for a higher contrast target to assess the degree to which the salience-computing attentional mechanisms are constrained by low-level visual inputs. In our first
experiment, stimuli were defined by contrast that isolated chromatic or luminance mechanisms. In our second experiment, targets were defined by contrasts that isolated or combined achromatic and chromatic mechanisms. In both experiments, event-related potential waveforms contralateral and ipsilateral to the target were qualitatively different for chromatic compared to luminance-defined stimuli. The same was true of the difference waves computed from these wave forms, with isoluminant stimuli eliciting a mid-latency posterior contralateral negativity (PCN) component and achromatic stimuli eliciting a complex of multiple components, including an early posterior contralateral positivity followed by a late-latency PCN. Combining color with luminance resulted in waveform and difference wave patterns equivalent to those of
achromatic stimuli. When large levels of chromaticity contrast were added to targets with small levels of luminance contrast, PCN latency was speeded. In
conclusion, the mechanisms underlying attentional salience are constrained by the low-level inputs they receive. Furthermore, speeded PCN latencies for stimuli
that combine color and luminance signals compared to stimuli that contain luminance alone demonstrate that color and luminance channels are integrated during pre-attentive visual processing, before top-down allocation of attention is triggered
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

JM was supported through a DAAD Reinvitation program. AH was supported by an Elphinstone PhD Scholarship from the University of Aberdeen.
Open-source data: All data used are publicly available to view on OSF at: =c841a07dcac549c2bc2828ee753a4b19.


  • attention
  • color
  • luminance
  • EEG
  • ERP
  • visual search
  • salience
  • cone-opponent mechanisms
  • posterior contralateral negativity
  • Visual Perception/physiology
  • Adaptation, Ocular/physiology
  • Color Perception/physiology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Male
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials/physiology
  • Young Adult
  • Photic Stimulation/methods
  • Retinal Neurons/physiology
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Contrast Sensitivity/physiology
  • Cone-opponent mechanisms
  • Color
  • Luminance
  • Visual search
  • Posterior contralateral negativity
  • Salience


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