Cortical evidence for negative search templates

Reshanne R. Reeder, Christian N.L. Olivers, Stefan Pollmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


A “target template”, specifying target features, is thought to benefit visual search performance. Setting up a “negative template”, specifying distractor features, should improve distractor inhibition and also benefit target detection. In the current fMRI study, subjects were required to search for a target among distractors enclosed in coloured circles. Before search, one of three colour cues appeared: a positive cue indicating the target will appear in the same colour, a negative cue indicating only distractors will appear in the same colour, or a neutral cue indicating that the same colour will not appear in the search display. fMRI results revealed down-regulation of neural processing in large parts of visual cortex following negative compared to positive cues. We further found a general attention inhibition mechanism in SPL/precuneus for neutral cues compared to positive and negative cues. These results suggest a cortical distinction between target templates, negative templates, and task-irrelevant distractor inhibition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)278-290
Number of pages13
JournalVisual Cognition
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2017


  • distractor inhibition
  • fMRI
  • Negative cueing
  • negative template
  • visual search


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