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The present study investigated whether effects of movement preparation and visual spatial attention on visual processing can be dissociated. Movement preparation and visual spatial attention were manipulated orthogonally in a dual-task design. Ten participants covertly prepared unimanual lateral arm movements to one hemifield, while attending to visual stimuli presented either in the same or in the hemifield opposite to the movement goal. Event-related potentials to task-irrelevant visual stimuli were analysed.Both joint and distinct modulations of visual ERPs by visual spatial attention and movement preparation were observed: The latencies of all analysed peaks (P1, N1, P2) were shorter for matching (in terms of direction of attention and movement) versus non-matching sensory–motor conditions. The P1 amplitude, as well, depended on the sensory–motor matching: The P1 was larger for non-matching compared to matching conditions. By contrast, the N1 amplitude showed additive effects of sensory attention and movement preparation: with attention and movement preparation directed towards the visual stimulus the N1 was largest, with both directed opposite to the stimulus the N1 was smallest. P2 amplitudes, instead, were only modulated by sensory attention.The present data show that movement preparation and sensory spatial attention are tightly linked and interrelated, showing joint modulations throughout stimulus processing. At the same time, however, our data argue against the idea of identity of the two systems. Instead, sensory spatial attention and movement preparation seem to be processed at least partially independently, though still exerting a combined influence on visual stimulus processing.
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