Visual attention has a significant effect on various visual functions, such as response time, detection and discrimination sensitivity, and color appearance. It has been suggested that visual attention may affect visual functions in the early visual pathways. In this study we examined selective effects of visual attention on sensitivities of the chromatic and achromatic pathways to clarify whether visual attention modifies responses in the early visual system. We used a dual task paradigm in which the observer detected a peripheral test stimulus presented at 4 deg eccentricities while the observer concurrently carried out an attention task in the central visual field. In experiment 1, it was confirmed that peripheral spectral sensitivities were reduced more for short and long wavelengths than for middle wavelengths with the central attention task so that the spectral sensitivity function changed its shape by visual attention. This indicated that visual attention affected the chromatic response more strongly than the achromatic response. In experiment 2 it was obtained that the detection thresholds increased in greater degrees in the red–green and yellow–blue chromatic directions than in the white–black achromatic direction in the dual task condition. In experiment 3 we showed that the peripheral threshold elevations depended on the combination of color-directions of the central and peripheral stimuli. Since the chromatic and achromatic responses were separately processed in the early visual pathways, the present results provided additional evidence that visual attention affects responses in the early visual pathways.
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