The role of the locus coeruleus in mediating the attentional blink: A neurocomputational theory

Sander Nieuwenhuis, Benjamin D. Holmes, Mark S. Gilzenrat, Jonathan D. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

145 Scopus citations


The attentional blink refers to the transient impairment in perceiving the 2nd of 2 targets presented in close temporal proximity. In this article, the authors propose a neurobiological mechanism for this effect. The authors extend a recently developed computational model of the potentiating influence of the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine system on information processing and hypothesize that a refractoriness in the function of this system may account for the attentional blink. The model accurately simulates the time course of the attentional blink, including Lag 1 sparing. The theory also offers an account of the close relationship of the attentional blink to the electrophysiological P3 component. The authors report results from two behavioral experiments that support a critical prediction of their theory regarding the time course of Lag 1 sparing. Finally, the relationship between the authors' neurocomputational theory and existing cognitive theories of the attentional blink is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-307
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • General Psychology


  • Attention
  • Attentional blink
  • Locus coeruleus
  • Noradrenergic
  • P3


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