Parallel and serial visual search after closed head injury: Electrophysiological evidence for perceptual dysfunctions

Hans Jochen Heinze*, Thomas Frank Münte, Wolfgang Gobiet, Hendrik Niemann, Ronald M. Ruff

*Corresponding author for this work
45 Citations (Scopus)


Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded from closed head injury (CHI) patients at least 2 years postinjury and from controls in order to assess their parallel and serial processing abilities during visual search. In Experiment 1, stimuli consisted of arrays of eight triangles; half of the arrays contained a target item. In the "feature-present" condition, the target item was a triangle with an additional horizontal line that could be detected automatically and in parallel, while in the "feature-absent" condition all items except for the target triangle had an additional horizontal line, thus requiring a serial search. In Experiment 2, stimuli consisted of eight solid bar (50%), seven solid bars and a vertical open bar (25%), and seven solid bars and a horizontal open bar (25%): the array containing the horizontal bar served as a target. By recording ERPs to the arrays containing vertical open bars, which were similar to the target items, parallel processing of "pop-out" stimuli could be studied in the absence of any overt response. ERP data were compared with the results of neuropsychological and neuroimaging (MRI, CAT) examination. Patient exhibited a decreased behavioral performance both in the parallel and in the serial processing mode. Furthermore, abnormalities of early and intermediate ERP components (P1, N1, P2, N2) were found, whereas the late component (P3) was less affected by CHI. The results were interpreted as an index of CHI-induced dysfunctions in perceptual processes such as simple feature registration and early target discrimination. It was suggested that these dysfunctions contribute to impairments of parallel as well as serial processes in visual search.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)495-514
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.1992

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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