Selective inhibition of distracting input

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


  • Maryann P. Noonan
  • Ben M. Crittenden
  • Ole Jensen
  • Mark G. Stokes

External organisations

  • University of Oxford
  • Oxford Centre for Human Brain Activity, Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford


We review a series of studies exploring distractor suppression. It is often assumed that preparatory distractor suppression is controlled via top-down mechanisms of attention akin to those that prepare brain areas for target enhancement. Here, we consider two alternative mechanisms: secondary inhibition and expectation suppression within a predictive coding framework. We draw on behavioural studies, evidence from neuroimaging and some animal studies.

We conclude that there is very limited evidence for selective top-down control of preparatory inhibition. By contrast, we argue that distractor suppression often relies secondary inhibition of non-target items (relatively non-selective inhibition) and on statistical regularities of the environment, learned through direct experience.


Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Early online date16 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2018


  • distractor inhibition , predictive coding , alpha oscillations , attention , frontoparietal network