The large-scale neural network for spatial attention displays multifunctional overlap but differential asymmetry.
Kim YH., Gitelman DR., Nobre AC., Parrish TB., LaBar KS., Mesulam MM.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to determine the brain regions activated by two types of covert visuospatial attentional shifts: one based on exogenous spatial priming and the other on foveally presented cues which endogenously regulated the direction of spatial expectancy. Activations were seen in the cortical and subcortical components of a previously characterized attentional network, namely, the frontal eye fields, posterior parietal cortex, the cingulate gyrus, the putamen, and the thalamus. Additional activations occurred in the anterior insula, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, temporo-occipital cortex in the middle and inferior temporal gyri, the supplementary motor area, and the cerebellum. Direct comparisons showed a nearly complete overlap in the location of activations resulting from the two tasks. However, the spatial priming task displayed a more pronounced rightward asymmetry of parietal activation, and a conjunction analysis showed that the area of posterior parietal cortex jointly activated by both tasks was more extensive in the right hemisphere. Furthermore, the posterior parietal and temporo-occipital activations were more pronounced in the task of endogenous attentional shifts. The results show that both exogenous (based on spatial priming) and endogenous (based on expectancy cueing) shifts of attention are subserved by a common network of cortical and subcortical regions. However, the differences between the two tasks, especially in the degree of rightward asymmetry, suggests that the pattern of activation within this network may show variations that reflect the specific attributes of the attentional task.