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Functional MRI was used to examine cerebral activations in 12 subjects while they performed a spatial attention task. This study applied more stringent behavioural and cognitive controls than previously used for similar experiments: (i) subjects were included only if they showed evidence of attentional shifts while performing the task in the magnet; (ii) the experimental task and baseline condition were designed to eliminate the contributions of motor output, visual fixation, inhibition of eye movements, working memory and the conditional (no-go) component of responding. Activations were seen in all three hypothesized cortical epicentres forming a network for spatial attention: the lateral premotor cortex (frontal eye fields), the posterior parietal cortex and the cingulate cortex. Subcortical activations were seen in the basal ganglia and the thalamus. Although the task required attention to be equally shifted to the left and to the right, eight of 10 subjects showed a greater area of activation in the right parietal cortex, consistent with the specialization of the right hemisphere for spatial attention. Other areas of significant activation included the posterior temporo-occipital cortex and the anterior insula. The temporo-occipital activation was within a region broadly defined as MT+ (where MT is the middle temporal area) which contains the human equivalent of area MT in the macaque monkey. This temporo-occipital area appears to constitute a major component of the functional network activated by this spatial attention task. Its activation may reflect the 'inferred' shift of the attentional focus across the visual scene.


Journal article



Publication Date



122 ( Pt 6)


1093 - 1106


Adult, Attention, Brain Mapping, Cerebral Cortex, Cognition, Cues, Eye Movements, Female, Frontal Lobe, Gyrus Cinguli, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Parietal Lobe, Reference Values, Reproducibility of Results, Space Perception, Temporal Lobe, Visual Cortex