Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Recently, a number of investigators have examined the neural loci of psychological processes enabling the control of visual spatial attention using cued-attention paradigms in combination with event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging. Findings from these studies have provided strong evidence for the involvement of a fronto-parietal network in attentional control. In the present study, we build upon this previous work to further investigate these attentional control systems. In particular, we employed additional controls for nonattentional sensory and interpretative aspects of cue processing to determine whether distinct regions in the fronto-parietal network are involved in different aspects of cue processing, such as cue-symbol interpretation and attentional orienting. In addition, we used shorter cue-target intervals that were closer to those used in the behavioral and event-related potential cueing literatures. Twenty participants performed a cued spatial attention task while brain activity was recorded with functional magnetic resonance imaging. We found functional specialization for different aspects of cue processing in the lateral and medial subregions of the frontal and parietal cortex. In particular, the medial subregions were more specific to the orienting of visual spatial attention, while the lateral subregions were associated with more general aspects of cue processing, such as cue-symbol interpretation. Additional cue-related effects included differential activations in midline frontal regions and pretarget enhancements in the thalamus and early visual cortical areas.