Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Lesion studies in neglect patients have inspired two competing models of spatial attention control, namely, Heilman's “hemispatial” theory and Kinsbourne's “opponent processor” model. Both assume a functional asymmetry between the two hemispheres but propose very different mechanisms. Neuroimaging studies have identified a bilateral dorsal frontoparietal network underlying voluntary shifts of spatial attention. However, lateralization of attentional processes within this network has not been consistently reported. In the current study, we aimed to provide direct evidence concerning the functional asymmetry of the right and left FEF during voluntary shifts of spatial attention. To this end, we applied fMRI-guided neuronavigation to disrupt individual FEF activation foci with a longer-lasting inhibitory patterned TMS protocol followed by a spatial cueing task. Our results indicate that right FEF stimulation impaired the ability of shifting spatial attention toward both hemifields, whereas the effects of left FEF stimulation were limited to the contralateral hemifield. These results provide strong direct evidence for right-hemispheric dominance in spatial attention within frontal cortex supporting Heilman's “hemispatial” theory. This complements previous TMS studies that generally conform to Kinsbourne's “opponent processor” model after disruption of parietal cortex, and we therefore propose that both theories are not mutually exclusive.