Functional parcellation of attentional control regions of the brain.


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.





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Publication Info

Woldorff, Marty G, Chad J Hazlett, Harlan M Fichtenholtz, Daniel H Weissman, Anders M Dale and Allen W Song (2004). Functional parcellation of attentional control regions of the brain. J Cogn Neurosci, 16(1). pp. 149–165. 10.1162/089892904322755638 Retrieved from

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Marty G. Woldorff

Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Dr. Woldorff's main research interest is in the cognitive neuroscience of attention. At each and every moment of our lives, we are bombarded by a welter of sensory information coming at us from a myriad of directions and through our various sensory modalities -- much more than we can fully process. We must continuously select and extract the most important information from this welter of sensory inputs. How the human brain accomplishes this is one of the core challenges of modern cognitive neuroscience. Dr. Woldorff uses a combination of electrophysiological (ERP, MEG) and functional neuroimaging (fMRI) methods to study the time course, functional neuroanatomy, and mechanisms of attentional processes. This multimethodological approach is directed along several main lines of research: (1) The influence of attention on sensory and perceptual processing; (2) Cognitive and attentional control mechanisms; (3) The role of attention in multisensory environments; (4) The interactive relationship between attention and reward; and (5) The role of attention in perceptual awareness.


Allen W Song

Professor in Radiology

The research in our lab is concerned with advancing structural and functional MRI methodologies (e.g. fast and high-resolution imaging techniques) for human brain imaging. We also aim to improve our understanding of functional brain signals, including spatiotemporal characterizations of the blood oxygenation level dependent contrast and alternative contrast mechanisms that are more directly linked to the neuronal activities. Additional effort is invested in applying and validating the developed methods to study human functional neuroanatomy.

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