Neural basis of endogenous and exogenous spatial orienting. A functional MRI study

J Cogn Neurosci. 1999 Mar;11(2):135-52. doi: 10.1162/089892999563283.


Whole-brain functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to examine the neural substrates of internally (endogenous) and externally (exogenous) induced covert shifts of attention. Thirteen normal subjects performed three orienting conditions: endogenous (location of peripheral target predicted by a central arrow 80% of the time), exogenous (peripheral target preceded by noninformative central cue). Behavioral results indicated faster reaction times (RTs) for valid than for invalid trials for the endogenous condition but slower RTs for valid than for invalid trials for the exogenous condition (inhibition of return). The spatial extent and intensity of activation was greatest for the endogenous condition, consistent with the hypothesis that endogenous orienting is more effortful (less automatic) than exogenous orienting. Overall, we did not observe distinctly separable neural systems associated with the endogenous and exogenous orienting conditions. Both exogenous and endogenous orienting, but not the control condition, activated bilateral parietal and dorsal premotor regions, including the frontal eye fields. These results suggest a specific role for these regions in preparatory responding to peripheral stimuli. The right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (BA 46) was activated selectively by the endogenous condition. This finding suggests that voluntary, but not reflexive, shifts of attention engage working memory systems.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cues*
  • Dominance, Cerebral
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Models, Psychological
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology
  • Thalamus / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*