Space and attention in parietal cortex

Annu Rev Neurosci. 1999:22:319-49. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.22.1.319.


The space around us is represented not once but many times in parietal cortex. These multiple representations encode locations and objects of interest in several egocentric reference frames. Stimulus representations are transformed from the coordinates of receptor surfaces, such as the retina or the cochlea, into the coordinates of effectors, such as the eye, head, or hand. The transformation is accomplished by dynamic updating of spatial representations in conjunction with voluntary movements. This direct sensory-to-motor coordinate transformation obviates the need for a single representation of space in environmental coordinates. In addition to representing object locations in motoric coordinates, parietal neurons exhibit strong modulation by attention. Both top-down and bottom-up mechanisms of attention contribute to the enhancement of visual responses. The saliance of a stimulus is the primary factor in determining the neural response to it. Although parietal neurons represent objects in motor coordinates, visual responses are independent of the intention to perform specific motor acts.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Hand Strength / physiology
  • Mouth / physiology
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology*