The neural mechanisms of top-down attentional control

Nat Neurosci. 2000 Mar;3(3):284-91. doi: 10.1038/72999.


Selective visual attention involves dynamic interplay between attentional control systems and sensory brain structures. We used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during a cued spatial-attention task to dissociate brain activity related to attentional control from that related to selective processing of target stimuli. Distinct networks were engaged by attention-directing cues versus subsequent targets. Superior frontal, inferior parietal and superior temporal cortex were selectively activated by cues, indicating that these structures are part of a network for voluntary attentional control. This control biased activity in multiple visual cortical areas, resulting in selective sensory processing of relevant visual targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Color
  • Cues
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • Visual Fields / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*