Orienting attention to instants in time

Neuropsychologia. 2001;39(12):1317-28. doi: 10.1016/s0028-3932(01)00120-8.


My colleagues and I have investigated whether the temporal framework can be used to guide selective attention, and have applied non-invasive methodology to reveal the brain systems and mechanisms involved. Our findings show that we are able to orient attention selectively to different points in time, enhancing behavioral performance. These effects are mediated by a left-hemisphere dominant parietal-frontal system, which partially overlaps with the networks involved in spatial orienting. The neural system for temporal orienting also includes brain areas associated with motor preparation and anticipation, suggesting that sensorimotor areas with different specializations can contribute to attentional orienting depending on the stimulus attributes guiding selection. The optimization of behavior by temporal orienting involves enhancement of the latency and amplitude of event-related potentials that are associated with motor responses and decisions. The effects are distinct from those during visual spatial attention, indicating that behavioral advantages can be conferred by multiple types of neural mechanisms. Taken together, the findings illustrate the flexibility of attentional functions in the human brain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain* / anatomy & histology
  • Brain* / blood supply
  • Brain* / physiology
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Parietal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Parietal Lobe / blood supply
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / blood supply
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Temporal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Temporal Lobe / blood supply
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed