Human attentional networks

Psychiatr Prax. 2004 Nov:31 Suppl 2:S210-4. doi: 10.1055/s-2004-828484.


In recent years it has been possible to treat attention as an organ system with its own anatomy, circuitry and set of functions. We view attention in terms of three interrelated neural networks in the human brain. These networks carry out the specific functions of developing and maintaining the alert state, orienting to sensory input, and executive control. Damage to these networks or their chemical neuromodulators can produce specific neurological and psychiatric deficits. We have conducted behavioral, developmental, and patient studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), event related potentials (ERP), genetics, and computational modeling to investigate the anatomy, circuitry, pathology, and development of attentional networks. The Attentional Network Test (ANT) is developed to measure the efficiency of each of the attention networks. The ANT can also serve as an endophenotype for genetic studies on attentional networks. This paper reviews our work with the ANT in studies of normal performance and various forms of psychopathology.

MeSH terms

  • Arousal / genetics
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / diagnosis*
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / genetics
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / pathology
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / physiopathology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / genetics
  • Mental Disorders / pathology
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests