Placing a tool in the spotlight: spatial attention modulates visuomotor responses in cortex

Neuroimage. 2005 May 15;26(1):266-76. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2005.01.029.


Visual spatial attention has long been associated with facilitatory effects on visual perception. Here, we report that spatial attention can also modulate implicit visuomotor processing in dorsal regions of human cortex. Participants underwent fMRI scanning while performing a voluntary attentional orienting task that varied the category of a task-irrelevant object in the attended location (tool vs. non-tool). Data were then analyzed as a function of the attended location (left vs. right visual field) and the object category in that location. We found that the fMRI BOLD response in two visuomotor-related regions--the supplementary motor area (SMA) and the left inferior parietal lobule (IPL)--showed an interaction between the location of attention and the location of the tool in the bilateral display. Further, these responses were statistically distinct from those regions in dorsal cortex showing activity modulated only by the tool location or only by the attended location. While the effects of attending non-foveally within the visual field have been well documented in relation to visual perception, our findings support the proposal that voluntary visuospatial attention may also have consequences for the implicit planning of object-directed actions.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology


  • Oxygen