Interactions between endogenous and exogenous attention on cortical visual processing

Neuroimage. 2006 Jun;31(2):774-89. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2005.12.049. Epub 2006 Feb 20.


Sensory processing is affected by both endogenous and exogenous mechanisms of attention, although how these mechanisms interact in the brain has remained unclear. In the present study, we recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) to investigate how multiple stages of information processing in the brain are affected when endogenous and exogenous mechanisms are concurrently engaged. We found that the earliest stage of cortical visual processing, the striate-cortex-generated C1, was immune to attentional modulation, even when endogenous and exogenous attention converged on a common location. The earliest stage of processing to be affected in this experiment was the late phase of the extrastriate-cortex-generated P1 component, which was dominated by exogenous attention. Processing at this stage was enhanced by exogenous attention, regardless of where endogenous attention had been oriented. Endogenous attention, however, dominated a later, higher-order stage of processing indexed by an enhancement of the P300 that was unaffected by exogenous attention. Critically, between these early and late stages, an interaction was found wherein endogenous and exogenous attention produced distinct, and overlapping, effects on information processing. At the same time that exogenous attention was producing an extended enhancement of the late-P1, endogenous attention was enhancing the occipital-parietal N1 component. These results provide neurophysiological support for theories suggesting that endogenous and exogenous mechanisms represent two attention systems that can affect information processing in the brain in distinct ways. Furthermore, these data provide new evidence regarding the precise stages of neural processing that are, and are not, affected when endogenous and exogenous attentions interact.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Computers
  • Cues
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mental Processes / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*