The spatial attention network interacts with limbic and monoaminergic systems to modulate motivation-induced attention shifts

Cereb Cortex. 2008 Nov;18(11):2604-13. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhn021. Epub 2008 Feb 27.


How does the human brain integrate information from multiple domains to guide spatial attention according to motivational needs? To address this question, we measured hemodynamic responses to central cues predicting locations of peripheral attentional targets (food or tool images) in a novel covert spatial attention paradigm. The motivational relevance of food-related attentional targets was experimentally manipulated via hunger and satiety. Amygdala, posterior cingulate, locus coeruleus, and substantia nigra showed selective sensitivity to food-related cues when hungry but not when satiated, an effect that did not generalize to tools. Posterior parietal cortex (PPC), including intraparietal sulcus, posterior cingulate, and the orbitofrontal cortex displayed correlations with the speed of attentional shifts that were sensitive not just to motivational state but also to the motivational value of the target. Stronger functional coupling between PPC and posterior cingulate occurred during attentional biasing toward motivationally relevant food targets. These results reveal conjoint limbic and monoaminergic encoding of motivational salience in spatial attention. They emphasize the interactive role of posterior parietal and cingulate cortices in integrating motivational information with spatial attention, a process that is critical for selective allocation of attentional resources in an environment where target position and relevance can change rapidly.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Biogenic Monoamines / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology
  • Female
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hunger / physiology
  • Limbic System / physiology*
  • Locus Coeruleus / physiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Satiety Response / physiology
  • Substantia Nigra / physiology
  • Young Adult


  • Biogenic Monoamines