Top-down attentional control in Parkinson's disease: salient considerations

J Cogn Neurosci. 2010 May;22(5):848-59. doi: 10.1162/jocn.2009.21227.


Cognitive dysfunction in Parkinson's disease (PD) has been hypothesized to reflect a failure of cortical control. In keeping with this hypothesis, some of the cognitive deficits in PD resemble those seen in patients with lesions in the lateral pFC, which has been associated with top-down attentional control. However, there is no direct evidence for a failure of top-down control mechanisms in PD. Here we fill this gap by demonstrating disproportionate control by bottom-up attention to dimensional salience during attentional set shifting. Patients needed significantly more trials to criterion than did controls when shifting to a low-salient dimension while, remarkably, needing significantly fewer trials to criterion than did controls when shifting to a high-salient dimension. Thus, attention was captured by bottom-up attention to salient information to a greater extent in patients than in controls. The results provide a striking reinterpretation of prior set-shifting data and provide the first direct evidence for a failure of top-down attentional control, resembling that seen after catecholamine depletion in the pFC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Color Perception / physiology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Signal Detection, Psychological