Neural correlates of visual-spatial attention in electrocorticographic signals in humans

Front Hum Neurosci. 2011 Sep 24:5:89. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2011.00089. eCollection 2011.


Attention is a cognitive selection mechanism that allocates the limited processing resources of the brain to the sensory streams most relevant to our immediate goals, thereby enhancing responsiveness and behavioral performance. The underlying neural mechanisms of orienting attention are distributed across a widespread cortical network. While aspects of this network have been extensively studied, details about the electrophysiological dynamics of this network are scarce. In this study, we investigated attentional networks using electrocorticographic (ECoG) recordings from the surface of the brain, which combine broad spatial coverage with high temporal resolution, in five human subjects. ECoG was recorded when subjects covertly attended to a spatial location and responded to contrast changes in the presence of distractors in a modified Posner cueing task. ECoG amplitudes in the alpha, beta, and gamma bands identified neural changes associated with covert attention and motor preparation/execution in the different stages of the task. The results show that attentional engagement was primarily associated with ECoG activity in the visual, prefrontal, premotor, and parietal cortices. Motor preparation/execution was associated with ECoG activity in premotor/sensorimotor cortices. In summary, our results illustrate rich and distributed cortical dynamics that are associated with orienting attention and the subsequent motor preparation and execution. These findings are largely consistent with and expand on primate studies using intracortical recordings and human functional neuroimaging studies.

Keywords: covert attention; electrocorticography; intention; motor response; visual–spatial attention.