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Review
, 20 (2), 150-9

Dorsal and Ventral Attention Systems: Distinct Neural Circuits but Collaborative Roles

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Review

Dorsal and Ventral Attention Systems: Distinct Neural Circuits but Collaborative Roles

Simone Vossel et al. Neuroscientist.

Abstract

The idea of two separate attention networks in the human brain for the voluntary deployment of attention and the reorientation to unexpected events, respectively, has inspired an enormous amount of research over the past years. In this review, we will reconcile these theoretical ideas on the dorsal and ventral attentional system with recent empirical findings from human neuroimaging experiments and studies in stroke patients. We will highlight how novel methods-such as the analysis of effective connectivity or the combination of neurostimulation with functional magnetic resonance imaging-have contributed to our understanding of the functionality and interaction of the two systems. We conclude that neither of the two networks controls attentional processes in isolation and that the flexible interaction between both systems enables the dynamic control of attention in relation to top-down goals and bottom-up sensory stimulation. We discuss which brain regions potentially govern this interaction according to current task demands.

Keywords: attentional networks; intraparietal sulcus; spatial attention; spatial neglect; temporoparietal junction.

Conflict of interest statement

Declaration of Conflicting Interests: The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Figures

Figure 1.
Figure 1.
Schematic illustration of the components of the dorsal (blue) and ventral (orange) attention system in the human brain. Whereas there is evidence for a bilateral organization of the dorsal system, the ventral system might be more lateralized to the right hemisphere, although this assumption is challenged by recent neuroimaging data (see text for a further discussion of this issue). Putative intra- and internetwork connections are exemplarily depicted by bidirectional arrows. Interhemispheric connections between homologue areas are not shown. FEF = frontal eye fields; IPS = intraparietal sulcus; VFC = ventral frontal cortex; TPJ = temporoparietal junction; V = visual cortex.
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
Topographic maps in visual, parietal, and frontal brain areas of two exemplary subjects from a study by Jerde and others (2012). UVM/LVM = upper/lower visual meridian; LVF/RVF = left/right visual field; LH/RH = left/right hemisphere; IPS = intraparietal sulcus; iPCS/sPCS = inferior/superior precentral sulcus. Reprinted with permission of the Society for Neuroscience, from Jerde and others (2012).
Figure 3.
Figure 3.
Functional connectivity maps for dorsal seed regions (IPS/FEF, blue) and ventral seed regions (TPJ/VFC, red) during fMRI resting state. Reprinted with permission of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, from Fox and others (2006).
Figure 4.
Figure 4.
Direction-specific and -unspecific responses after the presentation of a spatial attention cue in different regions of interest and time intervals after cue onset. LIP = lateral intraparietal area; IPSa = anterior intraparietal sulcus; IPL = inferior parietal lobe; SFG = superior frontal gyrus; MFG = middle frontal gyrus; IPSv = ventral intraparietal sulcus; FEF = frontal eye fields. Reprinted with permission of the Society of Neuroscience, from Simpson and others (2011).
Figure 5.
Figure 5.
Illustration of the response in IPS, FEF, IFJ, and TPJ during the voluntary orienting of attention in the study by Asplund and others (2010). IPS = intraparietal sulcus; FEF = frontal eye fields; IFJ = inferior frontal junction; TPJ = temporoparietal junction. Reprinted with permission of Macmillan Publishers Ltd: Nature Neuroscience, from Asplund and others (2012).
Figure 6.
Figure 6.
Coactivation of ventral and dorsal areas during reorienting of visuospatial attention. The depicted statistical map is based on a meta-analysis of four studies. IPS = intraparietal sulcus; FEF = frontal eye fields; SMG = supramarginal gyrus; STG = superior temporal gyrus; IFG = inferior fronal gyrus; Ins = insula. Reprinted with permission of Annual Reviews, Inc, from Corbetta and Shulman (2011).

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