Attention modulates spatial priority maps in the human occipital, parietal and frontal cortices

Nat Neurosci. 2013 Dec;16(12):1879-87. doi: 10.1038/nn.3574. Epub 2013 Nov 10.


Computational theories propose that attention modulates the topographical landscape of spatial 'priority' maps in regions of the visual cortex so that the location of an important object is associated with higher activation levels. Although studies of single-unit recordings have demonstrated attention-related increases in the gain of neural responses and changes in the size of spatial receptive fields, the net effect of these modulations on the topography of region-level priority maps has not been investigated. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging and a multivariate encoding model to reconstruct spatial representations of attended and ignored stimuli using activation patterns across entire visual areas. These reconstructed spatial representations reveal the influence of attention on the amplitude and size of stimulus representations within putative priority maps across the visual hierarchy. Our results suggest that attention increases the amplitude of stimulus representations in these spatial maps, particularly in higher visual areas, but does not substantively change their size.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / blood supply
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Eye Movements
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time
  • Size Perception
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen