Selective attentional enhancement and inhibition of fronto-posterior connectivity by the basal ganglia during attention switching

Cereb Cortex. 2015 Jun;25(6):1527-34. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bht345. Epub 2013 Dec 15.


The prefrontal cortex and the basal ganglia interact to selectively gate a desired action. Recent studies have shown that this selective gating mechanism of the basal ganglia extends to the domain of attention. Here, we investigate the nature of this action-like gating mechanism for attention using a spatial attention-switching paradigm in combination with functional neuroimaging and dynamic causal modeling. We show that the basal ganglia guide attention by focally releasing inhibition of task-relevant representations, while simultaneously inhibiting task-irrelevant representations by selectively modulating prefrontal top-down connections. These results strengthen and specify the role of the basal ganglia in attention. Moreover, our findings have implications for psychological theorizing by suggesting that inhibition of unattended sensory regions is not only a consequence of mutual suppression, but is an active process, subserved by the basal ganglia.

Keywords: DCM; fMRI; human; prefrontal cortex; striatum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Basal Ganglia / blood supply
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Neural Pathways / blood supply
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Prefrontal Cortex / blood supply
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Visual Fields / physiology
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen