Differential roles of the dorsal prefrontal and posterior parietal cortices in visual search: a TMS study

Sci Rep. 2016 Jul 25;6:30300. doi: 10.1038/srep30300.


Although previous studies have shown that fronto-parietal attentional networks play a crucial role in bottom-up and top-down processes, the relative contribution of the frontal and parietal cortices to these processes remains elusive. Here we used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to interfere with the activity of the right dorsal prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) or the right posterior parietal cortex (PPC), immediately prior to the onset of the visual search display. Participants searched a target defined by color and orientation in "pop-out" or "search" condition. Repetitive TMS was applied to either the right DLPFC or the right PPC on different days. Performance was evaluated at baseline (no TMS), during TMS, and after TMS (Post-session). RTs were prolonged when TMS was applied over the DLPFC in the search, but not in the pop-out condition, relative to the baseline session. In comparison, TMS over the PPC prolonged RTs in the pop-out condition, and when the target appeared in the left visual field for the search condition. Taken together these findings provide evidence for a differential role of DLPFC and PPC in the visual search, indicating that DLPFC has a specific involvement in the "search" condition, while PPC is mainly involved in detecting "pop-out" targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Visual Perception / physiology*