Shared neural control of attentional shifts and eye movements

Nature. 1996 Nov 7;384(6604):74-7. doi: 10.1038/384074a0.


We are able to move visual attention away from the direction of gaze, fixating on one object while attending to something else at a different location, within the region of peripheral vision. It has been widely assumed that the attentional neural systems are separate from the motor systems, but some studies challenge this idea. It has now been suggested that the attentional system is part of the premotor processing in the brain. This model proposes that attentional processes evolved as part of the motor systems, with isolated attentional shifts representing an artificial separation of a natural linkage. Here we test how attentional shifts might be linked to the preparations for making saccadic eye movements. We studied the superior colliculus in monkeys as they shifted their attention during different tasks, and found that each attentional shift is associated with eye-movement preparation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Color Perception
  • Cues
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Superior Colliculi / cytology
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology*