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Neuron. 2004 May 27;42(4):677-86.

Multiple spotlights of attentional selection in human visual cortex.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215 USA.


Spatially directed attention strongly enhances visual perceptual processing. The metaphor of the "spotlight" has long been used to describe spatial attention; however, there has been considerable debate as to whether spatial attention must be unitary or may be split between discrete regions of space. This question was addressed here through functional MR imaging of human subjects as they performed a task that required simultaneous attention to two briefly displayed and masked targets at locations separated by distractor stimuli. These data reveal retinotopically specific enhanced activation in striate and extrastriate visual cortical representations of the two attended stimuli and no enhancement at the intervening representation of distractor stimuli. This finding of two spotlights was obtained within a single cortical hemisphere and across the two hemispheres. This provides direct evidence that spatial attention can select, in parallel, multiple low-level perceptual representations.

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