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Neuropsychologia. 2005;43(14):2041-56. Epub 2005 Apr 26.

A functional MRI study of preparatory signals for spatial location and objects.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Washington University School of Medicine, East Building, 4525 Scott Ave., Box 8225, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.


We investigated preparatory signals for spatial location and objects in normal observers using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Activity for attention-directing cues was separated from activity for subsequent test arrays containing the target stimulus. Subjects were more accurate in discriminating a target face among distracters when they knew in advance its location (spatial directional cue), as compared to when the target could randomly appear at one of two locations (spatial neutral cue), indicating that the spatial cue was used. Spatially specific activations occurred in a region at the intersection of the ventral intraparietal sulcus and transverse occipital sulcus (vIPS-TOS), which showed significantly stronger activation for rightward- than leftward-directing cues, while other fronto-parietal areas were activated by the cue but did not show spatial specificity. In visual cortex, activity was weak or absent in retinotopic occipital regions following attention-directing cues and this activity was not spatially specific. In a separate task, subject discriminated a target outdoor scene among distracters after the presentation of spatial neutral cues. There was no significant difference in dorsal frontoparietal activity during the face versus scene discrimination task. Also, there was only weak evidence for selective preparatory activity in ventral object-selective regions, although the activation of these regions to the subsequent test array did depend upon which discrimination (face or place) was performed. We conclude first that under certain circumstances, spatial cues that produce strong behavioral effects may modulate parietal-occipital regions in a spatially specific manner without producing similar modulations in retinotopic occipital regions. Second, attentional modulations of object-selective regions in temporal-occipital cortex can occur even though preparatory object-selective modulations of those regions are absent or weak.

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