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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Apr 1;100(7):4263-8. Epub 2003 Mar 19.

Posterior parietal cortex and the filtering of distractors.

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Laboratories of Brain and Cognition and Neuropsychology, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Neural systems for visual processing can focus attention on behaviorally relevant objects, filtering out competing distractors. Neurophysiological studies in animals and brain imaging studies in humans suggest that such filtering depends on top-down inputs to extrastriate visual areas, originating in structures important for attentional control. To test whether the posterior parietal cortex may be a necessary source of signals that filter distractors, we measured the ability of a patient with bilateral parietal lesions to discriminate the features of a target surrounded by distractors of variable contrast. In the presence of distractors, the patient was impaired at discriminating both grating orientation and faces, and the magnitude of the impairment increased with distractor salience. These attentional deficits are remarkably similar to those caused by damage to monkey extrastriate regions V4 andor TEO, which are thought to be recipients of top-down attentional feedback. In contrast to the effects of V4 and TEO lesions, however, the parietal lesions impaired performance even with widely spaced targets and distractors, a finding consistent with the projections of parietal cortex to visual processing areas covering a wide range of receptive field sizes and eccentricities.

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