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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Jun 27;103(26):10046-51. Epub 2006 Jun 20.

Spontaneous neuronal activity distinguishes human dorsal and ventral attention systems.

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Department of Radiology, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.

Erratum in

  • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Sep 5;103(36):13560.


On the basis of task-related imaging studies in normal human subjects, it has been suggested that two attention systems exist in the human brain: a bilateral dorsal attention system involved in top-down orienting of attention and a right-lateralized ventral attention system involved in reorienting attention in response to salient sensory stimuli. An important question is whether this functional organization emerges only in response to external attentional demands or is represented more fundamentally in the internal dynamics of brain activity. To address this question, we examine correlations in spontaneous fluctuations of the functional MRI blood oxygen level-dependent signal in the absence of task, stimuli, or explicit attentional demands. We identify a bilateral dorsal attention system and a right-lateralized ventral attention system solely on the basis of spontaneous activity. Further, we observe regions in the prefrontal cortex correlated with both systems, a potential mechanism for mediating the functional interaction between systems. These findings demonstrate that the neuroanatomical substrates of human attention persist in the absence of external events, reflected in the correlation structure of spontaneous activity.

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