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J Child Neurol. 1991;6 Suppl:S90-118.

The neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of attention.

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Laboratory of Sensorimotor Research, National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.


Attention is a distributed process. The activity of neurons in many brain structures can be modulated by the attentional state of the animal. Attention directed toward a particular external stimulus is often reflected in an enhancement of the sensory response to that stimulus. Enhancement is spatially selective for neurons in many areas and explicitly eye-movement related in most. Attention directed toward the internal representation of a stimulus may be associated with a prolongation of neural activity. These modulations of neuronal responsiveness underscore the dynamic nature of neural processing. Competition between left- and right-brain structures in the control of attention is common. While attention is perceived as a unitary process, it is subserved by many brain structures. Given the wide distribution of attentional processes, it is not surprising that children diagnosed as having attentional deficits show considerable diversity in symptoms and etiology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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