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J Neurol Sci. 2009 Apr 15;279(1-2):93-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2008.12.006. Epub 2009 Jan 23.

Attention to somatosensory events is directly linked to the preparation for action.

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Department of Neurology, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Germany.


The present study investigated the neural basis of attention in the somato-sensory system. Subjects directed their attention towards their left or right hand while functional MRI data was collected during tactile stimulation of the fingers. Activations evoked by tactile stimuli when a stimulated hand was attended vs. unattended were contrasted. The tactile stimuli elicited hemodynamic responses in the contralateral primary and secondary somatosensory cortex. No attentional modulations of the BOLD-response could be observed in these regions. However, attention-related modulations were observed at more anterior locations in the ipsi- and contralateral primary motor cortex and in the supplementary motor area. This pattern of results suggests, that attention to somato-sensory events is directly linked to the motor system and the preparation for action. This mechanism appears to be in stark contrast to visual or auditory attention, which primarily serve to separate relevant from irrelevant information.

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