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Annu Rev Neurosci. 2010;33:1-21. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-060909-152823.

Attention, intention, and priority in the parietal lobe.

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Department of Neurobiology and Jules Stein Eye Institute, David Geffen School of Medicine, and Department of Psychology and the Brain Research Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.


For many years there has been a debate about the role of the parietal lobe in the generation of behavior. Does it generate movement plans (intention) or choose objects in the environment for further processing? To answer this, we focus on the lateral intraparietal area (LIP), an area that has been shown to play independent roles in target selection for saccades and the generation of visual attention. Based on results from a variety of tasks, we propose that LIP acts as a priority map in which objects are represented by activity proportional to their behavioral priority. We present evidence to show that the priority map combines bottom-up inputs like a rapid visual response with an array of top-down signals like a saccade plan. The spatial location representing the peak of the map is used by the oculomotor system to target saccades and by the visual system to guide visual attention.

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