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J Neurosci. 2010 Jul 21;30(29):9910-8. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1111-10.2010.

The human basal ganglia modulate frontal-posterior connectivity during attention shifting.

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Radboud University Nijmegen, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, 6500 HB, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Current models of flexible cognitive control emphasize the role of the prefrontal cortex. This region has been shown to control attention by biasing information processing in favor of task-relevant representations. However, the prefrontal cortex does not act in isolation. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging combined with nonlinear dynamic causal modeling to demonstrate that the basal ganglia play a role in modulating the top-down influence of the prefrontal cortex on visual processing in humans. Specifically, our results reveal that connectivity between the prefrontal cortex and stimulus-specific visual association areas depends on activity in the ventral striatopallidum, elicited by salient events leading to shifts in attention. These data integrate disparate literatures on top-down control by the prefrontal cortex and selective gating by the basal ganglia and highlight the importance of the basal ganglia for high-level cognitive control.

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