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Neuroimage. 2011 Jan 1;54(1):465-73. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.08.038. Epub 2010 Aug 22.

Spatial attention influences trial-by-trial relationships between response time and functional connectivity in the visual cortex.

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Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208, USA.


Variations of response time (RT) in selective attention tasks are often associated with variations of activity and functional connectivity in sensory cortices that process relevant stimuli. Here, we investigated whether such relationships are influenced by spatial attention. To investigate this hypothesis, we asked fourteen healthy adults to perform a covert spatial attention task, which made use of bilateral stimulus displays, while we recorded their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). As expected, activity in the middle occipital gyrus increased when spatial attention was directed to the contralateral (versus the ipsilateral) visual field. Surprisingly, variations of RT were not associated with variations in the magnitude of this attentional enhancement. As predicted, however, they were linked to opposing variations of functional connectivity between middle occipital regions contralateral (but not ispilateral) to the attended visual field and the left fusiform gyrus, which is thought to figure prominently in the perceptual processing of visually presented letters. These findings suggest that trial-by-trial variations of RT reflect, at least partially, trial-by-trial variations in the extent to which spatial attention enhances functional connectivity between sensory regions that process relevant stimuli.

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