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Neuron. 2011 Mar 10;69(5):1015-28. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.02.020.

Stimulus-driven orienting of visuo-spatial attention in complex dynamic environments.

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Neuroimaging Laboratory, Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome, Italy.


In everyday life attention operates within complex and dynamic environments, while laboratory paradigms typically employ simple and stereotyped stimuli. This fMRI study investigated stimulus-driven spatial attention using a virtual-environment video. We explored the influence of bottom-up signals by computing saliency maps of the environment and by introducing attention-grabbing events in the video. We parameterized the efficacy of these signals for the orienting of spatial attention by measuring eye movements and used these parameters to analyze the imaging data. The efficacy of bottom-up signals modulated ongoing activity in dorsal fronto-parietal regions and transient activation of the ventral attention system. Our results demonstrate that the combination of computational, behavioral, and imaging techniques enables studying cognitive functions in ecologically valid contexts. We highlight the central role of the efficacy of stimulus-driven signals in both dorsal and ventral attention systems, with a dissociation of the efficacy of background salience versus distinctive events in the two systems.

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