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Brain. 1997 Nov;120 ( Pt 11):2013-28.

Space-based and object-based visual attention: shared and specific neural domains.

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Wellcome Department of Cognitive Neurology, Institute of Neurology, London, UK.


Visual attention can be primarily allocated to either where an object is in space (with little emphasis on the structure of the object itself) or to the structure of the object (with little emphasis on where in space the object is located). Using PET measures of regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) to index neural activity, we investigated the shared and specific functional anatomy underlying both of these types of visual attention in a controlled non-cueing non-blocked paradigm that involved identical stimuli across the conditions of interest. The interaction of eye movements with these attentional systems was studied by introducing fixation or free vision as an additional factor. Relative to the control condition, object-based and space-based attention showed significant activations of the left and right medial superior parietal cortex and the left lateral inferior parietal cortex, the left prefrontal cortex and the cerebellar vermis. Significant differential activations were observed during object-based attention in the left striate and prestriate cortex. Space-based attention activated the right prefrontal cortex and the right inferior temporal-occipital cortex. Differential neural activity due to free vision or fixation was observed in occipital areas only. Significant interactions of free vision/fixation on activations due to object-based and space-based attention were observed in the right medial superior parietal cortex and left lateral inferior parietal cortex, respectively. The study provides direct evidence for the importance of the parietal cortex in the control of object-based and space-based visual attention. The results show that object-based and space-based attention share common neural mechanisms in the parietal lobes, in addition to task specific mechanisms in early visual processing areas of temporal and occipital cortices.

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