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Brain Connect. 2012;2(3):164-75. doi: 10.1089/brain.2012.0072. Epub 2012 Jul 20.

Frontal-occipital connectivity during visual search.

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fMRI Research Laboratory, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY 10032, USA.


Although expectation- and attention-related interactions between ventral and medial prefrontal cortex and stimulus category-selective visual regions have been identified during visual detection and discrimination, it is not known if similar neural mechanisms apply to other tasks such as visual search. The current work tested the hypothesis that high-level frontal regions, previously implicated in expectation and visual imagery of object categories, interact with visual regions associated with object recognition during visual search. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, subjects searched for a specific object that varied in size and location within a complex natural scene. A model-free, spatial-independent component analysis isolated multiple task-related components, one of which included visual cortex, as well as a cluster within ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), consistent with the engagement of both top-down and bottom-up processes. Analyses of psychophysiological interactions showed increased functional connectivity between vmPFC and object-sensitive lateral occipital cortex (LOC), and results from dynamic causal modeling and Bayesian Model Selection suggested bidirectional connections between vmPFC and LOC that were positively modulated by the task. Using image-guided diffusion-tensor imaging, functionally seeded, probabilistic white-matter tracts between vmPFC and LOC, which presumably underlie this effective interconnectivity, were also observed. These connectivity findings extend previous models of visual search processes to include specific frontal-occipital neuronal interactions during a natural and complex search task.

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