Cortical systems mediating visual attention to both objects and spatial locations

Date of Original Version




Abstract or Description

Natural visual scenes consist of many objects occupying a variety of spatial locations. Given that the plethora of information cannot be processed simultaneously, the multiplicity of inputs compete for representation. Using event-related functional MRI, we show that attention, the mechanism by which a subset of the input is selected, is mediated by the posterior parietal cortex (PPC). Of particular interest is that PPC activity is differentially sensitive to the object-based properties of the input, with enhanced activation for those locations bound by an attended object. Of great interest too is the ensuing modulation of activation in early cortical regions, reflected as differences in the temporal profile of the blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) response for within-object versus between-object locations. These findings indicate that object-based selection results from an object-sensitive reorienting signal issued by the PPC. The dynamic circuit between the PPC and earlier sensory regions then enables observers to attend preferentially to objects of interest in complex scenes.




Published In

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103, 30, 11387-11392.