Control of Object-based Attention in Human Cortex

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Visual attention is a mechanism by which observers select relevant or important information from the current visual array. Previous investigations have focused primarily on the ability to select a region of space for further visual analysis. These studies have revealed a distributed frontoparietal circuit that is responsible for the control of spatial attention. However, vision must ultimately represent objects and in real scenes objects often overlap spatially; thus attention must be capable of selecting objects and their properties nonspatially. Little is known about the neural basis of object-based attentional control. In two experiments, human observers shifted attention between spatially superimposed faces and houses. Event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) revealed attentional modulation of activity in face- and house-selective cortical regions. Posterior parietal and frontal regions were transiently active when attention was shifted between spatially superimposed perceptual objects. The timecourse of activity provides insight into the functional role that these brain regions play in attentional control processes.

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