ERP and fMRI correlates of endogenous and exogenous focusing of visual-spatial attention

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The aim of this study was to investigate the neural correlates of the functional distinction underlying attentional mechanisms of endogenous-sustained and exogenous-transient spatial selection. We recorded event related potentials (ERPs) and used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in separate experiments while subjects performed a simple reaction time (RT) to the same visual stimulus displayed to one of several field locations. Endogenous-sustained or exogenous-transient focusing of attention onto target location were obtained by presenting the stimulus in blocks of same-point vs. randomised-point trials, respectively. Same-point stimuli yielded overall faster RT than randomised stimuli, indicating a facilitating effect of endogenous-sustained spatial attention on the perceptual processing of the impending stimulus. Moreover, same-point vs. randomised presentations revealed significant increases in the fMRI signal in the bilateral lingual and fusiform gyri as well as in the right calcarine sulcus, in conjunction with a larger amplitude of the posterior P1 component of ERPs, but no modulation of the amplitude of the N1 component. Rather, a larger amplitude of N1 was found in the reverse contrast, randomised minus same-point trials, which revealed increases in the fMRI signal along the posterior left superior frontal sulcus and bilaterally in the superior precuneus. These findings indicate that N1 indexes exogenous orienting of attention and is likely to represent the activity of frontal and parietal components of the attention network involved in eliciting attention changes. In contrast, the effects of those changes, resulting in a modulation of activation in visual occipital areas, are indexed by P1.

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