Functional connectivity indicates differential roles for the intraparietal sulcus and the superior parietal lobule in multiple object tracking

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Attentive tracking requires sustained object-based attention, rather than passive vigilance or rapid attentional shifts to brief events. Several theories of tracking suggest a mechanism of indexing objects that allows for attentional resources to be directed toward the moving targets. Imaging studies have shown that cortical areas belonging to the dorsal frontoparietal attention network increase BOLD-signal during multiple object tracking (MOT). Among these areas, some studies have assigned IPS a particular role in object indexing, but the neuroimaging evidence has been sparse. In the present study, we tested participants on a continuous version of the MOT task in order to investigate how cortical areas engage in functional networks during attentional tracking. Specifically, we analyzed the data using eigenvector centrality mapping (ECM) analysis, which provides estimates of individual voxels' connectedness with hub-like parts of the functional network. The results obtained using permutation based voxel-wise statistics support the proposed role for the IPS in object indexing as this region displayed increased centrality during tracking as well as increased functional connectivity with both prefrontal and visual perceptual cortices. In contrast, the opposite pattern was observed for the SPL, with decreasing centrality, as well as reduced functional connectivity with the visual and frontal cortices, in agreement with a hypothesized role for SPL in attentional shifts. These findings provide novel evidence that IPS and SPL serve different functional roles during MOT, while at the same time being highly engaged during tracking as measured by BOLD-signal changes.

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