Electrical Neuroimaging Reveals Timing of Attentional Control Activity in Human Brain

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Final version published as: 

Green JJ, McDonald JJ (2008) Electrical Neuroimaging Reveals Timing of Attentional Control Activity in Human Brain. PLoS Biol 6(4): e81. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060081

Date created: 
Beamformer spatial filtering
Low-frequency brain waves
Human brain
Parietal cortex
Attentional control

Voluntarily shifting attention to a location of the visual field improves the perception of events that occur there. Regions of frontal cortex are thought to provide the top-down control signal that initiates a shift of attention, but because of the temporal limitations of functional brain imaging, the timing and sequence of attentional-control operations remain unknown. We used a new analytical technique (beamformer spatial filtering) to reconstruct the anatomical sources of low-frequency brain waves in humans associated with attentional control across time. Following a signal to shift attention, control activity was seen in parietal cortex 100–200 ms before activity was seen in frontal cortex. Parietal cortex was then reactivated prior to anticipatory biasing of activity in occipital cortex. The magnitudes of early parietal activations were strongly predictive of the degree of attentional improvement in perceptual performance. These results show that parietal cortex, not frontal cortex, provides the initial signals to shift attention and indicate that top-down attentional control is not purely top down.

Document type: