skip to primary navigation skip to content

CBSU bibliography search

To request a reprint of a CBSU publication, please click here to send us an email (reprints may not be available for all publications)

Attention to one or two features in left or right visual field: A positron emission topography study.
Vandenberghe, R., DUNCAN, J., Dupont, P., Ward, R., Poline, J.-B., Bormans, G., Michiels, J., Mortelmans, L. & Orban, G.
Journal of Neuroscience, 17, 3739-3750
Year of publication:
CBU number:
In human vision, two features of the same object can be identified concurrently without loss of accuracy. Performance declines, however, when the features belong to different objects in opposite visual fields. We hypothesized that different positron emission tomography activation patterns would reflect these behavioral results. We first delineated an attention network for single discriminations in left or right visual field and then compared this with the activation pattern when subjects divided attention over two features of a single object or over two objects in opposite hemifields. When subjects attended to a single feature, parietal, premotor, and anterior cingulate cortex were activated. These effects were strongest in the right hemisphere and were, remarkably, unaffected by the direction of attention. In contrast, direction of attention affected occipital and frontal activity: right occipital and left lateral frontal activity were higher with attention to the left, whereas right lateral frontal activity was higher with attention to the right. When subjects identified two features of the same object, parietal, premotor, and anterior cingulate activity was enhanced further, predominantly this time in the left hemisphere. Again, there was no direction sensitivity. Direction-sensitive activation of lateral frontal cortex also was increased. Finally, when subjects divided their attention over opposite hemifields, activity in the direction-sensitive occipital and frontal regions fell to a level midway between those seen during exclusively leftward or rightward attention. Thus, the behavioral efficiency with which we attend to multiple features of a single peripheral object is paralleled by enhanced activity in structures generally active during peripheral selective attention as well as in structures that depend on the specific direction of attention, most notably lateral frontal cortex. In addition, in the direction-sensitive regions, dividing attention over hemifields causes a compromise pattern between the extreme levels obtained during unilateral attention.