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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Attention maps in the brain

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Abstract Over 20 distinct cerebral cortical areas contain spatial map representations of the visual field. These retinotopic, or visuotopic, cortical areas occur not only in the occipital lobe but also in the parietal, temporal, and frontal lobes. The cognitive influences of visuospatial attention operate via these cortical maps and can support selection of multiple objects at the same time. In early visual cortical areas, spatial attention enhances responses of selected items and diminishes the responses to distracting items. In higher order cortex, the maps support a spatial indexing role, keeping track of the items to be attended. These maps also support visual short‐term memory (VSTM) representations. In each hemisphere, all the known maps respond selectively to stimuli presented within the contralateral visual field. However, a hemispheric asymmetry emerges when the attentional or VSTM demands of a task become significant. In the parietal lobe, the right hemisphere visuotopic maps switch from coding only contralateral visual targets to coding memory and attention targets across the entire visual field. This emergent asymmetry has important implications for understanding hemispatial neglect syndrome, and supports a dynamic network form of the representational model of neglect. WIREs Cogn Sci 2013, 4:327–340. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1230 This article is categorized under: Psychology > Attention Neuroscience > Cognition

Attentional modulation of striate and extrastriate visual cortex. (a) Visual stimuli were composed of an annulus with rotating radial wedge patterns and a central target that was either a fixation point or single letters in a rapid serial visual presentation stream. (b) Functional mapping of visual eccentricity, with the foveal representation in the center of the flattened patch. (c) Functionally defined visual cortical areas. (d and e) Patterns of statistically significant increased activation for attend extrafoveal motion versus attend foveal letters for both hemispheres for two subjects, extending across all labeled retinotopic areas. (Reprinted with permission from Ref Copyright 1999 National Academy of Sciences, USA)

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Retinotopic mapping of polar angle representations in early visual cortex. Left and right cortical hemispheric surfaces were reconstructed and inflated by computer; the occipital lobe representations were cut off and flattened to create these occipital patches. The color code reflects the preferred polar angle representations of each voxel obtained via functional mapping of retinotopy, using flashing checkerboard stimuli that slowly and periodically sweep through polar angles. (Reprinted with permission from Ref Copyright 2004 Elsevier)

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Comparison of contralateral bias during visuotopic mapping and visual short‐term memory (VSTM). (a) Preferred visual angle for voxels significantly active during visuotopic mapping in regions IPS0–2 for the left and right hemispheres. (b) Contralateral bias [(contralateralsetsize− ipsilateralsetsize)/(contralateralsetsize+ ipsilateralsetsize)] during VSTM for the same regions of interest as in (a).

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Group average contralateral bias (contralateral > ipsilateral). (a) Group average of areas showing significantly greater activity for contralateral than ipsilateral locations for set sizes 3 and 6 combined. (b) Activity for contralateral and ipsilateral conditions for each set size for IPS0–2 in each cortical hemisphere.

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Visuotopically specific activation in posterior cerebral cortex. The angular position of the wedge resulting in the greatest significant (P < 0.05) response is indicated by the colored overlay (inset), with red representing the upper visual meridian, blue the contralateral horizontal meridian, and green the lower meridian. Potential ipsilateral responses are indicated in yellow. The right hemisphere of a single subject is shown. In (a), the reconstructed pial surface is shown from a posterior lateral view. Computational inflation of the folded cortical surface reveals visuotopically specific activation within the sulci (b). Reversals in the represented angular position correspond to areal boundaries in the early visual areas, and are shown as overlaid lines. Dashed lines indicate reversals at representations of the vertical meridian, while solid lines indicate reversals at horizontal meridian representations. On the basis of these scans, we find five hemifield maps along the medial bank of the intraparietal sulcus including areas IPS0 through IPS4.

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Multiple spotlights of spatial attention. (a and b) Multiple rapid serial visual presentation letter streams were presented. In the Attend2 condition, subjects were instructed to attend to two letter streams while ignore an intermediately positioned stream and two others. Digits would appear simultaneously in both streams and subjects had to report whether they were the same or different. (c and d) Predicted activation patterns for Attend2 versus Attend1 for the two competing hypotheses. (e and f) Activation patterns for Attend2 versus Attend1, for two subjects, supporting the multiple spotlight hypothesis. (g) Average activations in each of the five ROIs confirm that subjects split their attentional spotlight between two peripheral regions and spared the fovea in the Attend2 task. (Reprinted with permission from Ref Copyright 2004 Elsevier)

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