Neural sources of focused attention in visual search

J M Hopf, S J Luck, M Girelli, T Hagner, G R Mangun, H Scheich, and H J Heinze (2000). Cereb Cortex, 10(12):1233-41.

Previous studies of visual search in humans using event-related potentials (ERPs) have revealed an ERP component called ‘N2pc’ (180-280 ms) that reflects the focusing of attention onto potential target items in the search array. The present study was designed to localize the neuroanatomical sources of this component by means of magnetoencephalographic (MEG) recordings, which provide greater spatial precision than ERP recordings. MEG recordings were obtained with an array of 148 magnetometers from six normal adult subjects, one of whom was tested in multiple sessions so that both single-subject and group analyses could be performed. Source localization procedures revealed that the N2pc is composed of two distinct neural responses, an early parietal source (180-200 ms) and a later occipito-temporal source (220-240 ms). These findings are consistent with the proposal that parietal areas are used to initiate a shift of attention within a visual search array and that the focusing of attention is implemented by extrastriate areas of the occipital and inferior temporal cortex.

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