Right temporoparietal junction activation by a salient contextual cue facilitates target discrimination

Joy J Geng and George R Mangun (2011). Neuroimage, 54(1):594-601.

The right temporoparietal junction (R TPJ) is involved in stimulus-driven attentional control in response to the appearance of an unexpected target or a distractor that shares features with a task-relevant target. An unresolved question is whether these responses in R TPJ are due simply to the presence of a stimulus that is a potential target, or instead responds to any task-relevant information. Here, we addressed this issue by testing the sensitivity of R TPJ to a perceptually salient, non-target stimulus – a contextual cue. Although known to be a non-target, the contextual cue carried probabilistic information regarding the presence of a target in the opposite visual field. The contextual cue was therefore always of potential behavioral relevance, but only sometimes paired with a target. The appearance of the contextual cue alone increased activation in R TPJ, but more so when it appeared with a target. There was also greater connectivity between R TPJ and a network of attentional control and decision areas when the contextual cue was present. These results demonstrate that R TPJ is involved in the stimulus-driven representation of task-relevant information that can be used to engage an appropriate behavioral response.

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