Top-down flow of visual spatial attention signals from parietal to occipital cortex

Thomas Z. Lauritzen, Mark D'Esposito, David J. Heeger, Michael A. Silver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Given the complexity of our visual environment, the ability to selectively attend to certain locations, while ignoring others, is crucial for reducing the amount of visual information to manageable levels and for optimizing behavioral performance. Sustained allocation of spatial attention causes persistent increases in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) signals in portions of early visual cortex that retinotopically represent the attended location, even in the absence of a visual stimulus. Here we test the hypothesis that topographically organized posterior parietal cortical areas IPS1 and IPS2 transmit top-down spatial attention signals to early visual cortex. We employed fMRI and coherency analysis to measure functional connectivity among cortical areas V1, V2, V3, V3A, V3B, V7, IPS1, and IPS2 during sustained visual spatial attention. Attention increased the magnitude of coherency for many pairs of areas in occipital and parietal cortex. Additionally, attention-related activity in IPS1 and IPS2 led activity in several visual cortical areas by a few hundred milliseconds. These results are consistent with transmission of top-down spatial attention signals from IPS1 and IPS2 to early visual cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of vision
Issue number13
StatePublished - 2009


  • Attention
  • FMRI
  • Occipital cortex
  • Parietal cortex
  • Top-down
  • Visual cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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