The microstructure of attentional control in the dorsal attention network

Abhijit Rajan, Sreenivasan Meyyappan, Yuelu Liu, Immanuel Babu Henry Samuel, Bijurika Nandi, George R. Mangun, Mingzhou Ding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The top–down control of attention involves command signals arising chiefly in the dorsal attention network (DAN) in frontal and parietal cortex and propagating to sensory cortex to enable the selective processing of incoming stimuli based on their behavioral relevance. Consistent with this view, the DAN is active during preparatory (anticipatory) attention for relevant events and objects, which, in vision, may be defined by different stimulus attributes including their spatial location, color, motion, or form. How this network is organized to support different forms of preparatory attention to different stimulus attributes remains unclear. We propose that, within the DAN, there exist functional microstructures (patterns of activity) specific for controlling attention based on the specific information to be attended. To test this, we contrasted preparatory attention to stimulus location (spatial attention) and to stimulus color (feature attention), and used multivoxel pattern analysis to characterize the corresponding patterns of activity within the DAN. We observed different multivoxel patterns of BOLD activation within the DAN for the control of spatial attention (attending left vs. right) and feature attention (attending red vs. green). These patterns of activity for spatial and feature attentional control showed limited overlap with each other within the DAN. Our findings thus support a model in which the DAN has different functional microstructures for distinctive forms of top–down control of visual attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)965-983
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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