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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Neural Circuits Mediating Voluntary and Involuntary Attention

  • Author(s): Landau, Ayelet Nina
  • Advisor(s): Robertson, Lynn C
  • et al.

Spatial attention is the capacity to prioritize part of the environment for processing over other parts. It can be employed in an internally guided manner, advancing current behavioral goals (i.e., voluntary spatial attention), or it can be captured by salient stimuli in the environment (i.e., involuntary attention). This thesis presents a series of studies investigating neural indices of voluntary and involuntary attention as well as aspects of neural circuits related to spatial attention. The first study used electroencephalography (EEG) to provide evidence that sustained spatial attention on a location generates increased coupling between the hemispheres and acceleration of interhemispheric communication. In the second study, EEG was used to measure indices of voluntary and involuntary attention. Using identical stimulus conditions in a spatial cueing paradigm, we found a physiological marker for voluntary attention that is not present for involuntary attention. In the final study we utilized fMRI coherency to measure network dynamics mediating the two types of attention. We found that voluntary attention acts to reduce coupling between regions engaged in spatial attention. In addition we find a hemispheric asymmetry in degrees of coupling such that both types of attention produce greater coupling in the right hemisphere compared to the left hemisphere. Together these studies developed indices of voluntary and involuntary attention and begin to describe the physiological mechanisms that mediate attention.

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