When both detections and responses to visual stimuli are performed within one and the same hemisphere, manual reaction times (RTs) are faster than when the two operations are carried out in different hemispheres. A widely accepted explanation for this difference is that it reflects the time lost in callosal transmission. Interhemispheric transfer time can be estimated by subtracting RTs for uncrossed from RTs for crossed responses (crossed – uncrossed difference, or CUD). In the present study, we wanted to ascertain the role of spatial attention in affecting the CUD and to chart the brain areas whose activity is related to these attentional effects on interhemispheric transfer. To accomplish this, we varied the proportion of crossed and uncrossed trials in different blocks. With this paradigm subjects are likely to focus attention either on the hemifield contralateral to the responding hand (blocks with 80% crossed trials) or on the ipsilateral hemifield (blocks with 80% uncrossed trials). We found an inverse correlation between the proportion of crossed trials in a block and the CUD and this effect can be attributed to spatial attention. As to the imaging results, we found that in the crossed minus uncrossed subtraction, an operation that highlights the neural processes underlying interhemispheric transfer, there was an activation of the genu of the corpus callosum as well as of a series of cortical areas. In a further commonality analysis, we assessed those areas which were activated specifically during focusing of attention onto one hemifield either contra- or ipsilateral to the responding hand. We found an activation of a number of cortical and subcortical areas, notably, parietal area BA 7 and the superior colliculi. We believe that the main thrust of the present study is to have teased apart areas important in interhemispheric transmission from those involved in spatial attention.

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