Attentional control provides top-down influences that allow task-relevant stimuli and responses to be processed preferentially. The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) plays an important role in attentional control, but the spatiotemporal dynamics underlying this process is poorly understood. We examined the activation and connectivity of the ACC using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) along with fMRI-constrained dipole modeling of event-related potentials (ERPs) obtained from subjects who performed auditory and visual oddball attention tasks. Although attention-related responses in the ACC were similar in the two modalities, effective connectivity analyses showed modality-specific effects with increased ACC influences on the Heschl and superior temporal gyri during auditory task and on the striate cortex during visual task. Dipole modeling of ERPs based on source locations determined from fMRI activations showed that the ACC was the major generator of N2b-P3a attention-related components in both modalities, and that primary sensory regions generated a small mismatch signal about 50 msec prior to feedback from the ACC and a large signal 60 msec after feedback from the ACC. Taken together, these results provide converging neuroimaging and electrophysiological evidence for top-down attentional modulation of sensory processing by the ACC. Our findings suggest a model of attentional control based on dynamic bottom-up and top-down interactions between the ACC and primary sensory regions.

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