Abstract

The orienting of attention to different locations in space is fundamental to most organisms and occurs in all sensory modalities. Orienting has been extensively studied in vision, but to date, few studies have investigated neuronal networks underlying automatic orienting of attention and inhibition of return to auditory signals. In the current experiment, functional magnetic resonance imaging and behavioral data were collected while healthy volunteers performed an auditory orienting task in which a monaurally presented tone pip (cue) correctly or incorrectly cued the location of a target tone pip. The stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) between the cue and target was 100 or 800 msec. Behavioral results were consistent with previous studies showing that valid auditory cues produced facilitation at the short SOA and inhibition of return at the long SOA. Functional results indicated that the reorienting of attention (100 msec SOA) and inhibition of return (800 msec SOA) were mediated by both common and distinct neuronal structures. Both attention mechanisms commonly activated a network consisting of fronto-oculomotor areas, the left postcentral gyrus, right premotor area, and bilateral tonsil of the cerebellum. Several distinct areas of frontal and parietal activation were identified for the reorienting condition, whereas the right inferior parietal lobule was the only structure uniquely associated with inhibition of return.

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