It is still debated to what degree top–down and bottom–up driven attentional control processes are subserved by shared or by separate mechanisms. Interactions between these attentional control forms were investigated using a rapid event-related fMRI design, using an attentional search task. Following a prestimulus mask, target stimuli (consisting of a letter C or a mirror image of the C, enclosed in a diamond outline) were presented either at one unique location among three nontarget items (consisting of a random letter, enclosed in a circle outline; 50% probability), or at all four possible target locations (also 50% probability). On half the trials, irrelevant color singletons were presented, consisting of a color change of one of the four prestimulus masks, just prior to target appearance. Participants were required to search for a target letter inside the diamond and report its orientation. Results indicate that, in addition to a common network of parietal areas, medial frontal cortex is uniquely involved in top–down orienting, whereas bottom–up control is mainly subserved by a network of occipital and parietal areas. Additionally, we found that participants who were better able to suppress orienting to the color singleton showed middle frontal gyrus activation, and that the degree of top–down control correlated with insular activity. We conclude that, in addition to a common set of parietal areas, separate brain areas are involved in top–down and bottom–up driven attentional control, and that frontal areas play a role in the suppression of attentional capture by an irrelevant color singleton.

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