Abstract

Previous studies have demonstrated that stable and adaptive attention processes are mediated by partly overlapping, but distinct, brain areas. Dorsal medial PFC and anterior insula may form a “core network” for attention control, which is believed to operate on both temporal scales. However, both the existence of such a network as well as the unique functional topography for adaptive and stable attention processes is still highly debated. In this study, 87 healthy participants performed a clinical not-X continuous performance test optimized for use in a mixed block and event-related fMRI design. We observed overlapping activations related to stable and adaptive attention processes in dorsal medial PFC and anterior insula/adjacent cortex as well as in the right inferior parietal lobe and middle temporal gyrus. We also identified areas of activations uniquely related to stable and adaptive attention processes in widespread cortical, cerebellar, and subcortical areas. Interestingly, the functional topography within the PFC indicated a rostro-caudal distribution of adaptive, relative to stable, attention processes. There was also evidence for a time-on-task effect for activations related to stable, but not adaptive, attention processes. Our results provide further evidence for a “core network” for attention control that is accompanied by unique areas of activation involved in domain-specific processes operating on different temporal scales. In addition, our results give new insights into the functional topography of stable and adaptive attention processes and their temporal dynamics in the context of an extensively used clinical attention test.

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