The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is believed to mediate conscious information processing or high-capacity attention. However, previous functional imaging studies have largely relied on tasks that involve motor function as well as attention. The work from our group utilizing an auditory continuous performance task demonstrated increased activity in a caudal division of the ACC that borders the supplementary motor area (SMA). Activity in this region was attributed to motor responding as well as attention. In the present study, we used15O H2O positron emission tomography (PET) to map brain activation during nonmotor, covert auditory attention. Our hypothesis was that a different region within the ACC, anterior to the SMA, would be active during covert attention (CA). Six men and six women were asked to monitor aurally presented syllables presented at a 1-sec interstimulus interval. During the CA condition, subjects were asked to continuously discriminate target (.19 probability) from nontarget stimuli. Simultaneous recording of event-related potentials (ERPs) confirmed the discrimination of target and nontarget stimuli and the allocation of attention capacity. Comparison of the monitored versus nonmonitored presentation of stimuli demonstrated significant activity in a rostral/dorsal division of the right ACC, anterior to SMA. Other regions of activation included the lateral prefrontal cortex and posterior superior temporal gyrus in the left hemisphere, consistent with neurocognitive models of language and vigilance. We conclude that a rostral/dorsal subdivision of the right ACC is specific for conscious attention during auditory processing, in contrast to premotor response formation.

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