Abstract

Normal functioning of the attentional orienting system is critical for effective behavior and is predicated on a balanced interaction between goal-directed (endogenous) processes and stimulus-driven (exogenous) processes. Although both systems have been subject to much investigation, little is known about the neural underpinnings of exogenous orienting. In the present study, we examined the early facilitatory effects and later inhibition of return effects of exogenous cues in patients with frontal and parietal lesions. Three novel findings emerged from this study. First, unilateral frontoparietal damage appears not to affect the early facilitation effects of exogenous cues. Second, dorsolateral prefrontal damage, especially lesions involving the inferior frontal gyrus, produces an exogenous disengage deficit (i.e., the sluggish withdrawal of attention from the ipsilesional to the contralesional field). Third, a subset of patients with dorsolateral prefrontal damage, with lesions involving the middle frontal gyrus, have a reorienting deficit that extends in duration well beyond established boundaries of the normal reflexive orienting system. These results suggest that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex plays an important role in exogenous orienting and that component processes of this system may be differentially impaired by damage to different parts of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

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