Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to determine whether different kinds of visual attention rely on a common neural substrate. Within one session, subjects performed three different attention experiments (each comparing an attentionally demanding task with an easier task using identical stimuli): (1) peripheral shifting, (2) object matching, and (3) a nonspatial conjunction task. Two areas were activated in all three experiments: one at the junction of intraparietal and transverse occipital sulci (IPTO), and another in the anterior intraparietal sulcus (AIPS). These regions are not simply involved in any effortful task, because they were not activated in a fourth experiment comparing a difficult language task with an easier control task. Thus, activity in IPTO and AIPS generalizes across a wide variety of attention-requiring tasks, supporting the existence of a common neural substrate underlying multiple modes of visual selection.
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