We compared behavioral and neural effects of cholinergic enhancement between spatial attention, spatial working memory (WM), and visual control tasks, using fMRI and the anticholinesterase physostigmine. Physostigmine speeded responses nonselectively but increased accuracy selectively for attention. Physostigmine also decreased activations to visual stimulation across all tasks within primary visual cortex, increased extrastriate occipital cortex activation selectively during maintained attention and WM encoding, and decreased parietal activation selectively during maintained attention. Finally, lateralization of occipital activation as a function of the visual hemifield toward which attention or memory was directed was decreased under physostigmine. In the case of attention, this effect correlated strongly with a decrease in a behavioral measure of selective spatial processing. Our results suggest that, while cholinergic enhancement facilitates visual attention by increasing activity in extrastriate cortex generally, it accomplishes this in a manner that reduces expectation-driven selective biasing of extrastriate cortex.
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