To investigate the functional anatomy of interference and facilitation during selective attention, we studied 15 normal subjects using the H215O positron emission tomography technique and a computer presented single-trial Stroop task for cognitive activation. Increases in regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) were observed in a network of structures that have been previously associated with selective attention, including the anterior cingulate gyrus, the frontal polar cortex, the inferior parietal lobule, and the thalamus, as well as the lingual gyrus. Furthermore rCBF decreases (compared to control states) were observed in lateral extra-striate cortex. rCBF changes in prefrontal and extra-striate regions varied with differences in the need to modulate the influence of word and color information while subjects responded to either incongruent or congruent Stroop stimuli. These results indicate the utility of Stroop procedures for investigating the functional anatomy of selective attention. Given recent interest regarding the role of the anterior cingulate gyrus in the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric disorders, our results also suggest that the Stroop task can serve as a reliable neurobehavioral probe for this region. The significance of these results for understanding processing mechanisms underlying selective attention is discussed within the framework of a parallel distributed processing model of Stroop task performance.
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