Neural correlates of the spatial and expectancy components of endogenous and stimulus-driven orienting of attention in the posner task

Fabrizio Doricchi, Enrica MacCi, Massimo Silvetti, Emiliano MacAluso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Voluntary orienting of visual attention is conventionally measured in tasks with predictive central cues followed by frequent valid targets at the cued location and by infrequent invalid targets at the uncued location. This implies that invalid targets entail both spatial reorienting of attention and breaching of the expected spatial congruency between cues and targets. Here, we used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to separate the neural correlates of the spatial and expectancy components of both endogenous orienting and stimulus-driven reorienting of attention. We found that during endogenous orienting with predictive cues, there was a significant deactivation of the right Temporal-Parietal Junction (TPJ). We also discovered that the lack of an equivalent deactivation with nonpredictive cues was matched to drop in attentional costs and preservation of attentional benefits. The right TPJ showed equivalent responses to invalid targets following predictive and nonpredictive cues. On the contrary, infrequent-unexpected invalid targets following predictive cues specifically activated the right Middle and Inferior Frontal Gyrus (MFG-IFG). Additional comparisons with spatially neutral trials demonstrated that, independently of cue predictiveness, valid targets activate the left TPJ, whereas invalid targets activate both the left and right TPJs. These findings show that the selective right TPJ activation that is found in the comparison between invalid and valid trials results from the reciprocal canceling of the different activations that in the left TPJ are related to the processing of valid and invalid targets. We propose that left and right TPJs provide "matching and mismatching to attentional template" signals. These signals enable reorienting of attention and play a crucial role in the updating of the statistical contingency between cues and targets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1574-1585
Number of pages12
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010


  • endogenous orienting
  • expectancy
  • Posner task
  • stimulus-driven reorienting
  • temporal-parietal junction (TPJ)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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