Many everyday situations require combining complex sensory signals about the external world with ongoing goals and expectations. Here I examine the role of attention in this process and consider the underling neural substrates. First, mechanisms of spatial attention in the visual modality are reviewed, emphasising the involvement of fronto-parietal cortex. Spatial attention takes into account endogenous factors, e.g., information about behavioural relevance, as well as signals arising from the external world (stimulus-driven control). Stimulus-driven control is thought to take place automatically and independently from endogenous factors. However, recent findings demonstrate that endogenous and stimulus-driven mechanisms co-operate, jointly contributing for the selection of the relevant spatial location. Next, I will turn to studies of multisensory spatial attention. These have shown that attention control in fronto-parietal cortex operates supramodally. Supramodal control exerts top-down influences onto sensory-specific areas, enhancing the processing of stimuli at the attended location irrespective of modality. Unlike unimodal visual attention, but in line with traditional views of multisensory integration, multisensory attention can operate in a fully automatic manner regardless of relevance and task-set. I discuss these findings in relation to functional/anatomical pathways that may mediate multisensory attention control, highlighting possible links between spatial attention and multisensory integration of space.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology