Functional specialization in the attention network

Ian C. Fiebelkorn, Sabine Kastner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Spatial attention is comprised of neural mechanisms that boost sensory processing at a behaviorally relevant location while filtering out competing information. The present review examines functional specialization in the network of brain regions that directs such preferential processing. This attention network includes both cortical (e.g., frontal and parietal cortices) and subcortical (e.g., the superior colliculus and the pulvinar nucleus of the thalamus) structures. Here, we piece together existing evidence that these various nodes of the attention network have dissociable functional roles by synthesizing results from electrophysiology and neuroimaging studies. We describe functional specialization across several dimensions (e.g., at different processing stages and within different behavioral contexts), while focusing on spatial attention as a dynamic process that unfolds over time. Functional contributions from each node of the attention network can change on a moment-to-moment timescale, providing the necessary cognitive flexibility for sampling from highly dynamic environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-249
Number of pages29
JournalAnnual review of psychology
StatePublished - Jan 4 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


  • Attention
  • Electrophysiology
  • Human
  • Monkey
  • Neuroimaging
  • Vision


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