Different Cortical Mechanisms for Spatial vs. Feature-Based Attentional Selection in Visual Working Memory
The neural basis of selective spatial attention presents a significant challenge to cognitive neuroscience. Recent neuroimaging studies have suggested that regions of the parietal and temporal cortex constitute a "supramodal" network that mediates goal-directed attention in multiple sensory modalities. Here we used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to determine which cortical subregions control strategic attention in vision and touch. Healthy observers undertook an orienting task in which a central arrow cue predicted the location of a subsequent visual or somatosensory target. To determine the attentional role of cortical subregions at different stages of processing, TMS was delivered to the right hemisphere during cue or target events. Results indicated a critical role of the inferior parietal cortex in strategic orienting to visual events, but not to somatosensory events. These findings are inconsistent with the existence of a supramodal attentional network and instead provide direct evidence for modality-specific attentional processing in parietal cortex.