Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
It is widely agreed that visuospatial orienting attention depends on a network of frontal and parietal areas in the right hemisphere. It is thought that the visuospatial orienting role of the right parietal lobe is related to its role in the production of overt eye movements. The experiments reported here test the possibility that other parietal regions may be important for directing attention in relation to response modalities other than eye movement. Specifically, we used positron emission tomography (PET) to test the hypothesis that a ‘left’ parietal area, the supramarginal gyrus, is important for attention in relation to limb movements (Rushworth et al., 1997; Rushworth, Ellison, & Walsh, in press). We have referred to this process as ‘motor attention’ to distinguish it from orienting attention. In one condition subjects spent most of the scanning period covertly attending to ‘left’ hand movements that they were about to make. Activity in this first condition was compared with a second condition with identical stimuli and movement responses but lacking motor attention periods. Comparison of the conditions revealed that motor attention related activity was almost exclusively restricted to the ‘left’ hemisphere despite the fact that subjects only ever made ipsilateral, left-hand responses. Left parietal activity was prominent in this comparison, within the parietal lobe the critical region for motor attention was the supramarginal gyrus and the adjacent anterior intraparietal sulcus (AIP), a region anterior to the posterior parietal cortex identified with orienting attention. In a second part of the experiment we compared a condition in which subjects covertly rehearsed verbal responses with a condition in which they made verbal responses immediately without rehearsal. A comparison of the two conditions revealed verbal rehearsal-related activity in several anterior left hemisphere areas including Broca's area. The lack of verbal rehearsal-related activity in the left supra-marginal gyrus confirms that this area plays a direct role in motor attention that cannot be attributed to any strategy of verbal mediation. The results also provide evidence concerning the importance of ventral premotor (PMv) and Broca's area in motor attention and language processes.