Neuroimage 2016 Apr 28;129:148-158. Epub 2016 Jan 28.
Cognitive Neuroscience, Institute of Neuroscience & Medicine (INM-3), Research Centre Juelich, 52425 Juelich, Germany; Department of Neurology, University Hospital Cologne, 50937 Cologne, Germany.
Modelling psychophysical data using the Theory of Visual Attention (TVA) allows for a quantification of attentional sub-processes, such as the resolution of competition amongst multiple stimuli by top-down control signals for target selection (TVA-parameter α). This fMRI study investigated the neural correlates of α by comparing activity differences and changes of effective connectivity between conditions where a target was accompanied by a distractor or by a second target. Twenty-five participants performed a partial report task inside the MRI scanner. The left angular gyrus (ANG), medial frontal, and posterior cingulate cortex showed higher activity when a target was accompanied by a distractor as opposed to a second target. The reverse contrast yielded activation of a bilateral fronto-parietal network, the anterior insula, anterior cingulate cortex, and left inferior occipital gyrus. A psychophysiological interaction analysis revealed that the connectivity between left ANG and the left and right supramarginal gyrus (SMG), left anterior insula, and right putamen was enhanced in the target-distractor condition in participants with worse attentional top-down control. Dynamic causal modelling suggested that the connection from left ANG to right SMG during distractor presence was modulated by α. Our data show that interindividual differences in attentional processing are reflected in changes of effective connectivity without significant differences in activation strength of network nodes.