The activation of interactive attentional networks

Bin Xuan*, Melissa Ann Mackie, Alfredo Spagna, Tingting Wu, Yanghua Tian, Patrick R. Hof, Jin Fan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Attention can be conceptualized as comprising the functions of alerting, orienting, and executive control. Although the independence of these functions has been demonstrated, the neural mechanisms underlying their interactions remain unclear. Using the revised attention network test and functional magnetic resonance imaging, we examined cortical and subcortical activity related to these attentional functions and their interactions. Results showed that areas in the extended frontoparietal network (FPN), including dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, frontal eye fields (FEF), areas near and along the intraparietal sulcus, anterior cingulate and anterior insular cortices, basal ganglia, and thalamus were activated across multiple attentional functions. Specifically, the alerting function was associated with activation in the locus coeruleus (LC) in addition to regions in the FPN. The orienting functions were associated with activation in the superior colliculus (SC) and the FEF. The executive control function was mainly associated with activation of the FPN and cerebellum. The interaction effect of alerting by executive control was also associated with activation of the FPN, while the interaction effect of orienting validity by executive control was mainly associated with the activation in the pulvinar. The current findings demonstrate that cortical and specific subcortical areas play a pivotal role in the implementation of attentional functions and underlie their dynamic interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)308-319
Number of pages12
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Alerting
  • Attentional networks
  • Executive control
  • FMRI
  • Orienting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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