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PLOS ONE  2012 

Anatomical Substrates of the Alerting, Orienting and Executive Control Components of Attention: Focus on the Posterior Parietal Lobe

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0050590

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Both neuropsychological and functional neuroimaging studies have identified that the posterior parietal lobe (PPL) is critical for the attention function. However, the unique role of distinct parietal cortical subregions and their underlying white matter (WM) remains in question. In this study, we collected both magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data in normal participants, and evaluated their attention performance using attention network test (ANT), which could isolate three different attention components: alerting, orienting and executive control. Cortical thickness, surface area and DTI parameters were extracted from predefined PPL subregions and correlated with behavioural performance. Tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) was used for the voxel-wise statistical analysis. Results indicated structure-behaviour relationships on multiple levels. First, a link between the cortical thickness and WM integrity of the right inferior parietal regions and orienting performance was observed. Specifically, probabilistic tractography demonstrated that the integrity of WM connectivity between the bilateral inferior parietal lobules mediated the orienting performance. Second, the scores of executive control were significantly associated with the WM diffusion metrics of the right supramarginal gyrus. Finally, TBSS analysis revealed that alerting performance was significant correlated with the fractional anisotropy of local WM connecting the right thalamus and supplementary motor area. We conclude that distinct areas and features within PPL are associated with different components of attention. These findings could yield a more complete understanding of the nature of the PPL contribution to visuospatial attention.


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