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Frontal control of attentional capture in visual search

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Lavie and colleagues recently suggested that cognitive control functions that are mediated by frontal cortex provide goal-directed control of selective attention, serving to minimize interference by goal-irrelevant distractors. Here we provide new evidence for this claim from an attentional capture paradigm. An event-related fMRI experiment shows that the presence (vs. absence) of an irrelevant colour singleton distractor in a visual search task was not only associated with activity in superior parietal cortex, in line with a psychological attentional capture account, but was also associated with frontal cortex activity. Moreover, behavioural interference by the singleton was negatively correlated with frontal activity, suggesting that frontal cortex is involved in control of singleton interference. Behavioural tests confirmed that singleton interference depends on availability of cognitive control to the search task: Singleton interference was significantly increased by high working memory load. These results demonstrate the important role of frontal cognitive control of attention by working memory in minimizing distraction.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, University College, London, UK 2: Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK

Publication date: August 1, 2006


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