Sleep Med Psychophysiol.  1998 Dec;5(2):119-133.

The Neuroanatomy and Psychophysiology of Attention

  • 1Yongjung Brain Function and Sleep Research Center.


Attentional processes facilitate cognitive and behavioral performance in several ways. Attention serves to reduce the amount of information to receive. Attention enables humans to direct themselves to appropriate aspects of external environmental events and internal operations. Attention facilitates the selection of salient information and the allocation of cognitive processing appropriate to that information. Attention is not a unitary process that can be localized to a single neuroanatomical region. Before the cortical registration of sensory information, activation of important subcortical structures occurs, which is called as an orienting response. Once sensory information reaches the sensory cortex, a large number of perceptual processes occur, which provide various levels of perceptual resolution of the critical(heteromodal) systems inferior parietal and temporal lobes. At this stage, the processing characteristics can be modified, and the biases of the system have a direct impact on attentional selection. Information flow has been traced through sensory analysis to a processing stage that enables the new. Information to be focused and modified in relation to preexisting biases. The limbic and paralimbic system play significant roles on modulating attentional response. It is labeled with affective salience and is integrated according to ongoing pressures from the motivational drive system of the hypothalamus. The salience of information greatly influences the allocation of attention. The frontal lobe operate resporse selection system with a reciprocal interaction with both the attention system of the parietal lobe and the limbic system. In this attentional process, the search with the spatial field is organized and a sequence of attentional responses is generated. Affective, motivational and appectitive impulses from limbic system and hypothalamus trigger response intention, preparation, planning, initiation and control of frontal lobe on this process. The reticular system, which produces ascending activation, catalyzes the overall system and increases attentional capacity. Also additional energetic pressures are created by the hypothalamus. As psychophysiological measurement, skin conductance, pupil diameter, muscle tension, heart rate, alpha wave of EEG can be used. Event related potentials also provide physiological evidence of attention during information process. N1 component appears to be an electrophysiological index of selective attention. P3 response is developed during the attention related to stimulus discrimination, evaluation and response.


Attention; Nerroanatomy; Psychophyiology; Information Processing; Neuropsycholgy

MeSH Terms

Automatic Data Processing
Bias (Epidemiology)
Discrimination (Psychology)
Evoked Potentials
Frontal Lobe
Heart Rate
Limbic System
Muscle Tonus
Parietal Lobe
Temporal Lobe
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