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New paper: Subcortical and neurochemical organization of the ventral and dorsal attention networks

Pedro Nascimento Alves, Stephanie J. Forkel, Maurizio Corbetta, Michel Thiebaut de Schotten

Attention is a core cognitive function that filters and selects behaviourally relevant information in the environment. The cortical mapping of attentional systems identified two segregated networks that mediate stimulus-driven and goal-driven processes, the Ventral and the Dorsal Attention Networks (VAN, DAN).

Deep brain electrophysiological recordings, behavioral data from phylogenetic distant species, and observations from human brain pathologies challenge purely corticocentric models.

Here, we used advanced methods of functional alignment applied to resting-state functional connectivity analyses to map the subcortical architecture of the Ventral and Dorsal Attention Networks.

Our investigations revealed the involvement of the pulvinar, the superior colliculi, the head of caudate nuclei, and a cluster of brainstem nuclei relevant to both networks. These nuclei are densely connected structural network hubs, as revealed by diffusion-weighted imaging tractography.

Their projections establish interrelations with the acetylcholine nicotinic receptor as well as dopamine and serotonin transporters, as demonstrated in a spatial correlation analysis with a normative atlas of neurotransmitter systems.

This convergence of functional, structural, and neurochemical evidence provides a comprehensive framework to understand the neural basis of attention across different species and brain diseases.

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