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We tested whether the frontal eye field (FEF) is critical in controlling visual processing in posterior visual brain areas during the orienting of spatial attention. Short trains (5 pulses at 10 Hz) of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) were applied to the right FEF during the cueing period of a covert attentional task while event-related potentials (ERPs) were simultaneously recorded from lateral posterior electrodes, where visual components are prominent. FEF TMS significantly affected the neural activity evoked by visual stimuli, as well as the ongoing neural activity recorded during earlier anticipation of the visual stimuli. The effects of FEF TMS started earlier and were greatest for brain activity recorded ipsilaterally to FEF TMS and contralaterally to the visual stimulus. The TMS-induced effect on visual ERPs occurred at the same time as ERPs were shown to be modulated by visual attention. Importantly, no similar effects were observed after TMS of a control site that was physically closer but not anatomically interconnected to the recording sites. The results show that the human FEF has a causal influence over the modulation of visual activity in posterior areas when attention is being allocated.

Original publication




Journal article


Cereb Cortex

Publication Date





391 - 399


Adult, Attention, Brain Mapping, Evoked Potentials, Visual, Female, Fixation, Ocular, Humans, Male, Photic Stimulation, Psychomotor Performance, Space Perception, Visual Cortex, Visual Fields