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Current models of the visual pathways have difficulty incorporating the human inferior parietal lobe (IPL) into dorsal or ventral streams. Some recent proposals have attempted to integrate aspects of IPL function that were not hitherto dealt with well, such as differences between the left and right hemisphere and the role of the right IPL in responding to salient environmental events. However, we argue that these models also fail to capture adequately some important findings regarding the functions of the IPL. Here we critically appraise existing proposals regarding the functional architecture of the visual system, with special emphasis on the role of this region, particularly in the right hemisphere. We review evidence that shows the right IPL plays an important role in two different, but broadly complementary, aspects of attention: maintaining attentive control on current task goals as well as responding to salient new information or alerting stimuli in the environment. In our view, findings from functional imaging, electrophysiological and lesion studies are all consistent with the view that this region is part of a system that allows flexible reconfiguration of behaviour between these two alternative modes of operation. Damage to the right IPL leads to deficits in both maintaining attention and also responding to salient events, impairments that contribute to hemineglect, the classical syndrome that follows lesions of this region.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1434 - 1448


Animals, Attention, Brain Mapping, Functional Laterality, Humans, Meta-Analysis as Topic, Models, Neurological, Parietal Lobe, Visual Pathways, Visual Perception