Lateralization, functional specialization, and dysfunction of attentional networks

The present review covers the latest findings on the lateralization of the dorsal and ventral attention systems, their functional specialization, and their clinical relevance for stroke-induced attentional dysfunction.
First, the original assumption of a bilateral dorsal system for top-down attention and a right-lateralized ventral system for stimulus-driven attention is critically reviewed. The evidence for the involvement of the left parietal cortex in attentional functions is discussed and findings on putative pathways linking the dorsal and ventral network are presented.
In the second part of the review, we focus on the different attentional subsystems and their lateralization, discussing the differences between spatial, feature- and object-based attention, and motor attention. We also review studies based on predictive coding frameworks of attentional functions.
Finally, in the third section, we provide an overview of the consequences of specific disruption within the attention networks after stroke. The role of the interhemispheric (im)balance is discussed, and the results of new promising therapeutic approaches employing brain stimulation techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) or transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) are presented.

Mengotti 2020
Figure. Schematic illustration of the central nodes of the dorsal (light blue) and ventral (orange) attention systems. Bidirectional arrows exemplarily depict connections between the nodes. Solid lines depict connections for which there is evidence from correlational (e.g., fMRI) and causal techniques (e.g., TMS). Dotted lines depict connections with evidence from correlational techniques only. Visual areas are depicted in white. Blue arrows illustrate the organization of the allocation of attention by the dorsal system according to the hemispatial theory, whereas the blue interhemispheric connection indicates interhemispheric inhibition.


Mengotti, P., Käsbauer, A.-S., Fink, G. R., & Vossel, S. (2020). Lateralization, functional specialization, and dysfunction of attentional networks. Cortex, 132, 206-222.

Correspondence to:

Dr. Paola Mengotti

Letzte Änderung: 25.03.2022