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Accurate mapping of visual function and selective attention using fMRI is important in the study of human performance as well as in presurgical treatment planning of lesions in or near visual centers of the brain. Conjunctive visual search (CVS) is a useful tool for mapping visual function during fMRI because of its greater activation extent compared with high-capacity parallel search processes.


The purpose of this work was to develop and evaluate a CVS that was capable of generating consistent activation in the basic and higher level visual areas of the brain by using a high number of distractors as well as an optimized contrast condition.

Materials and methods

Images from 10 healthy volunteers were analyzed and brain regions of greatest activation and deactivation were determined using a nonbiased decomposition of the results at the hemisphere, lobe, and gyrus levels. The results were quantified in terms of activation and deactivation extent and mean z-statistic.


The proposed CVS was found to generate robust activation of the occipital lobe, as well as regions in the middle frontal gyrus associated with coordinating eye movements and in regions of the insula associated with task-level control and focal attention. As expected, the task demonstrated deactivation patterns commonly implicated in the default-mode network. Further deactivation was noted in the posterior region of the cerebellum, most likely associated with the formation of optimal search strategy.


We believe the task will be useful in studies of visual and selective attention in the neuroscience community as well as in mapping visual function in clinical fMRI.