The role of the right frontal eye field in overt visual attention deployment as assessed by free visual exploration.

PMID 25613645


The frontal eye field (FEF) is known to be involved in saccade generation and visual attention control. Studies applying covert attentional orienting paradigms have shown that the right FEF is involved in attentional shifts to both the left and the right hemifield. In the current study, we aimed at examining the effects of inhibitory continuous theta burst (cTBS) transcranial magnetic stimulation over the right FEF on overt attentional orienting, as measured by a free visual exploration paradigm. In forty-two healthy subjects, free visual exploration of naturalistic pictures was tested in three conditions: (1) after cTBS over the right FEF; (2) after cTBS over a control site (vertex); and, (3) without any stimulation. The results showed that cTBS over the right FEF-but not cTBS over the vertex-triggered significant changes in the spatial distribution of the cumulative fixation duration. Compared to the group without stimulation and the group with cTBS over the vertex, cTBS over the right FEF decreased cumulative fixation duration in the left and in the right peripheral regions, and increased cumulative fixation duration in the central region. The present study supports the view that the right FEF is involved in the bilateral control of not only covert, but also of overt, peripheral visual attention.