In everyday life, our sensory system is bombarded with visual input and we rely upon attention to select only those inputs that are relevant to behavioural goals. Typically, humans can shift their attention from one visual field to the other with little cost to perception. In cases of 'unilateral neglect', however, there is a persistent bias of spatial attention towards the same side as the damaged cerebral hemisphere. We used a visual orienting task to examine the influence of functional polymorphisms of the dopamine transporter gene (DAT1) on individual differences in spatial attention in normally developing children. DAT1 genotype significantly influenced spatial bias. Healthy children who were homozygous for alleles that influence the expression of dopamine transporters in the brain displayed inattention for left-sided stimuli, whereas heterozygotes did not. Our data provide the first evidence in healthy individuals of a genetically mediated bias in spatial attention that is related to dopamine signalling.
- spatial attention
- directed attention