Measuring task-evoked pupillary (TEP) responses as an index of phasic activity in the locus coeruleus (LC), we examined two competing hypotheses regarding the alerting and orienting mechanisms of attention. According to a dual mechanism account (Fernandez-Duque & Posner, 1997), two separate noradrenergic and cholinergic mechanisms modulate, respectively, the alerting and orienting effects. However, Corbetta and colleagues (2008) proposed that LC phasic activity may also be involved in orienting effect through its functional relationship with the ventral attentional network. We recruited seventy-five healthy Norwegian participants to perform a Posner cueing task. Both behavioral and pupillary responses revealed the alerting effect. Also, both behavioral and pupillary responses indicated that cued attention is affected by age. Behavioral responses also revealed orienting effect However, we found no TEP differences between valid, invalid, and neutral conditions, suggesting that TEP effects were driven by the alerting effect of cue presentation. Moreover, both behavioral and pupillary estimates of alertness and orienting were uncorrelated. Finally, individual differences in general cognitive abilities did not appear to affect the orienting and alerting mechanisms. This pattern of results is consistent with the dual mechanism account of attention. However, the LC involvement in the (re)orienting attention may be driven by state-specific factors.
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