Pupillometry as an integrated readout of distinct attentional networks

Christoph Strauch, Chin An Wang, Wolfgang Einhäuser, Stefan Van der Stigchel, Marnix Naber

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)


The course of pupillary constriction and dilation provides an easy-to-access, inexpensive, and noninvasive readout of brain activity. We propose a new taxonomy of factors affecting the pupil and link these to associated neural underpinnings in an ascending hierarchy. In addition to two well-established low-level factors (light level and focal distance), we suggest two further intermediate-level factors, alerting and orienting, and a higher-level factor, executive functioning. Alerting, orienting, and executive functioning – including their respective underlying neural circuitries – overlap with the three principal attentional networks, making pupil size an integrated readout of distinct states of attention. As a now widespread technique, pupillometry is ready to provide meaningful applications and constitutes a viable part of the psychophysiological toolbox.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)635-647
Number of pages13
JournalTrends in Neurosciences
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • alerting
  • executive function
  • locus coeruleus
  • orienting
  • superior colliculus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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