We review evidence for partially segregated networks of brain areas that carry out different attentional functions. One system, which includes parts of the intraparietal cortex and superior frontal cortex, is involved in preparing and applying goal-directed (top-down) selection for stimuli and responses. This system is also modulated by the detection of stimuli. The other system, which includes the temporoparietal cortex and inferior frontal cortex, and is largely lateralized to the right hemisphere, is not involved in top-down selection. Instead, this system is specialized for the detection of behaviourally relevant stimuli, particularly when they are salient or unexpected. This ventral frontoparietal network works as a 'circuit breaker' for the dorsal system, directing attention to salient events. Both attentional systems interact during normal vision, and both are disrupted in unilateral spatial neglect.