Our laboratory uses a cognitive neuroscience approach to investigate the cognitive and neural mechanisms of voluntary and reflexive attention in humans. We bring to bear a variety of complementary tools to study attention, including behavioral and psychophysical methods, human electrophysiological measures, and functional neuroimaging. Behavioral and psychophysical methods permit us to analyze the properties of the human attention system and how attention influences perception and performance. Recordings of the electroencephalogram (EEG) and evoked responses known as event-related potentials (ERPs) permit a fine-grained view of the temporal properties of attentional control and selection. This is done by placing more than 100 electrodes on the scalp and recording the electrical activity of populations of neurons as the human subjects participate in carefully controlled attention tasks. Finally, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is used to investigate the functional brain anatomy of the attention system and where in the brain attention influences various information processing transactions during perception and action.  This work continues with the support of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Increasingly, the laboratory has developed  new interests in several translational cognitive neuroscience topics, including work in schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In this work, we are bringing knowledge from our two decades of basic science investigations to bear on issues that represent major mental health problems. Because selective attention is a core cognitive process, elucidating attentional mechanisms in humans remains a high priority in efforts to understand, diagnose and treat psychiatric conditions that involve deficits in attention, including ADHD, autism and schizophrenia. This work continues with the support of NIMH and private donations.

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Title art credit: Elizabeth Jameson “Kaleidoscopes”