Neurophysiological markers of the control and deployment of attention in healthy individuals and individuals with attentional deficits

In order to successfully interact with the world around us, we need to be able to focus our attention on a particular object or location, move our attentional focus from one location to another, and suppress distracting information. A number of areas of the brain have been identified as part of a network of brain regions that work together to accomplish these complex cognitive processes, but there is still very little known about how these brain areas work together to control attention. A number of neuropsychological disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, schizophrenia, and depression are accompanied by deficits in the ability to focus attention and suppress distracting information in the environment. These deficits appear to originate from different underlying causes within the overall network of brain regions responsible for attention. Jessica Green is working to identify the brain areas responsible for our ability to pay attention, and determining how these brain areas interact in healthy individuals. She will then use this baseline knowledge to explore the neural basis of attentional deficits. Using electroencephalography (EEG), Green is capitalizing on recently-developed techniques for localizing the neural sources of the EEG. She will determine not only which brain areas are involved in shifting our attention between locations in space, but also how the activity changes over time as these brain areas interact with one another. In particular, she seeks to determine whether dyslexia arises from changes in attentional processing and, if so, which brain areas and connections between brain areas are affected. A better understanding of the neural basis of attentional deficits will potentially aid in the more efficient and appropriate diagnosis and treatment of these deficits.