Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards
Organisation: University of Birmingham
Dates: Dec 2006-Oct 2011
Summary: In fast-changing environments, when many objects may be present, we need efficient attentional systems for survival, which select for action targets that are behaviourally relevant and filter-out irrelevant items. My research is concerned with understanding the functional and neural systems that enable us to attend efficiently to objects. In 2010-11 I have conducted three major lines of research on human attention focusing on (i) how we ignore salient distracters, (ii) how the associations of objects to action influences attention, and (iii) how time is used to filter irrelevant stimuli.
(i) Ignoring salient distracters. The ability to ignore salient distracters,= is associated with activation in a brain region termed the left parietal cortex. I showed that suppression of the left parietal cortex led to increased activity in visual cortex when distracters appeared. This suggests that the left parietal cortex controls visual attention by dampening the response to distracters.
(ii) Action relations. My work has shown that attention is allocated to groups of objects that appear to be interacting with one another, so that common action ‘binds’ objects as a single unit for our attention system. This is mediated both by a strong visual recognition response and a motor response to the interacting stimuli.
(iii) I have used computer simulations to show that the temporal properties of human attention are linked to physiological constraints on neuronal firing. The simulations led to new experiments which were carried out and validated the basic properties of the model, which provides a novel step in integrating physiological and high-level psychological mechanisms.
The work has implications for understanding neurological deficits in attention and changes in attentional processes as we age, and it provides new paradigms for assessing how the ability to ignore distraction or to use time for target selection vary across individuals,
Scheme: International Incoming Fellowships
Dates: Apr 2006-Mar 2007
Summary: This project summary is not available for publication.