Research Summary

Study of basic cortical circuitry at multiple scales of neural integration to understand the neural mechanisms underlying selective attention

Our senses convey rich and detailed information about the external world, but we can selectively attend to some details while ignoring others. This capacity for selective attention is critical for survival and essential for complex tasks. Problems with controlling and directing attention, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), can impair the ability of individuals to function normally. Although attentional mechanisms have been studied at several different recording scales – from single neurons in monkeys to population measures such as electroencephalography (EEG) in humans, the relationship between signals recorded from such different scales is poorly understood.

The long-term goal of this research is to elucidate the mechanisms of attention by linking the neural recordings obtained from these vastly different scales. In particular, we focus on certain rhythms in the brain, such as the alpha (~10 Hz) or gamma rhythms (30-80 Hz), which are modulated by attentional load. We study the relationship between brain rhythms recorded at different scales with spiking activity, and how attention modulates this relationship. We also collaborate with neurosurgeons who record from humans, and aim to bridge the human and monkey recordings. This research has direct applications in the diagnosis of brain disorders and in brain-machine interfaces.

We use a variety of recording techniques in both monkeys and humans to study attentional mechanisms at both small (spikes, LFP) and large (ECoG/EEG) scales. Our goal is to link these scales, and in particular understand the role of specific brain oscillations thought to be involved in attentional processing.