Most real world visual scenes are complex and crowded. Instead of a single isolated object, multiple objects compete for attention and directed action. Thus, any purposeful action requires the selection of a single goal from multiple possibilities. In daily life, the ability to orient attention, select an appropriate target, and direct various types of visually-guided actions towards the selected target is normally taken for granted. Its importance only becomes apparent once the system fails. This project aims to determine how multiple systems are integrated to select a target from among many possibilities within complex visual scenes and select an appropriate action in response. The proposed research will examine whether brain motor areas that independently generate saccadic eye movements and reaching movements also participate in target selection for the respective motor responses (effector-specific target selection). The project will also assess whether saccade-related brain regions are involved in more abstract, general-purpose target selection for other actions besides saccades, such as reaching (effector-general target selection). Finally, the proposed research will investigate whether mechanisms for effector-general target selection encode the history of target selection for both saccades and reaching movements across trials.

Public Health Relevance

By gaining an understanding of the basic neural mechanisms that control attention allocation and target selection, this proposed research may provide new insights into approaches needed to treat dysfunctions of attention and visually-guided action systems that occur in many brain disorders, including stroke, traumatic brain injury, optic ataxia, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Exploratory Grants (P20)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZGM1-TWD-B (CB))
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Brown University
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