Attention is a set of core cognitive functions that supports purposeful behaviors. Attention is necessary for accomplishing daily activities such as locating groceries at a shop, ingredients in the kitchen, car keys on the desk, or a friend at a party. One mechanism of attention that supports these behaviors involves the maintenance of information about the task goal, or the target objects, within an attentional template over time. The concept of a template is ubiquitous in models of attention, but little is known about its mechanisms. Recent evidence suggests that there is considerable variability in the quality and contents of information held in the template over time and individuals. The purpose of this proposal is to understand why that occurs, and the consequences of variability on behavioral performance. We will build convergent evidence using a combination of methods including: behavioral testing of individuals across the full spectrum of attentiveness, fMRI patterns and network analyses in healthy young adults, and behavioral testing of patients with prefrontal lesions due to stroke.
Problems of attentional control are a core deficit in many mental health disorders, most notably the attention deficit disorders. The proposed work investigates why the quality of attentional control varies between people and situations.