Purposeful human behavior requires attention, decisions and action, all basic functions mediated by brain networks primarily located in the neocortex, but modulated and shaped by sub-cortical processing. Behavioral and brain mechanisms of attention, including vigilance, orienting and perceptual and action selection, are key gateways into high-level function. Thus, in a general and even specific sense, attention, decision making and the ensuing actions define human mental activities. Deficits in these functions are common in both neurological and psychiatric disorders and can result in a wide range of higher-order behavioral deficits. We propose to establish a COBRE Center for Central Nervous System Function at Brown University that will investigate the mechanisms of higher brain function, with a focus on attention, decision making and action and disorders that modify these key systems, using a combination of genetic, behavior, and systems neuroscience approaches. This COBRE consists of five research projects led by junior faculty. Morrow will investigate the neurobiology of children diagnosed with """"""""difficult-to-treat autism,"""""""" a group that often presents with obsessive compulsive behaviors. Amso will investigate the typical development of visual selective attention and the mechanisms of its disruption in autism spectrum disorder. Worden will examine selective attention mechanisms resulting from conflict. Asaad will investigate interactions between neocortex and basal ganglia during attention-based associative decision-making. Song will investigate how multiple neural systems become integrated to select actions, such as choosing to pick up a red instead of a blue pencil. A Design and Analysis Core will facilitate the research goals of these projects and benefit the broader Brown community by developing new tools and optimizing existing ones to image brain structure and function with MRI and EEG and neural recordings;and ensuring proper experimental design and analysis procedures across projects. Project leaders will benefit from senior faculty mentors who will provide support and guidance on research, publication, and grant preparation. An Administrative Core will oversee the operations of this COBRE (Center. The COBRE Center for Central Nervous System Function will fall under the auspices of the Brown Institute for Brain Science. The COBRE Center will leverage the administrative resources available through the Brown Institute for Brain Science to ensure efficient operation and coordinate with other brain science research activities at Brown.
Deficits in attention, decision-making and action are common in both neurological and psychiatric disorders and can result in a wide range of higher-order behavioral deficits. The research under this COBRE Center for Central Nervous System Function is relevant to disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, autism, attention deficit disorder, brain injury, optic ataxia, and depression.
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