Schizophrenia is a prevalent mental health disorder that creates enormous social, economic, and interpersonal hardships for patients and their families. Although hallucinations and delusions are the most salient symptoms of this disease, schizophrenia also involves pervasive cognitive deficits that are key predictors of long-term outcome and are not substantially ameliorated by current medications. Progress in treating these symptoms requires basic science research on the neural and cognitive systems that are dysfunctional in schizophrenia (for the development of targeted treatments) and highly precise measures of these systems (for the assessment of new treatments). The purpose of the present proposal is to advance our understanding of a set of important basic science issues and simultaneously lay the groundwork for the next steps in clinical research. Specifically, the proposed project will explore the mechanisms by which working memory representations control the operation of attention. Current research indicates that this is a key area of dysfunction in schizophrenia, but insufficient basic science is available to guide the next steps of clinical research in this area. In addition, this is a key area of research for understanding the overall architecture of the human mind. The proposed research will explore the processes and circuits by which working memory representations exert control over attention, focusing on the visual modality because of our rich knowledge base about the anatomy, physiology, and function of the visual system. We will use a combination of eye tracking, event-related potentials (ERPs), and psychophysics so that we can precisely determine whether attention is covertly and overtly directed toward items that either match or mismatch items being held in working memory. We will assess both the cognitive processes involved in using working memory to guide attention and the neural circuits that mediate between working memory representations and the implementation of selective attention. This research will feed directly into our program of translational research on cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia and our efforts to develop next-generation measures that can be used in the development and assessment of new treatments for this disease.

Public Health Relevance

Schizophrenia is a major mental health disorder, and cognitive dysfunction is a key target for future treatments of this disease. Recent research shows that deficits in the ability to use working memory to control attention are a major component of the cognitive dysfunction profile in schizophrenia, but relatively little basic science on this topic is available to guide the next steps of clinical research. The present project aims to provide a clearer understanding of the cognitive and neural mechanisms by which working memory controls attention in the healthy brain, which will provide the basic science backbone for future research designed to understand and treat cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Cognition and Perception Study Section (CP)
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Rossi, Andrew
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University of California Davis
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Gaspelin, Nicholas; Luck, Steven J (2018) Inhibition as a potential resolution to the attentional capture debate. Curr Opin Psychol 29:12-18
Bae, Gi-Yeul; Luck, Steven J (2018) What happens to an individual visual working memory representation when it is interrupted? Br J Psychol :
Beck, Valerie M; Luck, Steven J; Hollingworth, Andrew (2018) Whatever you do, don't look at the...: Evaluating guidance by an exclusionary attentional template. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 44:645-662
Gaspelin, Nicholas; Luck, Steven J (2018) ""Top-down"" Does Not Mean ""Voluntary"". J Cogn 1:
Bacigalupo, Felix; Luck, Steven J (2018) Event-related potential components as measures of aversive conditioning in humans. Psychophysiology 55:
Gaspelin, Nicholas; Luck, Steven J (2018) The Role of Inhibition in Avoiding Distraction by Salient Stimuli. Trends Cogn Sci 22:79-92
Gaspelin, Nicholas; Luck, Steven J (2018) Distinguishing among potential mechanisms of singleton suppression. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 44:626-644
Gaspelin, Nicholas; Luck, Steven J (2018) Combined Electrophysiological and Behavioral Evidence for the Suppression of Salient Distractors. J Cogn Neurosci 30:1265-1280
Feuerstahler, Leah M; Luck, Steven J; MacDonald 3rd, Angus et al. (2018) A note on the identification of change detection task models to measure storage capacity and attention in visual working memory. Behav Res Methods :
Bae, Gi-Yeul; Luck, Steven J (2018) Dissociable Decoding of Spatial Attention and Working Memory from EEG Oscillations and Sustained Potentials. J Neurosci 38:409-422

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