Attention and cognitive control refer to brain processes that guide behavior in accordance of our plans, goals, and changing environmental demands. In our everyday life, we constantly need a capacity to allocate attentional resources for resolving conflicts between competing sensory inputs and, whenever necessary, to flexibly shift attention to an alternative source of information. This research program uses an advanced combination of brain imaging methods to investigate how neurons in different areas of the human brain work together to enable conflict monitoring, resource allocation, and attention shifting during auditory information processing. To construct a physiologically plausible model of these functions, we will investigate interactions between neuron groups from distant brain areas by analyzing collective synchronous activation patterns referred to as neuronal oscillations. Previous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), and magnetoencephalography (MEG) studies have produced valuable information about spatial vs. temporal vs. spectral aspects of brain activations during tasks requiring attention and cognitive control. However, in most previous studies, these different methods have been used separately, which has resulted in compromises between spatial and temporal/spectral resolution. Therefore, we will utilize our spatiotemporal brain imaging technique that combines spectrally and temporally precise MEG/EEG, spatially accurate fMRI, and high-resolution anatomical MRI information to measure brain activity during auditory task performance. We will apply the resulting data to identify a network of brain regions contributing to attention and cognitive control, which is expected to encompass prefrontal, medial frontal, and posterior parietal areas as well as sensory and motor cortices. In addition to providing unique information on the relative timing of activations, our approach allows us to determine oscillatory time-frequency representations (TFR) and phase-locking values (PLV) between the regional activations in the cortical """"""""source space"""""""", which is a considerable advancement in comparison to previous methods. Our specific goal is to determine how different brain areas work together to resolve conflicts across competing auditory inputs (Aim 1) and to flexibly shift between sources of information (Aim 2). Our spectral spatiotemporal brain imaging approach will allow us to characterize how the spatially distributed prefrontal and parietal areas cooperate via oscillatory interactions to enable attention and cognitive control. This research could help achieve a system-level understanding of attention and cognitive control in the auditory domain, and also reveal new insights on the role of neuronal oscillations in human cognition.

Public Health Relevance

We will use advanced brain imaging methods to investigate how neurons in different brain areas work together to enable attention and cognitive control during auditory information processing. Our results may also support investigation of disorders with abnormal cognitive control functions.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-IFCN-L (02))
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Rossi, Andrew
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Massachusetts General Hospital
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