Neurocognition & Distraction

Can distraction result in a shift of spatial attention? Does involuntary spatial attention (inevitably) engages visual processing? And can oscillatory alpha activity be seen as a neural signature of involuntary spatial attention?

The research project „Neurocognition and Distraction“ aims to tackle these challenges with the ultimate goal to advance the understanding on the cognitive determinants and neural underpinnings of behavioral distraction.

We designed a distraction paradigm that allows us to test the spatial attention shift hypothesis. To study the neural facets of distraction, we take advantage of the magnetoencephalography (MEG). This enables us to focus on oscillatory activity in the alpha frequency band in sensor and source space. In previous work alpha activity has mainly been identified as a neural signature of (goal-directed) voluntary attention. Recent findings including our pilot data suggest a similar role in (stimulus-driven) involuntary attention. Besides local alpha power we also focus on network levels via graph theoretical measures. This allows us to characterize the interplay between brain regions in distraction and to identify regions which are crucial for this complex interaction. Also, our distraction paradigm allows us to link deviant-related alpha activity and target-related behavioral performance.

Collaborators: Prof. Nathan Weisz, Dr. Thomas Hartmann, Prof. Fabrice Parmentier (University of the Balearic Islands, Spain), and Dr. Philipp Ruhnau (Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Germany).

Funding: This work is supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, WE6085/1-1).