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The emotional attentional blink (EAB) refers to a temporary impairment in the ability to identify a target when it is preceded by an emotional distractor. It is thought to occur because the emotional salience of the distractor exogenously captures attention for a brief duration, rendering the target unattended and preventing it from reaching awareness. Here we tested the extent to which the EAB can be attenuated by inducing a diffuse top-down attentional state, which has been shown to improve target identification in an analogous attentional phenomenon, the attentional blink. Rapid sequences of landscape images were presented centrally, and participants reported the orientation of a ± 90° rotation of a landscape target. To induce a diffuse state of attention, participants were given a secondary task of monitoring for the appearance of a colored dot in the periphery. We found that emotional distractors impaired target recognition performance to comparable extents, regardless of whether or not participants concurrently performed the peripheral-monitoring task. Moreover, we found that performance of the secondary task led to an impaired ability to ignore neutral distractors. Subjective ratings of target vividness mirrored the behavioral accuracy, with frequent reports of intermediate levels of vividness suggesting that the EAB might impair target visibility in a graded manner. Our results demonstrate that the EAB is robust to manipulations of top-down attention, suggesting that the temporary capture of attention by emotionally salient stimuli involves processes that are distinct from those that produce the attentional blink.
Avoiding distraction by conspicuous but irrelevant stimuli is critical to accomplishing daily tasks. Regions of prefrontal cortex control attention by enhancing the representation of task-relevant information in sensory cortex, which can be measured in modulation of both single neurons and event-related electrical potentials (ERPs) on the cranial surface [1, 2]. When irrelevant information is particularly conspicuous, it can distract attention and interfere with the selection of behaviorally relevant information. Such distraction can be minimized via top-down control [3-5], but the cognitive and neural mechanisms giving rise to this control over distraction remain uncertain and debated [6-9]. Bridging neurophysiology to electrophysiology, we simultaneously recorded neurons in prefrontal cortex and ERPs over extrastriate visual cortex to track the processing of salient distractors during a visual search task. Critically, when the salient distractor was successfully ignored, but not otherwise, we observed robust suppression of salient distractor representations. Like target selection, the distractor suppression was observed in prefrontal cortex before it appeared over extrastriate cortical areas. Furthermore, all prefrontal neurons that showed suppression of the task-irrelevant distractor also contributed to selecting the target. This suggests a common prefrontal mechanism is responsible for both selecting task-relevant and suppressing task-irrelevant information in sensory cortex. Taken together, our results resolve a long-standing debate over the mechanisms that prevent distraction, and provide the first evidence directly linking suppressed neural firing in prefrontal cortex with surface ERP measures of distractor suppression.
Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
BACKGROUND - Dopamine (DA) is a critical neuromodulator in the retina. Disruption of retinal DA synthesis and signaling significantly attenuates light-adapted, electroretinogram (ERG) responses, as well as contrast sensitivity and acuity. As these measures can be detected noninvasively, they may provide opportunities to detect disease processes linked to perturbed DA signaling. Recently, we identified a rare, functional DA transporter (DAT, SLC6A3) coding substitution, Ala559Val, in subjects with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), demonstrating that DAT Val559 imparts anomalous DA efflux (ADE) with attendant physiological, pharmacological, and behavioral phenotypes. To understand the broader impact of ADE on ADHD, noninvasive measures sensitive to DAT reversal are needed.
METHODS - Here, we explored this question through ERG-based analysis of retinal light responses, as well as HPLC measurements of retinal DA in DAT Val559 mice.
RESULTS - Male mice homozygous (HOM) for the DAT Val559 variant demonstrated increased, light-adapted ERG b-wave amplitudes compared to wild type (WT) and heterozygous (HET) mice, whereas dark-adapted responses were indistinguishable across genotypes. The elevated amplitude of the photopic light responses in HOM mice could be mimicked in WT mice by applying D and D DA receptor agonists and suppressed in HOM mice by introducing D antagonist, supporting elevated retinal DA signaling arising from ADE. Following the challenge with amphetamine, WT exhibited an increase in light-adapted response amplitudes, while HOM did not. Total retinal DA content was similar across genotypes. Interestingly, female DAT Val559 HOM animals revealed no significant difference in photopic ERG responses when compared with WT and HET littermates.
CONCLUSIONS - These data reveal that noninvasive, in vivo evaluation of retinal responses to light can reveal physiological signatures of ADE, suggesting a possible approach to the segregation of neurobehavioral disorders based on the DAT-dependent control of DA signaling.
OBJECTIVE - Neurocognitive evaluations are commonly integrated with clinical assessment to evaluate adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Study goal is to identify measures most strongly related to ADHD diagnosis and to determine their utility in screening processes.
PARTICIPANTS - 230 students who were evaluated at the Vanderbilt University Psychological and Counseling Center between July 2013 and October 2015.
METHODS - We retrospectively examined charts, including clinical diagnosis, family history, childhood parental reported and current self-reported ADHD symptoms, psychiatric comorbidities, and continuous performance test (CPT).
RESULT - Positive report of childhood and current ADHD symptoms, and lack of comorbid psychiatric symptoms were strongly associated with clinical diagnosis. CPT results were not associated with an ADHD diagnosis. The absence of reported childhood and current ADHD symptoms may serve as a contradictory marker for ADHD diagnosis.
CONCLUSION - Clinical assessment of ADHD symptoms and ADHD childhood history, but not CPT, contributes to an accurate diagnosis of ADHD in college-aged adults.
Individuals differ greatly in their sensitivity to rewards and punishments. In the extreme, these differences are implicated in a range of psychiatric disorders from addiction to depression. However, it is unclear how these differences influence the recruitment of attention, working memory, and long-term memory when responding to potential rewards. Here, we used a rewarded memory-guided visual search task and ERPs to examine the influence of individual differences in self-reported reward/punishment sensitivity, as measured by the Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS)/Behavioral Activation System (BAS) scales, on the recruitment of cognitive mechanisms in conditions of potential reward. Select subscales of the BAS, including the fun seeking and reward responsiveness scales, showed unique relationships with context updating to reward cues and working memory maintenance of potentially rewarded stimuli. In contrast, BIS scores showed unique relationships with deployment of attention at different points in the task. These results suggest that sensitivity to rewards (i.e., BAS) and to punishment (i.e., BIS) may play an important role in the recruitment of specific and distinct cognitive mechanisms in conditions of potential rewards.
© 2017 Society for Psychophysiological Research.
OBJECTIVE - Late-life depression is associated with cognitive deficits and increased risk for cognitive decline. The purpose of the study was to determine whether clinical characteristics could serve as phenotypes informative of subsequent cognitive decline. Age at depression onset and antidepressant remission at 3 months (acute response) and 12 months (chronic response) were examined.
METHODS - In a longitudinal study of late-life depression in an academic center, 273 depressed and 164 never-depressed community-dwelling elders aged 60 years or older were followed on average for over 5 years. Participants completed annual neuropsychological testing. Neuropsychological measures were converted to z-scores derived from the baseline performance of all participants. Cognitive domain scores at each time were then created by averaging z-scores across tests, grouped into domains of episodic memory, attention-working memory, verbal fluency, and executive function.
RESULTS - Depressed participants exhibited poorer performance at baseline and greater subsequent decline in all domains. Early-onset depressed individuals exhibited a greater decline in all domains than late-onset or nondepressed groups. For remission, remitters and nonremitters at both 3 and 12 month exhibited greater decline in episodic memory and attention-working memory than nondepressed subjects. Three-month remitters also exhibited a greater decline in verbal fluency and executive function, whereas 12-month nonremitters exhibited greater decline in executive function than other groups.
CONCLUSION - Consistent with past studies, depressed elders exhibit greater cognitive decline than nondepressed subjects, particularly individuals with early depression onset, supporting the theory that repeated depressive episodes may contribute to decline. Clinical remission is not associated with less cognitive decline.
Published by Elsevier Inc.
Visual stimuli with emotional content appearing in close temporal proximity either before or after a target stimulus can hinder conscious perceptual processing of the target via an emotional attentional blink (EAB). This occurs for targets that appear after the emotional stimulus (forward EAB) and for those appearing before the emotional stimulus (retroactive EAB). Additionally, the traditional attentional blink (AB) occurs because detection of any target hinders detection of a subsequent target. The present study investigated the relations between these different attentional processes. Rapid sequences of landscape images were presented to thirty-one male participants with occasional landscape targets (rotated images). For the forward EAB, emotional or neutral distractor images of people were presented before the target; for the retroactive EAB, such images were also targets and presented after the landscape target. In the latter case, this design allowed investigation of the AB as well. Erotic and gory images caused more EABs than neutral images, but there were no differential effects on the AB. This pattern is striking because while using different target categories (rotated landscapes, people) appears to have eliminated the AB, the retroactive EAB still occurred, offering additional evidence for the power of emotional stimuli over conscious attention.
BACKGROUND - Cognitive bias is a common characteristic of major depressive disorder (MDD) and is posited to remain during remission and contribute to recurrence risk. Attention bias may be related to enhanced amygdala activity or altered amygdala functional connectivity in depression. The current study examined attention bias, brain activity for emotional images, and functional connectivity in post-menopausal women with and without a history of major depression.
METHODS - Attention bias for emotionally valenced images was examined in 33 postmenopausal women with (n=12) and without (n=21) a history of major depression using an emotion dot probe task during fMRI. Group differences in amygdala activity and functional connectivity were assessed using fMRI and examined for correlations to attention performance.
RESULTS - Women with a history of MDD showed greater attentional bias for negative images and greater activity in brain areas including the amygdala for both positive and negative images (pcorr <0.001) than women without a history of MDD. In all participants, amygdala activity for negative images was correlated with attention facilitation for emotional images. Women with a history of MDD had significantly greater functional connectivity between the amygdala and hippocampal complex. In all participants amygdala-hippocampal connectivity was positively correlated with attention facilitation for negative images.
LIMITATIONS - Small sample with unbalanced groups.
CONCLUSIONS - These findings provide evidence for negative attentional bias in euthymic, remitted depressed individuals. Activity and functional connectivity in limbic and attention networks may provide a neurobiological basis for continued cognitive bias in remitted depression.
Copyright © 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
In this brief review, we argue that attention operates along a hierarchy from peripheral through central mechanisms. We further argue that these mechanisms are distinguished not just by their functional roles in cognition, but also by a distinction between serial mechanisms (associated with central attention) and parallel mechanisms (associated with midlevel and peripheral attention). In particular, we suggest that peripheral attentional deployments in distinct representational systems may be maintained simultaneously with little or no interference, but that the serial nature of central attention means that even tasks that largely rely on distinct representational systems will come into conflict when central attention is demanded. We go on to review both the behavioral and neural evidence for this prediction. We conclude that even though the existing evidence mostly favors our account of serial central and parallel noncentral attention, we know of no experiment that has conclusively borne out these claims. As such, this article offers a framework of attentional mechanisms that will aid in guiding future research on this topic.
Humans can selectively attend to information in visual scenes. Learning from previous experiences plays a role in how visual attention is subsequently deployed. For example, visual search times are faster in areas that are statistically more likely to contain a target (Jiang and Swallow in Cognition, 126(3), 378-390, 2013). Here, we examined whether similar attentional biases can be created for different locations on complex objects as a function of their category, based on a history of these locations containing a target. Subjects performed a visual search task in the context of novel objects called Greebles. The target appeared in one half (e.g., top) of the Greebles 89 % of the time and in the other half (e.g., bottom) 11 % of the time. We found a reaction time advantage when the target was located in a "target-rich" region, even after target location probabilities were equated. This indicates that attentional biases can be associated not only with regions of space but also with specific object features, or at least with locations in an object-based frame of reference.