Killam Seminar Series: Dynamics of attention in time and space and states of distractibility and impulsivity
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Suliann Ben Hamed
Research Director, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience Marc Jeannerod, France
Host: Justine Clery
Abstract: Recent accumulating evidence challenges the traditional view of attention (defined as the active selection of relevant information) as a stable spotlight over which we have direct voluntary control, suggesting instead a rhythmic and highly dynamic operation in both the temporal and the spatial dimensions. However, the precise characterization of this dynamics and its associated neural bases at multiple time scales has been missing. I will present experimental evidence bridging this knowledge gap and I will propose a new model of intra- and inter-individual variability in attentional performance. Specifically, I will combine monkey electrophysiological data and machine learning methods to reconstruct, at high spatial and temporal resolution, the spatial attentional spotlight from monkey prefrontal neuronal activity (Astrand et al., 2016). I will show that this dynamic prefrontal attentional spotlight implements both the selection of relevant information and the suppression of irrelevant information, through both proactive and reactive mechanisms (Di Bello et al., 2022). I will provide evidence for a rhythmic spatial attention exploration by this prefrontal attentional spotlight in the alpha (7-12Hz) frequency range, flexibly adapting to the ongoing behavioral demands (Gaillard et al., 2020). I will then show that these prefrontal attentional processes only partially account for overt behavioral performance, the latter being best accounted for by two distinct prefrontal coding dimensions both encoding states of distractibility, in-task and impulsivity (Amengual, Di Bello et al., 2022). How efficiently these states of distractibility and impulsivity as well as attention are encoded in the prefrontal cortex consistently fluctuate at a very slow rhythm of cira 5 cycles per hour, thus defining very slow attentional rhythms, interrogating the notion of sustained attention.
Supported by the generosity of the Killam Trusts, the MNI's Killam Seminar Series invites outstanding guest speakers whose research is of interest to the scientific community at the MNI and McGill University.