Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Tony W. Wilson
The adaptive and flexible ability of the human brain to preference the processing of salient environmental features in the visual space is essential to normative cognitive function, and various neurologically afflicted patient groups report negative impacts on visual attention. While the brain-bases of human attentional processing have begun to be unraveled, very little is known regarding the interactions between attention systems and systems supporting sensory and motor processing. This is essential, as these interactions are dynamic; evolving rapidly in time and across a wide range of functionally defined rhythmic frequencies. Using magnetoencephalography (MEG) and a range of novel cognitive paradigms and analytical techniques, this work attempts to fill critical gaps in this knowledge. Specifically, we unravel the role of dynamic oscillatory interactions between attention and three sensorimotor systems. First, we establish the importance of sub-second occipital alpha (8 – 14 Hz) oscillatory responses in visual distractor suppression during selective attention (Chapter 1) and their essential role in fronto-parietal attention networks during visual orienting (Chapter 2). Next, we examine the divergent effects of directed attention on multi-frequency primary somatosensory neural oscillations in the theta (4 – 8 Hz), alpha, and beta (18 – 26 Hz) bands (Chapter 3). Finally, we extend these findings to the motor system (Chapter 4), and find that the frontal and parietal beta-frequency oscillations known to support motor planning and execution are modulated equivalently by differing subtypes of attentional interference, whereas frontal gamma (64 – 84 Hz) oscillations specifically index the superadditive effect of this interference. These findings provide new insight into the dynamic nature of attention-sensorimotor interactions in the human brain, and will be the foundation for groundbreaking new studies of attentional deficits in patients with common neurological disorders (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders, Parkinson’s disease). With an enhanced knowledge of the temporal and spectral definitions of these impairments, new therapeutic interventions utilizing frequency-targeted neural stimulation can be developed.
Wiesman, Alex, "Dynamic Oscillatory Interactions Between Neural Attention and Sensorimotor Systems" (2020). Theses & Dissertations. 428.