Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Michiel Dirkx (Donders sereis 427)

28 September 2020

Supervisors: prof. dr. O. Jensen, prof. dr. J. Buitelaar

On the Relationship Between Structural and Functional Underpinnings of Attention: Insights from clinical and non clinical populations

Why is it so hard to attend to multiple tasks at the same time, in particular the ones taxing our working memory and attention abilities?
How come individuals diagnosed with attentional deficits have more difficulties operating in attentionally demanding settings?
Why do stimulant medications improve our ability to focus and pay attention?
The overall aim of this thesis was to further uncover the networks underlying selective attention and working memory, which often interact and partially overlap to optimally sustain information processing, by investigating its mechanisms in different experimental settings and through a multimodal imaging approach. Importantly, the application of traditional experimental paradigms for the study of attention to a pediatric clinical (ADHD) and control sample, allowed us to infer how these processes develop typically and in pathology. Furthermore, the implementation of a pharmacological manipulation broadened our insights into the mechanisms through which attention and working memory can be boosted, and which networks allegedly provide support to the activity of neurotransmitters at the basis of such functional enhancement.
We propose that a comprehensive delineation of attentional systems in the brain cannot overlook the contribution of subcortico-corticalnetworks, and must aim at understanding how they interact with cortical areas to produce the neural correlates of attentional performance.