Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Martine van Schouwenburg (Donders Series 98)

November 8, 2012

Promotors: Prof.dr.  Roshan Cools, Prof.dr. J. Buitelaar. Copromotor: Dr. H. den Ouden

Fronto-striatal mechanisms of attantional control

Goal-directed behavior requires us to focus attention on goal-relevant information, and inhibit distracting information. But at the same time the environment must be monitored for potentially significant information that may afford a goal switch. The research in this thesis investigated how brain regions interact in order to keep an optimal balance between these two antagonistic challenges. Using a combination of functional magnetic resonance imaging, functional connectivity analyses and structural imaging, the research highlights the importance of the interaction between two brain regions, the prefrontal cortex and the basal ganglia. For example, during a task that requires subjects to flexibly switch their attention in response to changes in the environment, we found that the prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia work together to implement a switch in attention. Moreover, individual differences in performance on this task were associated with individual differences in structural connectivity between these regions. Interestingly, individual differences in dopaminergic drug efficacy could also be predicted based on the strength of fronto-striatal anatomical connections. These findings might lead to improvement of neuropsychiatric treatment in disorders associated with attention deficits, such as ADHD.