Oxford ACClab
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our research

research

 

 

Our research investigates the neural mechanisms of attention and cognitive control

 

 
 

The broad question addressed in our research is how coherent thought and action emerge from processing in the brain. While much is now known about specific aspects of brain function—how we perceive the world, attend to particular details, remember facts and events, make decisions, etc.—much less is known about how these different functions become organised so that, at any given time, we can focus our attention on a particular task (or tasks) based on our current goals and intentions. Our research investigates the mechanisms responsible for imposing this organisation on our thoughts and actions.

A key component of our research is the development of computational models of attention and control processes. We use these models to inform the design and interpretation of our empirical work that combines behavioural, functional neuroimaging (fMRI), and scalp electrophysiological (EEG) methods.

 

 

 

We do research on
 

 

Task organisation

How do we choose one task to perform from among the many available to us at any given time? How are the processing resources of the brain channeled towards the chosen task? To investigate these issues, we have looked at behaviour and brain activity associated with changing from one task to another, a situation that places particular demands on attention.

Performance monitoring

How do we know when we need to pay attention to avoid making mistakes? How do we know when we’ve actually made an error? Our research has used neural network models and brain imaging techniques to identify the types of information that our brains use to signal when things are going wrong and when increased attention and control are required.

Learning from feedback

How do we use external signals of success or failure to help us perform more effectively? Our research on this question has focused on the role of anterior cingulate cortex in decision making and learning. We have used EEG and fMRI methods to study activity in this brain region as people learn to play simple decision making tasks and gambling games.

Neuroimaging

Our lab also has interests in analysis methods for brain imaging data. We have developed tools for simulating EEG data, and we have used these tools to evaluate the effectiveness of various techniques for analysing EEG data. We have been particularly interested in time- versus frequency-domain approaches to EEG data analysis.