Cognitive Neuroscience of Attention (PSYL10139)

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Cognitive Neuroscience of Attention (PSYL10139)

Semester 2, Tuesday 2:10pm-4:00pm

BPS core areas - Biological Psychology, Cognitive Psychology


What will be covered?

This course aims to introduce the cognitive and neural mechanisms of attention. Current theories of attention will be discussed considering evidence from a variety of neuroscience methods (from single neurons recordings to functional imaging techniques). The course will present the neural mechanisms underlying different varieties of attentional processes together with the links between attention and other cognitive functions.

This series of lectures will begin with an introduction to the basic methods of Cognitive Neuroscience and the anatomical basis of perception. The basic questions and controversies in research on attentional processes will be discussed together with an overview of selective attention. The course also aims to teach the different mechanisms responsible for the spatial orienting of attention including the behavioural and neuroimaging evidence for distinct top-down and bottom-up control attentional systems. The topics covered will include the neuropsychological syndromes related to disorders of spatial attention (neglect and extinction) and the crossmodal links in spatial attention. In addition we will discuss how attention can bind different visual features into coherent objects as well as the concept of object-based attention. Finally, the links between attention and action will be discussed.

How will it be delivered?

Lecture and discussion in class.

Lecture recording policy: Lectures will NOT be recorded, however, students can bring their own devices to record the lectures.

What skills will be gained?

In addition to general critical thinking and scientific writing skills (such as presentation and logical organization of an argument based on scientific evidence), students will gain experience in developing scientific experiments to address a research question. 

Learning Outcomes:

1. The students will learn the main methods of Cognitive Neuroscience and how these can be used to investigate attention.

2. The student will learn the different research traditions in the history of attentional research and will be able to understand the main controversies that characterized this field of research.

3. Referring to the relevant evidence, the students will be able to understand and explain the main theories and models of attention, specifically top-down and bottom-up attentional processes, spatial attention, selective attention, disorders of attention, crossmodal links, object features integration and object-based attention, and the links between attention and action.


30% Mid-term Coursework (submission deadline Thursday 27th February, 12.00 noon)

Research proposal (Part 1): will involve a brief literature review and summary of a broad research question (2000 words maximum). Written feedback will be provided on the mid-assignment course work. The feedback will be presented as a list of points that students will have to address at the end of the course assignment. Thus, the mid-course assignment is also formative for the final assignment.

70% Final Coursework (submission deadline Thursday 9th April, 12.00 noon)

Research proposal parts 1+2: will consist of a full research proposal. Students will have to address the comments raised in the feedback to Part 1 (max 2000 words) and add Part 2 (max 1000 words) of the proposal which consists in the detailed description of one study aimed at addressing the research question presented in Part 1. This will require a detailed and explicit discussion of the chosen methodology and of the hypotheses/expected results.

Relationship Between Assessment and Learning Outcomes

To successfully write a research proposal (Mid-term course work AND Final coursework) students will have to demonstrate specific knowledge of the models and theories of attention (LO3) and of neuroscience methods (LO1). Furthermore, individuating a research area within the field of attention which requires further investigation requires a solid understanding of the different research traditions and main controversies that characterize attentional research (LO2).

Reading resources

Indicative reading:

Gazzaniga et al. (2009) Cognitive Neuroscience. The biology of the mind.

Mangun (Eds.) (2012). The neuroscience of Attention: Attentional control and selection. New York: Oxfrord University Press.

Styles, E. A. (2006). The psychology of attention, Second Edition. New York: Psychology Press.

Pashler (Eds.) (1998). Attention. Psychology Press.

Resources list:

This list will be available on Learn before the start of the course.

27/08/2019 - 2:00pm