Dr. Greenberg receives new RGI grant to study the neural mechanisms of attention in the auditory domain

Dr. Adam Greenberg has been awarded a new grant from the UWM Research Growth Initiative program to study how the brain coordinates attention across different sensory modalities (i.e., audition, vision, haptics, etc). Over the past few decades, neuroscientists have identified an unmistakable organization of sensory information in the brain as it passes through the hierarchical structure of each sensory system. This detailed organization in each sensory modality essentially keeps stimulus characteristics catalogued so that they can be read out with maximal efficiency. A consequence of this organization is that topographic maps of sensory space are ubiquitous throughout sensory cortex. Furthermore, an extended topographic organization has recently been discovered in the parietal and frontal lobes of the human brain that help guide attention toward task-relevant stimuli and away from distracters. We believe the extensive presence of topographic maps in sensory cortex coupled with modality-specific frontoparietal priority maps, together form a multisensory network by which attention communicates which stimuli should be attended and which should be ignored. This project makes use of the auditory modality as a test bed for a more general model of attentional control that may outline a universal neural substrate for attention.

As we navigate and interact with the world around us, humans rely extensively on copious amounts of data that compete for our limited processing resources. It is well established that attentional brain mechanisms serve to highlight critically relevant information and filter out distracting information. This process of attention is what creates our moment-to-moment experience of life, and guides virtually all of our movements, decisions, and memories. This research will help us understand how humans deal with the overwhelming simultaneous information we get from vision, audition, etc.