1Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Kansas School of Medicine, 2Department of Radiology, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
Source: Laboratories of Jonas T. Kaplan and Sarah I. Gimbel—University of Southern California
Given the overwhelming amount of information captured by the sensory organs, it is crucial that the brain is able to prioritize the processing of certain stimuli, to spend less effort on what might not be currently important and to attend to what is. One heuristic the brain uses is to ignore stimuli that are frequent or constant in favor of stimuli that are unexpected or unique. Therefore, rare events tend to be more salient and capture our attention. Furthermore, stimuli that are relevant to our current behavioral goals are prioritized over those that are irrelevant.
The neurophysiological correlates of attention have been experimentally examined through the use of the oddball paradigm. Originally introduced in 1975, the oddball task presents the participant with a sequence of repetitive audio or visual stimuli, infrequently interrupted by an unexpected stimulus.1 This interruption by a target stimulus has been shown to elicit specific electrical events that are recordable at the scalp known as event-related potentials (ERPs). An ERP is the measured brain response resulting from a specific sensory, cognitive, or motor event. ERPs are measured using electroencephalography (EEG), a noninv…