Topographical distribution of ssVEP amplitudes in response to stimuli
Time Frequency Plot
Time frequency plot

We know that we pay more attention to emotionally or motivationally relevant objects and events than we do to mundane ones, and experience and remember them more vividly. Yet the underlying neural mechanisms and the sources of individual differences are still not fully understood. In this group of studies we use EEG, or electrical activity of large populations of neurons in the cortex measured at the scalp, to better understand the neural mechanisms underlying these affective or motivational biases in attention. For example, steady state visual evoked potentials (ssVEPs), which are patterns of rhythmic firing driven by different flickering stimuli at distinct frequency bands, provide a window into the brain that reveal how attention is allocated. Here we are using ssVEPs to examine how neural resources may be allocated between an emotionally relevant stimulus that competes for attention with a neutral stimulus that is important for completing a task. Brain rhythms at distinct frequencies can also carry information about how we chunk numbers or words when we’re holding them in mind (i.e., how we divide the numbers in a phone number), and about ways in which emotional relevance can influence the rate at which neurons pulse in a way that influences perception of the visual world. In general, manipulating and examining patterns of brain rhythms can give us insight into the brain processes that are linked to altered experience of relevant aspects of the world.