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Assistant Professor of Psychology Jeff Moher has been awarded $357,061 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a research collaboration with Brown University on the neuroscience of distraction.
Moher, who specializes in cognitive psychology, cognitive neuroscience and visual attention, uses behavioral and neurophysiological methods to understand why distractions occur, when they are likely to arise, and what mechanisms humans can harness to avoid them. For this project, he will examine the link between sustained attention and action output by determining whether drifts in sustained attention that occur when a person loses focus correlate with increased variability in motor output. He and his colleagues at Brown will also study whether brain networks previously linked with sustained attention are also related to motor output variability, and whether and how the physical demands of an action can influence sustained attention.
“If a person’s motor movements become less consistent, does this suggest they are losing focus? If more demanding actions are required, is it easier to maintain focused attention? This study will provide new knowledge that may help us answer these questions,” Moher said.
“There are also potentially useful applications to this research. The ability to diagnose when a person is losing focus by measurements of simple motor movements would be highly valuable, for example. In addition, a number of brain disorders are known to involve deficits in attention and/or action, including ADHD, schizophrenia, and strokes. Results from this research may provide important knowledge for future approaches in both diagnosis and treatments of these and other such conditions.”
Connecticut College undergraduate students will play an active role in all phases of the research project, including experimental design, data collection, data analysis and the presentation of results. Grant funds will support a total of nine summer research students over the three-year project and provide opportunities for students to conduct functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) at Brown during summer research sessions. The grant will also support students working as research assistants in Moher’s lab during the academic year, provide travel funds for academic conferences and fund specialized equipment and supplies.
This grant is 100 percent federally funded by the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NS113135). NINDS is the nation’s leading funder of research on the brain and nervous system. The mission of NINDS is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease.