Theses Doctoral

Exposing Internal Attentional Brain States using Single-Trial EEG Analysis with Combined Imaging Modalities

Walz, Jennifer

The goal of this dissertation is to explore the neural correlates of endogenous task-related attentional modulations. Natural fluctuations in task engagement are challenging to study, primarily because they are by nature not event related and thus cannot be controlled experimentally. Here we exploit well-accepted links between attention and various measures of neural activity while subjects perform simple target detection tasks that leave their minds free to wander. We use multimodal neuroimaging, specifically simultaneous electroencephalograpy and functional magnetic resonance imaging (EEG-fMRI) and EEG-pupillometry, with data-driven machine learning methods and study activity across the whole brain.

We investigate BOLD fMRI correlates of EEG variability spanning each trial, enabling us to unravel a cascade of attention-related activations and determine their temporal ordering. We study activity during auditory and visual paradigms independently, and we also combine data to investigate supra modal attention systems. Without aiming to study known attention-related functional brain networks, we found correlates of attentional modulations in areas representative of the default mode network (DMN), ventral attention network (VAN), locus coeruleus norepinephrine (LC-NE) system, and regions implicated in generation of the extensively-studied P300 EEG response to target stimuli. Our results reveal complex interactions between known attentional systems, and do so non-invasively to study normal fluctuations of task engagement in the human brain.


  • thumnail for Walz_columbia_0054D_11727.pdf Walz_columbia_0054D_11727.pdf application/pdf 12.7 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Biomedical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Sajda, Paul
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 22, 2014