Theses Doctoral

Mapping the Spatiotemporal Interactions of the Human Brain's Attention Reorienting and Arousal Systems Using Multimodal Recording Techniques

Hong, Linbi

The human brain is remarkably good at identifying stimuli worthy of attention, and efficiently allocating its limited neural resources. In the context of an attention reorienting task, where subjects are required to process novel and unexpected incoming sensory information and transform them into actions, the goal for the brain is therefore to orient attention to the most task-relevant stimulus so as to facilitate stimulus processing and behavioral outcome. Recent studies suggest that arousal plays a role in modulating attention reorienting, task engagement, and performance optimization. The rising interest and studies notwithstanding, the exact mechanism and function of arousal in attention reorienting still remains largely elusive.

The aim of this dissertation is to investigate the interactions between arousal and attention reorienting systems, and the spatiotemporal dynamics of such interactions. Specifically, we simultaneously record pupillometry, electroencephalography (EEG), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the fluctuations of the latent states, while subjects perform an auditory oddball task. The oddball task is used to drive the attention reorienting response, and to control for potential ocular confounds that might be induced with a visual paradigm. With concurrently recorded cross modality data, we explore different aspects of the potential interactions between arousal and attention reorienting systems using various combinations of modality-specific trial-to-trial variabilities. We find baseline pupil-linked arousal is correlated to EEG variability temporally localized at a time after the behavioral response, and spatially linked to intrinsically-driven and executive-function related regions; whereas stimulus-driven pupil-linked arousal is temporally related to EEG variability closer to the stimulus onset, and spatially correlated to task-relevant regions. Taken together, our work in this dissertation uses innovative data acquisition and analysis approaches to provide a novel spatiotemporal mapping of the interactions between arousal and attention reorienting systems. Our findings offer new insight on the mechanism and function of how human orients attention, and how arousal is linked to such seemingly trivial yet fundamentally significant cognitive function.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Electrical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Sajda, Paul
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 17, 2020