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The principal aim of this research is to determine the brain mechanisms that underpin our ability to ignore distracting sensory input. Previous research has mainly focused on how attention is used to facilitate processing of behaviourally relevant sensory information. However, inhibition is an important counterpoint to facilitation: very often it may be equally important to inhibit distracting input as it is to enhance processing of behaviourally relevant information.

This programme will explore the control mechanisms for selective inhibition, directly contrasting putative neural systems against the well-established architecture for selective facilitation. Fundamental questions will be addressed using a range of complementary neuroscientific methods to measure and perturb brain function with high spatial and temporal precision (e.g., MEG, fMRI, TMS). The results of these experiments will provide new insights into how the brain processes perceptual information to construct an internal world model that is fine-tuned for guiding purposeful action.

Investigators: Mark Stokes, Ben Crittenden, MaryAnn Noonan
Collaborators: Kia Nobre, Nicholas Myers, Mark Woolrich
Funding: Medical Research Council