Attention Development in Adolescents

Studies suggest that while some aspects of attention development such as the ability to orient attention to a new stimulus develop early (Rueda et al., 2004), other aspects of attention appear to develop more slowly. One aspect of attention that appears to develop across childhood and possibly adolescence is selective attention and the ability to filter out unwanted information. In particular, young children have been shown to be able to select out the relevant parts of the environment to pay attention to, however, they may have trouble learning the selected information if distractors are present (i.e. they have difficulty filtering out unwanted information)(Couperus, Hunt, Nelson, and Thomas, in press). This study is designed to explore the development of both the ability to select out relevant information and ignore unnecessary information by examining these processes in adolescents who are likely to be able to select out the relevant information but may still be developing the ability to filter out the unwanted information. We will examine these processes by looking at your adolescents brain activity while they do a computer task. The way we look at adolescents brain activity is through using ERPs. Adolescents who participate in this study come in for one visit where they are asked to do a simple computer task (pressing buttons in response to pictures). While they do the task on the computer we record their brain activity. To record their brain activity we put a stretchy lycra cap on their head as well as some gel (much like hair gel) to allow us to get a good signal. We can show the adolescent their brain activity (it looks like an EEG readout) when we put the cap on. People often find looking at their brain activity "cool" and we often teach them a little about the brain as they participate. For more information about ERPs you can visit the ERP lab website at http://helios.hampshire.edu/~jwcCS/index.html/

Researcher: Jane W. Couperus

This study is ongoing and we are currently looking for 11-17 year olds. If you would like your adolescent to participate in this research, contact Dr. Couperus at erpparticipant@yahoo.com and we will contact you to schedule a time for your adolescent to participate.

Perceptual Load: Learning and Attention

Research suggests that our focus of attention becomes more narrow when the task we are doing is difficult. This narrowing of attention can be seen using imaging techniques, specifically ERPs. ERPs, or event related potentials, are an imaging technique that allows us to see the electrical activity the brain produces by recording electricity at the scalp with small sensors sewn into a stretchy lycra cap (much like a microphone records sound it's totally noninvasive). While we know that attention can narrow early in processing of the environment for adults (roughly 100ms after being exposed to a visual stimulus, e.g. a picture) we know little about how and when this narrowing occurs in children. Therefore, this study hopes to look at how and when attention is narrowed in children, specifically this study looks at early selective attention to see if factors like task difficulty affect the narrowing of attention in children as it does in adults or if they use different ways and brain areas to focus their attention. Children who participate in this study come in for one visit where they are asked to play a simple computer game (pressing buttons in response to pictures or letters). While they play the game we record their brain activity. To record their brain activity we put a stretchy lycra cap on their head as well as some gel (much like hair gel) to allow us to get a good signal. We can show kids their brain activity (it looks like an EEG readout) when we put the cap on. Kids often find looking at their brain activity "cool" and we often teach them a little about the brain as they participate.

For more information about ERPs visit the ERP lab website at http://helios.hampshire.edu/~jwcCS/index.html/

Researcher: Jane W. Couperus

This study is ongoing and we are currently looking for 6-18 year olds. If you would like your child or adolescent to participate in this research, contact Dr. Couperus at erpparticipant@yahoo.com and we will contact you to schedule a time to participate.

Neurological Correlates of Visual Selective Attention

Selecting specific aspects of the environment to attend to is a difficult challenge as the world is filled with both important information as well as distractions. Across childhood, our ability to selectively attend to different aspects of the environment improves. While we think both children and adults use the same neurological mechanisms for selective attention this is based on studies of selective auditory attention. Studies have not examined visual selective attention in children. This study is designed to examine the neurological correlates of selective attention across middle childhood and adolescence to see how visual selective attention is similar and/or different from selective attention in adults. In this study chidren and adolescents are asked to attend to different pictures on a computer while looking for a specific picture. While they do the computer task we record their brain activity. To record their brain activity we put a stretchy lycra cap on their head as well as some gel (much like hair gel) to allow us to get a good signal. We can show them their brain activity (it looks like an EEG readout) when we put the cap on. Participants often find looking at their brain activity "cool" and we often teach them a little about the brain as they participate.

Researcher: Jane W. Couperus

This study is currently seeking 9-18 year olds. If you would like your child to participate in this research, contact Dr. Couperus at erpparticipant@yahoo.com