Our laboratory is interested in the effects of aging on brain-behavior relationships, with special interest in late-life changes of the attentional mechanisms. Attentional processes such as selective attention, divided attention, covert orienting, and the attentional blink all serve to manage and direct allocation of our limited attentional resources. Late life and particularly dementing diseases place these tasks at risk, which can further disrupt downstream cognitive abilities of memory and language.
Our research focuses on understanding the effects of cognitive stress or temporal load, which is how attention manages to rapidly allocate incoming information. We use attention models that investigate processing in healthy young, old and very old persons, as well as Alzheimer’s disease and Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Attention also influences learning, as evidenced by our work showing disruption of the serial position effect in dementia. As attention is mediated by acetylcholine, it is severely affected in Alzheimer’s disease. We are investigating changes in response to cholinesterase inhibitors in patients newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and how the attentional disruption of affects top-down processes and activity of daily living.