Arousal and Attention
Full course description
This course familiarises students with key concepts and controversies in the study of effects of arousal and alertness on attention and cognitive performance, with an emphasis on the role of neurotransmitters. It is known that human performance fluctuates depending on the state of alertness; when we are sleepy or tired we are less attentive to events going on around us than when we are fully awake and alert. However, people who are extremely stressed or highly aroused can also have problems in effectively focussing or shifting their focus of attention (e.g. ADHD, anxiety disorders). The mechanisms underlying the relation between arousal, attention and performance have been the subject of extensive research in psychology. Therefore, this course will review current knowledge on subcortical arousal systems, attention networks and the neurotransmitters involved, in addition to a critical discussion of the classical Arousal Theory. Psychopharmacological studies will be presented that illustrate the role of different neurotransmitters in arousal and attention.
Students will be able to understand:
arousal theory, inverted-U model, Yerkes-Dodson law, cognitive energetic model, additive factors method, Posner’s attentional networks, orienting, Posner’s cueing paradigm, Corbetta’s model of attentional control, focused attention and the underlying neural mechanisms, alertness, sustained attention, vigilance, noradrenergic locus coeruleus activity, clonidine, signal detection theory, executive attention, prefrontal dopaminergic activity, methylphenidate, Borbely’s model of sleep regulation, caffeine, neurocognitive theory of insomnia, benzodiazepines, flip-flop mechanism of sleep-wake regulation, antihistamines.