— Motivated Cognition Lab


Weaver, van Zoest, & Hickey (in press). A temporal dependency account of attentional inhibition in oculomotor control. Neuroimage. <link>

We used concurrent electroencephalogram (EEG) and eye tracking to investigate the role of covert attentional mechanisms in the control of oculomotor behavior. Human participants made speeded saccades to targets that were presented alongside salient distractors. By subsequently sorting trials based on whether the distractor was strongly represented or suppressed by the visual system – as evident in the accuracy (Exp. 1) or quality of the saccade (Exp. 2) – we could characterize and contrast pre-saccadic neural activity as a function of whether oculomotor control was established. Results show that saccadic behavior is strongly linked to the operation of attentional mechanisms in visual cortex. In Experiment 1, accurate saccades were preceded by attentional selection of the target – indexed by a target-elicited N2pc component – and by attentional suppression of the distractor – indexed by early and late distractor-elicited distractor positivity (Pd) components. In Experiment 2, the strength of distractor suppression predicted the degree to which the path of slower saccades would deviate away from the distractor en route to the target. However, results also demonstrated clear dissociations of covert and overt selective control, with saccadic latency in particular showing no relationship to the latency of covert selective mechanisms. Eye movements could thus be initiated prior to the onset of attentional ERP components, resulting in stimulus-driven behaviour. Taken together, the results indicate that attentional mechanisms play a role in determining saccadic behavior, but that saccade timing is not contingent on the deployment of attention. This creates a temporal dependency, whereby attention fosters oculomotor control only when attentional mechanisms are given sufficient opportunity to impact stimuli representations before an eye movement is executed.

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Daniel Schneider (second from the right) is on a short sabbatical from the ifADo, Dortmund (Leibniz Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors). Welcome Daniel!

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In collaboration with Laura Battelli’s lab, first time we’ve used a stimulation technique…

van Koningsbruggen, Ficarella, Battelli, & Hickey (in press). Transcranial random noise stimulation potentiates value-driven attentional capture. Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Reward feedback following visual search causes the visual characteristics of targets to become salient and attention-drawing, but little is known about the mechanisms underlying this value-driven capture effect. Here we use transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS) to demonstrate that such reward potentiation involves induced plasticity in visual cortex. Human participants completed a feature-search reward-learning task involving the selection of a red or green colored target presented among distractors of various color. Each correct trial garnered reward and the magnitude of reward was determined by the color of the target. Three groups completed this task: two groups received tRNS over either occipital or frontal cortex, and the third group received sham stimulation as a control. In a subsequent test phase of the experiment participants searched for a unique shape presented among colored distractors. During the test phase no tRNS was applied and no reward was available. However, in some trials a single distractor had color matching that associated with reward during training. Search for the target was impacted by the presence of such reward-associated distractors in the occipital stimulation group, demonstrating that plasticity in visual cortex contributes to value-driven attentional capture.



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May 17th, 5:15pm
Session: Attention: Reward, emotion, motivation


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The call for applications to the cimec PhD school has been released.

Deadline is May 10th, 2016, at 4pm.

If you are interested in applying, feel free to email Clayton with questions.




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Hanna Kadel is visiting from the University of Marburg, where she is completing her PhD under the supervision of Prof. Anna Schubö. Hanna will spend about 3 months in Rovereto. Welcome Hanna!hanna

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The deadline for applications is Friday March 11, 2016 at midday.

We anticipate a second call for EU citizens and non-EU residents of Italy with deadline on Friday July 8, 2016 at midday, if places are still available.


Application link: http://www5.unitn.it/Apply/en/Web/Home/master

Summary of the Call in English

Please, find attached a pdf version of the poster advertising the selection call should you want to hang it up in your department/research center.


The CIMeC, the Master’s program and UNITN in numbers:

–          CIMeC ranked 1st in Italy for Quality of Research 2013

–          2015-2016 UNITrento ranks 3rd in Italy in the rankings of THE – Times Higher Education

–          Courses are given in English

–          2 tracks: Cognitive Neuroscience and Language & Multimodal Interaction

–          40 positions, 20 reserved to non-EU students

–          Possibility of funding (scholarship and tuition fee exemption) with Opera Universitaria

–          Joint study programs and other international opportunities

–          According to our recent internal survey, 77% of our graduates are currently employed, 74% of them by pursuing a PhD

–          Why choose UNITRENTO


Please feel free to browse our website www.mcs.unitn.it for further information or contact the Master’s Secretariat at mcs@unitn.it


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Recognition as a ‘rising star‘ from the Association for Psychological Science.

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2015 – 2016 Times Higher Education University Rankings

The University of Trento ranks 198th in the world in the THE 2015-2016 rankings and as the top University in Italy*.

test*  Kudos to the  Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa (462 students) and Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (729 students), ranking 112th and 180th respectively. The majority of students at these special institutes are completing doctoral work. The University of Trento has about 18k students, the vast majority completing undergraduate programs. 

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