Current and Past Research Projects

What we pay attention to affects how we learn. Beginning in the first year of life we engage visual selective attention as we navigate the world to focus on information that is relevant for learning and ignore or suppress distracting information. In this set of studies we investigate how increasing control over visual selective attention over the course of development supports more effective memory encoding. 

Current Infant & Child Studies: 

1. Attention to Faces Among Distractors (5-month-olds & 11-month-olds)

- One visit, 1 hour

In this study your infant will view arrays of photos including objects, natural scenes, and faces. We also get a baseline measurement of eye-blink-rate during infancy so babies watch a short cartoon video lasting around 4-5 minutes. We will use a non-invasive eye tracker to record where your infant looks as he/she watches the movie. 

2. Emotions and Eye Gaze (6-month-olds)

- One visit, 1 hour

In this study your infant will watch a short movie with people making different facial expressions of emotion along with eye gazes directed to the left and right sides of the screen. We will use a non-invasive eye tracker to record where your infant looks as he/she watches the movie. 

3. Memory-guided Attention (9-month-olds)

- One visit, 45 minutes

In this study your infant will watch a short movie with multiple colorful shapes and objects on different locations of the screen. There is a learning phase and a visual search phase; the visual search has many shapes on the screen and a happy female face will appear throughout. We will use a non-invasive eye tracker to record where your infant looks as he/she watches the movie. 

4. Learning from Reward (9-12 month-olds)

- One visit, 1 hour

In this study your infant will watch a short movie with multiple colorful shapes and objects on different locations of the screen. A high reward (primary caregiver's face),  low reward (stranger's face), or no reward (no face) will appear in certain locations on the screen. We also get a baseline measurement of eye-blink-rate during infancy so babies watch a short cartoon video lasting around 4-5 minutes. We will use a non-invasive eye tracker to record where your infant looks as he/she watches the movie. 

5. Learning from Media with Distractions  (3-5 year olds)

        - One visit, 45 minutes

In this study your child will view four short science lessons on a computer screen while distracting images (related to science) are also present on the screen. They will answer multiple choice questions about the lessons via the computer screen before and after the lessons to assess their learning of lesson material. We will use a non-invasive eye tracker to record where your child looks as he/she views the lessons and answers questions. 

 

Current Adult Studies (Ages 18-35): 

1. Eye Tracking of Faces & Houses

        - One visit, 1-1.5 hours

In this study we will ask you to complete a computer task in which you rapidly respond to images of faces and houses while we use a non-invasive eye tracker to record your eye movements. 

2. Musicianship and Its Effects on Working Memory and Selective Attention

- One visit, 1.5 hours

In this study we will ask you to complete a computer task in which you will see many  images of objects in different locations on the screen while we use a non-invasive eye tracker to record your eye movements. 

 

Relevant publications:

Cruse, A., Offen, K., Markant, J. (2018). Spatial selective attention biases are shaped by long-term musical experience and short-term exposure to tones. Brain and Cognition, 125, 106-117.

Markant, J. & Amso, D. (2014). Leveling the playing field: Attention mitigates the effects of individual variability in intelligence. Cognition, 131(2), 195-204. 

Markant, J. & Amso, D. (2013). Selective memories: Infants' encoding is enhanced in selection via suppression. Developmental Science, 16(6), 926-940.

Also see: Amso, D. (2016). Visual attention: Its role in memory and development. 

 


This work builds off the behavioral studies described above to examine the neural networks linking visual selective attention and recognition memory during development. Previous studies have shown that engaging visual selective attention results in modulation of visual cortex activity. In our work we have used fMRI to examine the relationship between this modulation of visual cortex activity and recognition memory encoding and retrieval.

Current studies:
None at this time

Relevant publications:
Markant, J., Worden, M.S., & Amso, D. (2015). Not all attention orienting is created equal: Recognition memory is enhanced when attention orienting involves distractor suppression. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. 120, 28-40.


Beginning as early as infancy individuals vary widely with respect to their ability to engage visual selective attention and effectively encode information. This work has used genetic methods to relate these individual differences in visual selective attention and memory to normative genetic polymorphisms that affect dopamine signaling.

Current studies:
None at this time

Relevant publications:
Markant, J., Ciccetti, D., Hetzel, S. & Thomas, K.M. (2014). Contributions of COMT Val158Met to cognitive stability and flexibility in infancy. Developmental Science, 17(3), 396-411.