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Spatial processing under attentional load: from clinical to fMRI evidence (SPACELOAD)
Start date: Feb 1, 2015, End date: May 3, 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Everyday life requires to continuously process the surrounding space to extract behaviourally-relevant information. When attention is loaded, however, this processing might become difficult. This happens, for instance, when space has to be attended while additional stimuli have to be processed in parallel (e.g., talking while driving). In the present project the attentional system will be loaded through visual or auditory dual-tasking to investigate the core cognitive and neural mechanisms subtending normal and pathological (stroke patients) spatial processing.Dual-tasking will be adopted in patients to characterize those subtle post-stroke attentional deficits in the processing of one side of space which often go undetected by traditional paper-and-pencil tests. Patients' behavioural deficits will be matched with specific brain damaged areas by symptom-lesion mapping analyses.Healthy participants will be studied through a brain imaging technique called functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). fMRI will detect the functional changes in brain activation under different attentional load conditions, allowing to isolate task-dependent and load-dependent brain areas.By binding together clinical and neuroimaging techniques, this project aims to strongly contribute to understand the cognitive neuroscience of spatial processing and its normal and pathological limits under dual-tasking. Both the fMRI and the clinical workpackages are expected to provide converging evidence in determining the contribution of specific brain areas while processing space under different levels and types of attentional load.Through this project the applicant will gain a strong expertise in the use of fMRI by joining an excellent cognitive neuroscience lab, embedded within a multidisciplinary context.
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