Welcome to the Fiebelkorn Lab
The overarching goal of our research is to understand how the brain flexibly allocates its limited processing resources to improve behavioral outcomes. Addressing this overarching goal requires observing neural dynamics on multiple scales, at the levels of single neurons, local neural populations, and large-scale networks. Imagine New York's Times Square: tall buildings, flashing lights, a swarm of people. The brain has limited processing resources and must therefore rely on filtering mechanisms to effectively navigate such complex scenes. This filtering of the visual environment occurs largely through a combination of two interacting functions: spatial attention (i.e., enhanced or suppressed sensory processing of relevant locations) and saccades (i.e., exploratory shifts of gaze to relevant locations). A shared network of brain regions, the 'attention network', directs both of these functions, prompting the following fundamental question: how does a single network control both the sensory (i.e., spatial attention) and the motor (i.e., saccades) aspects of environmental sampling? We recently demonstrated that these sensory and motor functions are temporally isolated, alternating over time (approximately every 250 ms). We continue to investigate the temporal dynamics of attention-related functions, including not only the balance between sensory and motor functions, but also the balance between attention-related enhancement (of behaviorally relevant information) and attention-related suppression (of distracting information). We are further investigating whether such temporal or rhythmic coordination is a more general mechanism in the brain for resolving potential functional conflicts, maintaining cognitive and representation flexibility. We hope that our research will provide a new lens through which to investigate and treat brain disorders marked by abnormalities in cognitive flexibility, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).