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RIKEN Laboratory for Brain Dynamics Furthers Understanding of Spatiotemporal Response Changes: Multi-media News Release.

Tokyo, June 16, 2008 - (JCN Newswire) - Researchers at RIKEN's Laboratory for Human Brain Dynamics have been successful in understanding how the brain's spatiotemporal response changes, depending on whether a person is paying attention or not, even when viewing or listening to the same stimuli. The research was presented in the latest edition of Neuron (June 12).

In our everyday surroundings, there is too much information for our brains to process all of it. So, it is believed that information that we focus on is processed preferentially so that the limited processing capacity of the brain can be utilized efficiently. However, it had not been understood at what stage of sensory processing the brain selects information that is given attention, and in particular it had not been properly understood what sensory area is first affected as a result of focusing attention.

The research team discovered that the initial neural response of the primary visual cortex (V1) and primary auditory cortex (A1), the first cortical areas of the brain receiving information about the stimuli, is amplified by attention. The results were obtained by analyzing magnetoencephalography, or MEG, signals and magnetic field tomography, or MFT. MEG measures the magnetic field outside of the brain, which is generated by neural electrical activity in the brain. MFT estimates the generators and represents them three-dimensionally as electrical current density distribution over all areas of the brain.

In the experiment, the subject focused his attention on the area indicated on the screen in front of him. The team measured the difference in neural responses when pictures were shown in the attended area and outside the area. As a result, it was found that neural response elicited by the stimuli at the attended location is amplified in the primary visual cortex (V1) and primary auditory cortex (A1) as they first arrive there.

Revealing the neural mechanism associated with focusing attention will help explain the higher brain function mechanism in humans. It is hoped this will lead to developing new treatment methods for mental illnesses such as dementia and schizophrenia in which there is damage to the higher brain function.

Original work:

Poghosyan, V., Ioannides, A.: Attention Modulates Earliest Responses in the Primary Auditory and Visual Cortices. Neuron, Volume 58 Issue 5: June 12, 2008.

Video presentation:

RIKEN Laboratory for Human Brain Dynamics

The laboratory for Human Brain Dynamics started in March 1998 in Japan. Our laboratory make up the Cognitive Brain Science group headed by Dr Keiji Tanaka. It is part of the Brain Sciences Institute of the RIKEN Neuroscience facility, in Wako-shi, thirteen miles from the center of Tokyo . The BSI has units working at all levels of brain function, from the molecular, through the neuronal and anatomical, to the highest orders of brain function. Teams also work on theoretical and mathematical neuroscience developing models of brain function at different levels. The presence of so many brain science disciplines makes BSI one of the most exciting places to work in neuroscience today. The Laboratory is headed by Dr. Andreas A. Ioannides, who leads an international team of research workers.

For more information, please visit

About RIKEN Institute

RIKEN, one of Japan's leading research institutes, conducts basic and applied experimental research in a wide range of science and technology fields including physics, chemistry, medical science, biology and engineering. Initially established as a private research foundation in Tokyo in 1917, RIKEN became an independent administrative institution in 2003. For more information, visit

Source: RIKEN Institute

Labaratory For Human Brain Dynamics,
Brain Science Institute, RIKEN
2-1, Hirosawa, Wako-shi,
Saitama, 351-0198, JAPAN
Phone: +81-48-467-9737
Fax: +81-48-467-5973
Laboratory head, ioannides[at]

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Publication:JCN Newswires
Date:Jun 16, 2008
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