Attentional modulation of cognition and emotion: Evidence from measures of mood, self-regulation, and functional connectivity within the cerebral cortex
Attention allows us to select important aspects of incoming sensory information while filtering out irrelevant information. It has crucial significance in understanding neurophysiological, emotional and behavioral outcomes. The research reported here focused on one central question: how do attentional manipulations influence various stages of cognition and emotion to result in goal-directed behavior? In six experiments, I used behavioral and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) measures to investigate the impact of attention on visual recognition, mood and self-regulation. The results showed that attention influences functional connectivity between body-selective visual processing areas in occipito-temporal cortex. Changes in the scope of attention were also found to influence mood and self-regulation. Broadening attentional focus improves mood and self-regulation. Narrowing attentional focus impairs mood and self-regulation. Self-regulation was also aided through the pre-engagement of attentional inhibition. This diverse set of methodologies and experimental paradigms provides converging evidence that attention influences goal-relevant functional connections to facilitate visual processing, promotes fluency of information to result in better mood and prioritizes goal-relevant representations to result in successful self-regulation.