Research Interests

A. Executive control

1. Neuroimaging to identify brain systems involved in attentional control in neurologically-intact individuals

We have an on-going line of research examining the role of the prefrontal and parietal regions in attentional and executive control. This research examines the role that each region plays in attentional control as well as the way in which these regions interact. Examples of this work include Banich et al. 2000, a,b, and Milham et al. 2002, 2003.

2. Neuroimaging and neuropsychological approaches to understand attentional problems in clinical populations

Currently we are taking our model of attentional control and using it to understand problems of attentional regulation in clinical populations. We have a 5-year NIMH funded grant in collaboration with Erik Willcutt to investigate this question in individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. We are also collaborating with Dr. Thomas Crowley in the Psychiatry Department at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center to examine attentional dysfunction in adolescents with severe substance and conduct problems. In collaboration with Dr. Robert Freedman in the Psychiatry Department at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, we are also examining attentional dysfunction in individuals with schizophrenia. All three of these projects take advantage of the knowledge about the genetic bases of these disorders provided by the Institute of Behavioral Genetics at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

3. Development of executive function during adolescents

We are part of a multi-site study founded by the MacArthur Foundation Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice to investigate how executive functions develop from the preteen years through early adulthood. This study will be examining three major aspects of executive control: a) the ability to self-regulate one's behavior, 2) the ability to make decisions and 3) the ability to understand and plan for the future. These abilities are being assessed behaviorally through a series of cognitive and psychosocial measures.

B. Interhemispheric interaction

This line of research examines how interaction between the cerebral hemispheres plays a role in attentional regulation. We have found that as processing demands increase the hemispheres become more integrated in their processing. In contrast, when task demands are relatively easy, the hemispheres work in a more independent manner (see Banich, 1998, 2003 for a review). Currently we are working with Dr. Jack Simon of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center to examine how demyelination of the corpus callosum affects attentional control in individuals with Multiple Sclerosis (see also information about graduate student Benjy Jacobson).

C. Interface of cognition and emotion

We are currently expanding our research program to understand the interface between cognition and emotion (see for example Compton et al. 2003). These studies have two foci. One investigates how attentional regulation is the same or different for emotional as compared to non-emotional materials (see also information about graduate students Brendan Depue and Anson Whitmer). The other investigates how personality influences executive functioning (see also information about graduate student Eric Claus).