Christmas CBBM Lecture "Neural dynamics of the primate attention network"

by Prof. Sabine Kastner,

Princeton Neuroscience Institute,

Princeton University

will take place on Tuesday, December 20, 2016 from 17:15 to 18:15 hours in CBBM Research Building, EG, Room 50/51.

Host: Prof. Jonas Obleser
Institute of Psychology I
Universität zu Lübeck


The selection of information from our cluttered sensory environments is one of the most fundamental cognitive operations performed by the primate brain. In the visual domain, the selection process is thought to be mediated by a static spatial mechanism – a ‘spotlight’ that can be flexibly shifted around the visual scene. This spatial search mechanism has been associated with a large-scale network that consists of multiple nodes distributed across all major cortical lobes and includes also subcortical regions.  To identify the specific functions of each network node and their functional interactions is a major goal for the field of cognitive neuroscience.  In my lecture, I will challenge two common notions of attention research.  First, I will show behavioral and neural evidence that the attentional spotlight is neither stationary nor unitary. In the appropriate behavioral context, even when spatial attention is sustained at a given location, additional spatial mechanisms operate flexibly in parallel to monitor the visual environment. Second, spatial attention is assumed to be under ‘top-down’ control of higher order cortex. In contrast, I will provide neural evidence indicating that attentional control is exerted through thalamo-cortical interactions.  Together, this evidence indicates the need for major revisions of traditional attention accounts.


Sabine Kastner studies the neural basis of visual perception, attention, and awareness using a translational approach that combines neuroimaging in humans and monkeys, monkey physiology and studies in patients with brain lesions. Dr. Kastner earned an M.D. degree from the Heinrich-Heine University of Düsseldorf (Germany) and received a Ph.D. degree in neurophysiology from the Georg-August University, Göttingen (Germany) under the mentorship of the late Otto Creutzfeldt. After a postdoc at the Max-Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Goettingen and an internship in psychiatry, Dr. Kastner joined Leslie Ungerleider’s and Robert Desimone’s lab at the NIMH in Bethesda (1996-2000) before taking on a faculty position at Princeton, where she currently holds the rank of full professor. Dr. Kastner has served as the Scientific Director of Princeton’s neuroimaging facility since 2005. Dr. Kastner has published more than 100 articles in journals and books and has edited the Handbook of Attention (Oxford University Press, 2014). She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Society. Dr. Kastner’s contributions to the field of cognitive neuroscience were recognized with the Young Investigator Award from the Cognitive Neuroscience Society in 2005. Dr. Kastner serves on several editorial boards and is a Senior Editor for the Journal of Neuroscience.