Our research investigates three main questions:
- How does the brain pay attention?
Attention and working memory are two important cognitive systems that interact with each other to allow for fluid behavior. Attention allows for selection between relevant and irrelevant information, while working memory allows relevant information to be maintained and manipulated over time. In our lab, we use behavioral methods, event-related potentials (ERPs), and functional MRI to investigate attention and working memory. We are particularly interested in understanding how these systems work together to select and de-select information. In addition, we examine the effect of attention selection on affective processing.
- Why do stress, disease, and aging degrade and deplete our attention?
Many sources of stress, injury, and disease states, as well as normal healthy aging, have deleterious effects on cognitive functioning. Common examples that can negatively influence cognitive functioning include career and workplace stress, academic stress, psychological/brain injury and illness, and military deployment. The Jha Lab investigates how these prevalent occurrences influence our cognitive and affective capacity and performance. In addition, we examine how core mechanisms of attention may be altered as a function of experiencing chronic cognitive challenge.
- What can we do to optimize and strengthen our attention and resilience?
In the face of depleting circumstances such as stress, professional demands, disease, trauma, or aging, strengthening attentional capacity and resilience offers a way to optimize performance in the face of increasing demands. Resilience in the face of high-stress conditions promotes the ability to perform well under cognitively and affectively demanding situations. Whether in the office, the battlefield, the classroom, or at home, focused attention and resilience in the face of oncoming demands are crucial to maintain top performance and productivity. Strengthening attention and resilience are critical to promote optimal functioning in many demanding circumstances.