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Dr Bianca De Haan
Associate Dean (Student Experience) / Senior Lecturer

Research Interests

I am interested in selective attention, with a particular emphasis on the mechanisms and anatomy of selective attention in dynamic multi-target environments (such as traffic environments) that are characterised by high levels of stimulus competition across both visual fields.

Using a combination of fMRI, TMS, EEG, lesion-symptom mapping and psychophysical methods in neurologically healthy subjects and neuropsychological patients, we focus on the following questions:

What cognitive processes and neural anatomy underlie failures of multi-target attention in extinction patients?Extinction is a common consequence of unilateral brain damage where patients are able to detect both ipsi- and contralesional information presented in isolation, but are unable to attend and respond to contralesional information in situations where ipsilesional information is concurrently present. That is, these patients show a selective inability to attend and respond in multi-target environments, whereas their ability to attend and respond in single-target environments is intact. Therefore, studying these patients could provide unique insights concerning the cognitive processes and neural anatomy critical for the ability to attend and respond in multi-target environments. Currently, however, the precise cognitive processes and neural anatomy that underlie extinction remain poorly understood.

What are the determinants of effective multi-target attention in the real world?

In everyday life, we are typically confronted with dynamic multi-target scenes that require us to attend simultaneously to multiple non-contiguous spatial locations. Traffic scenes are a quintessential example of such dynamic multi-target environments. In the UK alone, around 2000 people die each year in traffic-related accidents (WHO, 2019). To reduce accidents in these dynamic multi-target environments, understanding how healthy subjects navigate these environments, and which factors modulate this ability, is essential. 

How do spatial and non-spatial attention interact? 

Selective attention reflects both spatial (i.e. the deployment of selective attention in space) and non-spatial (i.e. the amount of processing resources available for attentional selection) attentional aspects. Previous research suggests that these aspects of attention rely on overlapping brain areas. Moreover, modulations of non-spatial attention have been shown to affect the deployment of spatial attention in both neurotypical and neurological populations. What we currently do not know is how precisely these spatial and non-spatial aspects of selective attention interact. 

How can we improve lesion-behaviour mapping approaches? 

Lesion-behaviour mapping is a popular tool to investigate the functional architecture of the brain. Beyond guiding scientists in the use of this method, we are actively involved in the methodological development and evaluation of lesion-behaviour mapping.

Research grants and projects


Visual short-term memory capacity and multi-target attention
Funder: Brunel Research Initiative & Enterprise Fund (BRIEF)
Duration: September 2018 - May 2022
Selective attention and perceptual awareness: Testing the competitive interaction hypothesis (renewal)
Funder: German Research Foundation
Duration: February 2015 - January 2018
Selective attention and perceptual awareness: Testing the competitive interaction hypothesis
Funder: German Research Foundation
Duration: February 2012 - January 2015