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Initial Training Network: Lateralized Attention Networks

Final Report Summary - ITN-LAN (Initial training network: lateralised attention networks)

ITN-LAN is composed of eight senior researchers from six European states dedicated to solving the mysteries of attention and cognitive control organisation in the brain. The network start date was September 2008. Following 48 months of activity, we are pleased to report that all the initial objectives were successfully met and we carry on in line with these objectives further.

From personnel point of view, ITN-LAN's main objective was to open nine research positions for young European researchers at the beginning of their scientific career, and we are pleased to report that this goal was fully met. We aimed to employ at least 40 % women and this goal was also met with 6 women among our 9 young researchers (66 %).

Not only does ITN-LAN brings together eight research teams with established international reputations in cognitive neuroscience research, but more importantly, it is founded on well-established collaborations. These collaborations involve methodological sharing of recently developed techniques (e.g. ERPs, non-invasive brain stimulation, magnetic and electrical, TMS and tDCS respectively), and cutting edge brain-computer interface (BCI) systems, that allow us to explore the mechanisms underlying attention networks as never before.

The long-term scientific objectives of ITN-LAN were to:

1. validate and standardise a behavioural battery for assessing the attentional networks of the two cerebral hemispheres and their interaction;
2. study its neurophysiological correlates using electroencephalography / event-related potential (EEG / ERP), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) and transcranial magnetic stimulation / transcranial direct-current stimulation (TMS / tDCS);
3. assess methods for modulating the attention networks in each hemisphere and their interaction using: (i) biofeedback of the participants' ongoing EEG or fMRI, (ii) TMS / tDCS to generate selective 'virtual lesions' of hemispheric attentional networks, and (iii) apply the findings in cases of 'locked-in' phenomena.

We are pleased to report that all projects were completed remarkably well according to plan, and the scientific objectives were fully met.

The attention behavioural battery (objective 1) was completed, it is accessible to the public on the ITN-LAN website, and was already used in several studies (e.g. Asanowicz et al., 2012; Kanai et al., 2012; Siéroff & Riva, 2011; Van der Lubbe et al., 2012; Vergilino-Perez et al., 2012). The main finding from this stage is laterlaisation of the attentional bias theory, which was later applied to achieve objectives 2 and 3.

As per the neurophysiological correlates of the lateralised attention systems (objective 2), the teams of ITN-LAN employed various cognitive neuroscience tools to address these objectives. There are many significant findings here, including:

- a series of psychological tests and physiological measures, as well as neurological assessments were developed to predict treatment success in chronic stroke (Rome). Attention and neglect turned out to predict treatment success;
- an improved cognitive control was reported following a direct stimulation protocol (Hull and London);
- ERP recordings of the LANT tests prove that sLORETA is a well-suited tool for investigating dynamics and topography of attentional networks (Warsaw);
- a classical semantic conditioning design was developed to allow basic yes/no communication as an alternative to instrumental-operant learning paradigm within the BCI projects (Tuebingen);
- the hemispheric asymmetry of attention systems was tested in normal brains. The results did not clearly show a hemispheric difference according to the dichotomy early / late processing, but they suggest a difference regarding the selection (right visual field advantage when the complexity of the task is increased (Paris);
- brain imaging protocol to record brain plasticity during a visu-spatial learning task was developed (London);
- EEG changes during attention tasks were recorded (Israel).

The greatest challenge was to develop efficient intervention methods to treat and improve attention problems (objective 3). We are pleased to produce we developed several promising directions here, including:

- EEG neurofeedback (see Rozengurt et al., 2011);
- fMRI neurofeedback (Sitaram et al., 2009);
- CBI (Furdea et al., 2009; Halder et al., 2010, 2011; Liberati et al., 2012; van der Heiden et al., 2012);
- non-invasive brain stimulation, TMS / tDCS (Dockery et al., 2009; Hecht et al., 2010; Taylor et al., 2011; Tseng et al., 2012; Jacobson et al., 2012; Weiss et al., 2012);
- cognitive training (Chouake et al., 2012; Hecht et al., 2012; Levy et al., 2010; Ditye et al., 2012).

For a full list of the ITN-LAN publications mentioned above see the final report table or visit our website at http://www.itn-lan.uni-tuebingen.de