MAR 15, 2017 10:30 AM PDT

Neuroanatomical substrates underlying attentional processing

Presented At Neuroscience 2017
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  • Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology, College of William & Mary
      Professor Burk received a B.S. in Psychology from the University of California-Davis, an M.A. and Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of New Hampshire, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Ohio State University. He joined the William & Mary faculty in 2002 where is currently an Associate Professor and Chair. Professor Burk was also Director of the Neuroscience Program from 2011-2015 and is currently a Faculty Affiliate in that program. Professor Burk's laboratory studies the neural basis of attention, learning, memory and impulsivity. He has largely focused on the role of cholinergic projections to the cortex in these processes and how these projections are regulated by the neuropeptides orexins (or hypcretins). His laboratory has been funded by grants from the NIH, NARSAD and the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation. His research interests have expanded to studying how neurodiverse students can be more accepted on campus. He has earned some awards including the Phi Beta Kappa's John D. Rockefeller Award for Advancement of Scholarship and a Plumeri Award for Faculty Excellence.


    Basal forebrain cholinergic inputs to the cortex are known to contribute to attentional performance. A major focus of my laboratory has been to study the receptors mediating the effects of acetylcholine on attention. The goal of this research is to develop novel therapeutic approaches for treating cognitive disorders associated with dysfunctional attentional processing. A second research area has been to understand the roles of the neuropeptides, orexins (or hypocretins), in attention. Specifically, our major focus has been on the role of orexins that project to the basal forebrain. Collectively, these experiments have provided evidence that declines in orexinergic activity impair attention whereas enhancement of orexinergic activity can enhance attention under some conditions. A final emerging area that will be discussed is the use of attentional training to enhance learning of other tasks.

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