Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Aaron Buss

Committee Members

Daniela Corbetta, Caglar Tas, Shannon Ross-Sheehy, Xiaopeng Zhao


Attention is the initial step in a cascade of perception and action. Cognitive processing, and subsequent encoding and retrieval are dependent on the success of attentional engagement and efficiency. Attention can be described as the ability to maintain an alert state, orient to internal and external events, and self-regulate responses to those events. In infancy, attention develops from being primarily exogenously drawn to endogenously controlled. Executive attention develops in late infancy and on in to early childhood and is considered a higher level of attentional functioning that involves not only attending to objects but attending to specific features of objects. Although executive attention is thought to build upon basic attentional processing such as orienting, alerting, and shifting, the relationship between these attention functions is unclear. Further, the relationship between these attentional functions and those involved in common measures of executive functioning (e.g., a collection of cognitive processes that aid in goal directed behavior) is unclear. The current project aims to characterize the relationship between different aspects of attention during the toddler to early childhood years via multiple methods to examine these relationships between brain and behavior during a battery of attention and executive functioning tasks. Specifically, fNIRS is employed to examine connectivity of these three attentional networks at rest (e.g., resting state functional connectivity) and compare how connectivity between and within regions relates to event-related hemodynamics, functional connectivity, and eye-movement data in a battery of tasks. Further, behavioral data and risk survey criteria are used to probe both eye-movement and neural data as well as group children by performance and risk level to further probe the developmental profiles associated with various brain-behavioral relationships.

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