How do attention and working memory exert their influence on the brain’s information processing?

One important line of research in our lab investigates how attention, working memory, and related executive functions exert their influence on information processing in the human brain. Using functional MRI and ERPs, as well as behavioral tasks involving parametric manipulations of cognitive demand, we have learned that attentional selection mechanisms bias perceptual processing during attention (e.g., Jha, 2002; Sreenivasan et al., 2009), working memory (e.g., Sreenivasan and Jha, 2007) and long-term memory (e.g., Sreenivasan et al., 2011) tasks, and may similarly bias activity during emotional processing (e.g., Brudner et al., 2018). In our current projects we are exploring dynamic adjustments in cognitive control as a function of manipulations of cognitive load and distractor interference (e.g., Witkin et al., 2020).


Witkin, J., Zanesco, A. P., Denkova, E., & Jha, A. P. (2020). Dynamic adjustments in working memory in the face of affective interference. Memory & Cognition, 48, 16-31.

Brudner, E. G., Denkova, E., Paczynski, M., & Jha, A. P. (2018). The role of expectations and habitual emotion regulation in emotional processing: an ERP investigation. Emotion, 18(2), 171-180.

Sreenivasan, K. K., Sambhara, D., & Jha, A. P. (2011). Working memory templates are maintained as feature-specific perceptual codes. Journal of Neurophysiology, 106, 115-121.

Sreenivasan, K. K., Goldstein, J., Lustig, A., Rivas, L., & Jha, A. P. (2009). Attention to faces modulates early face processing during low but not high face discriminability. Attention, Perception and Psychophysics, 71(4), 837-846.

Sreenivasan, K. K., Katz, J., & Jha, A. P. (2007). Temporal characteristics of top-down modulations during working memory maintenance: An event-related potential study of the N170 component. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 19(11), 1836-1844.

Jha, A. P. (2002). Tracking the time-course of attentional involvement in spatial working memory: An event-related potential investigation. Cognitive Brain Research, 15(1), 61-69.

Collaborations on this topic

Banks, J.B., Mallick, A., Nieto, A.C., Zanesco, A. P., & Jha, A. P. (2022) The role of affective interference and mnemonic load in the dynamic adjustment in working memory. Memory & Cognition.

Denefrio, S., Simmons, A., Jha, A. P., & Dennis-Tiwary, T. (2017). Emotional cue validity effects: The role of neurocognitive responses to emotion. PLoS ONE, 12(7), 1-18.

Dolcos, F., Miller, B., Kragel, P., Jha, A. P., & McCarthy, G. (2007). Regional brain differences in the effect of distraction during the delay interval of a working memory task. Brain Research, 1152, 171-181.

Petrella, J. R., Townsend, B. A., Jha, A. P., Ziajko, L. A., Slavin, M. J., Lustig, C., Hart, S. A., & Doraiswamy, P. M. (2005). Increasing memory load modulates regional brain activity in older adults as measured by fMRI. Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences, 17(1), 75-83.