PhD position at KU Leuven on the contagious nature of cognitive control

We are looking for a motivated PhD student to conduct research in the field of cognitive control under the supervision of Eva Van den Bussche, Kobe Desender and Gethin Hughes.

The position is for four years (provided positive periodic evaluation), preferably starting Nov 2019 or earlier. Salary is according to standard Belgian regulations for PhD students (starting at around €2000 per month net salary). Candidates should have a Master’s degree in Psychology or Cognitive Neuroscience.

You will prepare a PhD within the field of cognitive control. Cognitive control kicks in when our routine behavior is no longer sufficient to perform well. The current project focuses on how the behavior of others influences this exertion of cognitive control. Crucially, we are interested in whether and how our cognitive control exertion is affected by the cognitive control exerted by the people surrounding us. Put differently: is cognitive control contagious?

Candidates are expected to carry out empirical work combining behavioral studies, EEG, and pupillometry. Experience with behavioral experimentation, programming, EEG, and/or pupillometry is an asset. In any case the candidate should be motivated to invest in these skills. The main supervisor is Eva Van den Bussche (KU Leuven) and co-supervisors are Kobe Desender (UGent/UKE Hamburg) and Gethin Hughes (University of Essex).

All information and the procedure to apply can be found here: https://www.kuleuven.be/personeel/jobsite/jobs/55012522.

Note that, to apply, you need to provide a CV (including two email addresses of academic referees) and motivation letter.
Interested candidates can apply until May 6.

COPS has moved to KU Leuven!

Since October 2018 our lab has moved to KU Leuven, where Eva Van den Bussche has accepted an associate research professorship (BOFZAP).
At the same time, Yannick Murray has joined our team as PhD researcher. He will be working on cognitive and physical effort.

New publication: Context-dependent modulation of cognitive control involves different temporal profiles of fronto-parietal activity

Abstract:
To efficiently deal with quickly changing task demands, we often need to organize our behaviour on different time scales. For example, to ignore irrelevant and select relevant information, cognitive control might be applied in reactive (short time scale) or proactive (long time scale) mode. These two control modes play a pivotal role in cognitive-neuroscientific theorizing but the temporal dissociation of the underlying neural mechanisms is not well established empirically. In this fMRI study, a cognitive control task was administered in contexts with mainly congruent (MC) and mainly incongruent (MI) trials to induce reactive and proactive control, respectively. Based on behavioural profiles, we expected cognitive control in the MC context to be characterized by transient activity (measured on-trial) in task-relevant areas. In the MI context, cognitive control was expected to be reflected in sustained activity (measured in the intertrial interval) in similar or different areas. Results show that in the MC context, on-trial transient activity (incongruent – congruent trials) was increased in fronto-parietal areas, compared to the MI context. These areas included dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and intraparietal sulcus (IPS). In the MI context, sustained activity in similar fronto-parietal areas during the intertrial interval was increased, compared to the MC context. These results illuminate how context-dependent reactive and proactive control subtend the same brain areas but operate on different time scales.

The results of this study, conducted by Bart Aben, Cristian Buc Calderon, Laurens Van de Cruyssen, Doerte Picksack, Eva Van den Bussche and Tom Verguts are published in NeuroImage.

Aben, B., Buc Calderon, C., Van der Cruyssen, L., Picksak, D., Van den Bussche, E., & Verguts, T. (2019). Context-dependent modulation of cognitive control involves different temporal profiles of fronto-parietal activity. NeuroImage, DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.02.004.

The article is available here.

New publication: Persistent modification of cognitive control through attention training

Abstract:
An important aspect of cognitive control is to direct attention towards relevant information and away from distracting information. This attentional modulation is at the core of several influential frameworks, but its trainability and generalisability remain unclear. To address this issue, two groups of subjects were invited to the lab on three consecutive days. On Day 2, they performed an arrow priming task which trained them to adopt an attentional bias towards (prime-attended group) or away from (prime-diverted group) a potentially conflicting prime. Direct generalisation of the attention training was measured by assessing task performance on the same task without the attentional manipulation directly after training (Day 2) and the next day (Day 3), and comparing it to baseline (Day 1). Performance on this direct transfer task showed a difference in attentional modulation between groups directly after training that persisted the next day. No cross-task generalisation was found to two other tasks that were closely or more remotely related to the trained task. Together, these results are in accordance with cognitive control frameworks that limit attentional modulation to the specific features of the trained task.

The results of this study, conducted by Bart Aben, Blerina Iseni, Eva Van den Bussche and Tom Verguts are published in Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Aben, B., Iseni, B., Van den Bussche, E., & Verguts, T. (2018). Persistent modification of cognitive control through attention training. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, DOI: 10.1177/1747021818757979.

The article is available here.

New publication: Semisupervised category learning facilitates the development of automaticity

Abstract:
In the human category of learning, learning is studied in a supervised, an unsupervised, or a semisupervised way. The rare human semisupervised category of learning studies all focus on early learning. However, the impact of the semisupervised category learning late in learning, when automaticity develops, is unknown. Therefore, in Experiment 1, all participants were first trained on the information-integration category structure for 2 days until they reached an expert level. Afterwards, half of the participants learned in a supervised way and the other half in a semisupervised way over two successive days. Both groups received an equal number of feedback trials. Finally, all participants took part in a test day where they were asked to respond as quickly as possible. Participants were significantly faster on this test in the semisupervised group than in the supervised group. This difference was not found on day 2, implying that the no-feedback trials in the semisupervised condition facilitated automaticity. Experiment 2 was designed to test whether the higher number of trials in the semisupervised condition of Experiment 1 caused the faster response times. We therefore created an almost supervised condition where participants almost always received feedback (95%) and an almost unsupervised condition where participants almost never received feedback (5%). All conditions now contained an equal number of trials to the semisupervised condition of Experiment 1. The results show that receiving feedback almost always or almost never led to slower response times than the semisupervised condition of Experiment 1. This confirms the advantage of semisupervised learning late in learning.

The results of this study, conducted by Katleen Vandist, Gert Storms and Eva Van den Bussche are published in Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics.

Vandist, K., Storms, G., & Van den Bussche, E. (2018). Semisupervised category learning facilitates the development of automaticity. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 1-21. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-018-1595-7

The article is available here.

New publication: Absence without leave or leave without absence: Examining the interrelations among mind wandering, metacognition and cognitive control

Abstract:
Despite the abundance of recent publications about mind wandering (i.e., off-task thought), its interconnection with metacognition and cognitive control has not yet been examined.
In the current study, we hypothesized that these three constructs would show clear interrelations. Metacognitive capacity was predicted to correlate positively with cognitive control ability, which in turn was predicted to be positively related to resistance to mind wandering during sustained attention. Moreover, it was expected that participants with good metacognitive capacity would be better at the subjective recognition of behaviorally present mind wandering. Three tasks were used: The Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) to measure mind wandering, a perceptual decision task with confidence ratings to measure metacognitive efficiency, and a conflict task to measure cognitive control. Structural Equation Modelling was used to test the interrelations among the three constructs. As expected, metacognitive efficiency was positively related to cognitive control ability. Surprisingly, there was a negative relation between metacognitive efficiency and the degree to which subjective mind wandering reports tracked the behavioral index of mind wandering. No relation was found between cognitive control and behavioral mind wandering. The results of the current work are the first to shed light on the interrelations among these three constructs.

The results of this study, conducted by Leonhard Drescher, Eva Van den Bussche and Kobe Desender are published in PLOS ONE.

Drescher LH, Van den Bussche E, Desender K (2018) Absence without leave or leave without absence: Examining the interrelations among mind wandering, metacognition and cognitive control. PLOS ONE 13(2): e0191639. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0191639.

The article is available here.

New publication: Subjective experience of difficulty depends on multiple cues

“The current study shows that the subjective experience of difficulty depends on multiple cues that are indicative of performance. It is shown that response conflict, reaction time, and response repetition influence subjective difficulty judgments. Trials that were congruent, fast or required the same response as the previous trial were more frequently rated as easy compared to trials that were incongruent, slow or had alternating responses. Moreover, the relative contribution of these cues can be changed by means of training: training participants to rely more on congruency or reaction time for their subjective difficulty judgment increased the influence of this cue on their judgment” (Desender et al., in press)

The results of this study, conducted by Kobe Desender, Filip Van Opstal and Eva Van den Bussche will soon be published in Scientific Reports.

Desender, K., Van Opstal, F., & Van den Bussche, E. (in press). Subjective experience of difficulty depends on multiple cues. Scientific Reports.

A Quantification of the Time Scale of Cognitive Control

“In this study, the autors have successfully applied a novel method to identify the time scale of cognitive control.
Shorter time scales of control were demonstrated when conflict was rare and when the context was volatile.
This is in line with theories assuming transient control (i.e., control over a shorter time scale) in rare-conflict
and volatile conditions, and sustained control (i.e., control over longer time scales) when conflict is more frequent.
The method offers promising and straightforward opportunities to quantify variations in the time scale of control between individuals and conditions” (Aben et al., in press).

The results of this study, conducted by Bart Aben, Tom Verguts and Eva Van den Bussche are published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.

Aben, B., Verguts, T., & Van den Bussche, E. (2017). Beyond Trial-by-Trial Adaptation: A Quantification of the Time Scale of Cognitive Control. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. [pdf] [R code .rar]

Metacognitive awareness drives the selection of low-demand contexts

“In three experiments, the authors provided evidence that the subjective experience that a task is difficult to perfom in a high-demand context plays a role in shaping the preference for a low-demand context. They conclude that the avoidance of cognitive demand depends on the metacognitive appreciation of the difference in cognitive demand” (Desender et al., 2017)

The results of this study, conducted by Kobe Desender, Cristian Buc Calderon, Filip Van Opstal and Eva Van den Bussche have been recently published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.

Desender, K., Buc Calderon, C., Van Opstal, F., & Van den Bussche, E. (2017). Avoiding the conflict: Metacognitive awareness drives the selection of low-demand contexts Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance.

The article is available Here