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Rosalind Franklin Lecture Birkbeck Science Week by Prof. Gaia Scerif

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Title: Attention, Nature and Nurture

Speaker: Professor Gaia Scerif, Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Oxford

Attention plays a crucial role in biasing incoming information in favour of what is relevant to our goals and actions. Developmental data illustrate how attention development is best understood as both influencing and influenced by prior experience. Data from children receiving early genetic diagnoses associated with high risk of attention deficits in late childhood suggest that early attention and its development over time predicts later behavioural deficits and classroom outcomes. Understanding the adverse effects of these attention difficulties also requires studying how attention gates learning over typical development. Here, our recent data highlight the interplay between attention, memory and learning. Children and young adults differ in the extent to which they deploy attention to optimize their memory. At the same time, attention effects are not unidirectional: previously learnt information guides later attention deployment, in adulthood and in childhood. In conclusion, assessing attention development, both in populations at high genetic risk for attention difficulties and over typical development, points to the dynamical interplay between attention and experience.

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