Attention, Perception and Emotion; it’s implication for behaviour modification protocols

A slide representation of the role that distraction, attention, perception and emotion play in attentional blindness and its potential use in behaviour modification.

I will aim to keep it brief and simple.

What I would like to know is, how the load theory explains the effects of learning around an object that is preferentially perceived as a high load in any eventuality?

I would also like to consider what impact load capacity and attentional blindness have on emotions and learning. How beneficial are set ups using control load based behaviour outputs to the animal? The suggestion here is that we can compete preferentially with arousing stimuli and the connotation is that we have the ability to capitalise on the limited attentional capacity in high load environments. Whoop!!!!!

Any discipline that requires the use of attention, emotions, perception and learning can utilize this type of information for any animal whatsoever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Perhaps not a virus or a vicious reptile, but you get my point. There is around a 90% similarity between Rat and human DNA and a huge degree of functional homology among animal brains, particularly in mammals.

I was fortunate enough to watch Professor Nillie Lavie give her account of the load theory this week. She works at the cognitive neuroscience laboratory at UCL (slides referenced to her).

Perception and attention are fascinating areas and I just wanted to share a couple of the lecture slides to help anyone interested in the subject, to gain an insight into who is doing what in this area.

I am going to keep this brief because I am supposed to be writing the puppy 7 day survival guide and my attention got caught on this subject ( I obviously perceive this to be high load because I clearly have attentional deafness on all other things and a highly reduced capacity to focus on anything else) and I just wanted to make sure the information was available to anyone who might be interested in this subject.

Here we go!

Research on ADHD has been a great model to suggest possible task loading exercises on attention and this graph shows how effective this is!

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So what?

Well, the effects of mind wandering are reduced if the attention is on the task load at hand (high load). Ever been driving and nearly crashed your car because you saw something more interesting?

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Then we look at and compare the effects of auditory system compared with visual system. Testing inattentional blindness and deafness on a series of tasks, to see how well people performed with varying intensities of load capacity and what affect this had on attention.



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And then we showed how you can measure attention with these high load tasks and it showed that there was no capacity for information other than the high load task. No room, too much activity in the high load task and the subject is blind to external distrations.


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Then we looked at neuroimaging, a brain area called V5 (responsible for motion related activity) in the occipital lobe and found that it had a significantly reduced activity when a word task was performed. So, this showed, that when a high load and low load task were compared the activity was significantly lower in a low load task.


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And then we consider other perceptual constructs which have emotional implications.

It was found, that if something was emotionally arousing and then the perceptual load of that task was altered to move the perception to another brain area and AWAY from the Amygdala (area responsible for emotional arousal) AKA, the emotional response did not happen!!!!

This is because, the brain needs the attention load to be on the high load task. This shows a limited capacity for attention. Please note: low load, will not have this effect and the proof of this will probably be in the type of context you add to your behaviour protocols, because if the animal does not have his attention elsewhere he is probably on high load with the emotional stimulus which is causing the amygdala response. Does that make sense?

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The TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) was used to measure the cortical excitability. The excitability is reduced when there are high load tasks. What are the implications for this as a long term treatment protocol?

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Could be a useful tool in explaining how to deal with irrelevant distraction to promote learning and engagement and a possible treatment strategy to help deal with highly arousing stimuli.

This for me, is a great reinforcement scientifically, to support protocols in behaviour modification, that implement the training of alternate high load behaviours (ie behaviours that take up the attentional capacity of the animal and away from those that could be overly arousing). Here we have some evidence that attentional blindness prevents the amygdala from highjacking the whole show.

Lavie is responsible for the Load theory.

In summary, when you have a low load task you will have full perception and in high load tasks you have limited capacity and attentional blindness. Lets use it to our advantage!


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I hope you found this of suitable load capacity to maintain your attention.

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