Brain Damage and Aging in the Attentional System


Normal behaviour relies on a robust top-down selective attention mechanism that can filter out vast amounts of goal-irrelevant information.

Consequently, impairment in this selection mechanism may have profound impact on daily life. In this module we will discuss two different scenarios in which attention is impaired:

  1. Following brain damage to parietal brain regions
  2. In normal ‘healthy’ aging

The module will review these scenarios while highlighting the behavioural impact on one hand and the neurological substrate on the other.  

As such the link between brain and behaviour (both in healthy and impaired populations) will be at the heart of the module.

We will also evaluate current attempts at ameliorating impaired attention in both brain damaged patients and normal aging as well as potential future directions.

  • Selective attention – the ultimate filter
  • Different attention mechanisms/functions (Spatial-, Feature-, Object-attention and Executive attention control)
  • Neural mechanisms of selective attention
  • The effect of parietal brain damage – Neglect and the hemisphere imbalance theory
  • Rehabilitation attempts of Neglect


  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Tutorial drop-ins
  • Self-directed study


The module will put focus on critical evaluation of previous studies and as such will include one coursework assessment that emphasises critical thinking.  

The coursework will be supported by a seminar which will be dedicated to critical assessment of published papers in the field.

  • Coursework (50%): Students will be required to write a review of a paper within the module topic including introduction and rationale, methods and results, and discussion.
  • Exam (50%): A 90 minutes exam – students will be required to write 2 essays (out of a choice of 5)