• Home
  • CV 2014
  • Sample Page

    Feb. 9, 2017

    February 9th, 2017

    I have published with Routledge a four volume edited set of classic paper in Attention.  I have established above a permalink (above in blue)  which will allow you download and  read or print my introduction, a time line of papers and a table of contents.  The book themselves can be ordered from the Routledge website but at a cost of  about $1260.  If you follow the table of contents you can probably download most of the full citations from your library much more cheaply.  I hope you enjoy the introduction and whichever papers you  read.


    Mike Posner

    Posner, M.I. (2017) Attention: a two and a half millenia guide to its sources. In M.I. Posner (ed)   The psychology of attention.  Vol. I-IV  Routledge:London:





    Oct 18 2016

    October 18th, 2016



    Mouse studies


    Our mouse study of the effects of a month of stimulation of the anterior cingulate by optogenetics has moved forward over the summer. We have found clear changes in behavior due to increased spiking of output neurons in a 1 or 8 Hz rhythm. We have reported these findings at several meetings and our in the process of preparing a paper on them. The most recent oral report was the Huttenlocher lecture at the Sept. meeting of FLUX. This should soon appear on the Flux website and give a good picture of our current work.

    We have also examined the underlying physiological changes due to stimulation. We have found that 1 Hz stimulation that increases the spiking of output neurons also yields an increase in oligodendrocytes. We are currently carrying on electron microscope (EM)studies that have the potential to show actual myelination and/or axonal density changes due to stimulation. Our paper will wait these finding. However, the change in oligodendrodtyes and the use of EM are discussed in the FLUX lecture.

    We have examined brain tissue from the stimulated mice to determine whether any geneswere up-regulated. It turns out that many genes related to intercellular communication are up-regulated in the 8Hz condition. We plan to study this in more detail following our learning studies in mice.

    We have begun to train mice in a discrimination learning paradigm. The mice can be trained and we will be using that to explore how learning influences their brain. Exploration of the stages of learning and how learning changes neural networks will be the focus of these studies over the coming several years.


    Human Studies

    In our previous post we have a paper on myelination and reaction time published in Cognitive Neuroscience. The paper received many comments and we have now provided additional information in our reply to comments below.


    Dr. Yiyuan Tang will conduct MRI studies of meditation and working memory learning at Texas Tech.                                                  One of the goals is to confirm the brain areas activated by the two methods of learning, a second is to see if the strength of the activation or of the white matter changes is correlated with improved RT following training. A third goal is to extract blood to determine if the same genes are up-regulated in humans as are found in mouse learning.


    We have designed a new set of studies based on what we have found so far in the mice.                                                                    These are summarized below:


    Experiment 1 Choosing stimulation parameters

    Our previous work has shown that humans given 20 hours of meditation training show improved efficiency of white matter in a number of tracts surrounding the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) as measured by Fractional Anisotropy (FA) in assays using Diffusion Tensor Imaging (Tang et al 2010, 2012).

    We proposed (Posner, Tang & Lynch, 2014) that the white matter change might be a consequence of increased theta oscillations in the area of the ACC, changing precursor oligodendrocytes to an active form that might improve axonal density or myelination.   To test this idea used mice who were treated so that neurons would be excited by laser light (optogenetics).   We then exposed mice to a month of 1, 8 or 40 Hz stimulation for 20 .5 hour sessions.  The laser stimulation of the ACC was compared to a no stimulation control group. We found a significant increase in active oligodendrocytes in the 1 Hz group, a small but insignificant increase in the 8 Hz group and a tendency toward a decrease in the 40 Hz group. In addition we found in behavioral tests following stimulation that the 8 Hz group spent significantly more time in the light when give a choice between light and dark areas than did the control, taken as a sign of reduced anxiety, and significantly more vertical rearing taken as a sign of exploration. The 1 Hz group showed the same tendency as the 8Hz group but the effects were smaller and non significant.

    We now propose a human trial to determine (1) if low frequency stimulation intrinsic to the ACC can be produced non invasively in humans and (2) if this stimulation can be produced safely, will it increase the efficiency of white matter as measured by Fractional Anisotropy (FA) in DTI and improved functional connectivity. In order to determine if activating a brain network can increase the influence of stimulation, participants will either undergo stimulation at rest or when carrying out the Attention Network Test (ANT). We expect that performing the ANT will activate the ACC and thus increase the level of intrinsic oscillations in that brain area during stimulation.

    Our first experiment compares the amplitude of low frequency neural oscillations in the area of the ACC induced by three different stimulation methods: (1) electrical stimulation from scalp electrodes (2) use of low frequency sensory stimulation in the form of amplitude modulated white noise or binaural beats and (3) biofeedback with instructions to relax and attempt to develop a state in which a visual display produces the highest level of relevant oscillatory activity (biofeedback). These three conditions will be compared to a control group who will practice the ANT (Attention network test) but will not undergo stimulation.

    Each person will be run for one hour in one of the conditions. For half of the session they will carry out the ANT (Attention Network Task) while undergoing stimulation and for the other half they will undergo stimulation at rest. Analysis of variance will compare each experimental group with control subjects both with and without the ANT.

    Experiment 2 Does internal stimulation change white matter?

    All subjects will be run in 22 sessions over a one month period. The first and last session will involve MRI. During these sessions DTI and fMRI will be collected while

    Performing the ANT and at rest. The 20 half hour long sessions will be devoted either to the selected stimulation method while performing the ANT or at rest (experimental) or reading a short story or performing the ANT (control). We will examine DTI and functional connectivity over the whole brain during the pre- and post-tests to determine differences between experimental and control group in improved efficiency of various white matter tracts. A similar analysis will be performed within each experimental subject between the condition when they are performing the ANT and those when they are not performing the ANT.

    These comparisons will tell us whether stimulation can influence changes in white matter or functional connectivity and its specificity to the ACC. We hypothesize that performing the ANT during training will tend to localize change to the ACC and perhaps other circuits involved in the task.

    Experiment 3 Does stimulation enhance meditation training?


    If our stimulation methods do improve FA we will determine if stimulation works by the same mechanism as meditation. One experimental group will be trained in IBMT over two weeks of ten .5 hour sessions. A second group will have the same .5 hour session of IBMT training along with .5 hour of stimulation. A third group will have stimulation alone. We will examine white matter change before and after training for each group using DTI and functional connectivity. If meditation and stimulation act by the same mechanism we expect that stimulation and meditation training will interact to produce the effect on white matter change. For example, white matter change might be greater when the two are applied together than for either one alone . If the two methods are independent there would be no significant interaction between training and stimulation.



    Posner, M.I., Tang, Y.Y. & Lynch, G. (2014) Mechanisms of white matter change   induced by meditation. Frontiers in Psychology published: 27 October 2014 doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01220


    Tang, Y., Lu, Q., Geng, X., Stein, E.A., Yang, Y., & Posner, M.I. (2010) Short termmental training induces white-matter changes in the anterior cingulate PNAS  107 16649-16652



    We continue to try to apply our framework to various issues in development, education and clinical areas.


    We received an invitation to prepare a paper on attention for Current Opinion in Pediatrics. The paper emphasizes very recent papers that are related to this topic and we have provided an on line pdf below.


    Recently Habibollah Ghassemzadeh paid a visit to Eugene. He brought a paper seeking to update exposure therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.. He worked with Mary Rothbart and me to connect historical work with current neurobiolgical studies related to attention. We have a draft paper which we hope to publish in the future after further work.

    I am working with Aron Barbey , Univ. of Illinois to develop a special issue of Trends in Neuroscience and Education on Intelligence. The announcement of the issues is below. We hope also to develop an approach to the topic based upon our current work.

    Special Issue on Intelligence and the Brain

    Co-Editors: Aron K. Barbey and Michael Posner


    Recent innovations in the psychological and brain sciences have advanced our understanding of human intelligence. Rather than engaging a single brain structure or operating at a fixed level of performance throughout adulthood, emerging evidence indicates that intelligence is mediated by a distributed neural system whose functions can be significantly enhanced by specific types of intervention. Early discoveries in the neurosciences revealed that experience can modify brain structure long after brain development is complete, but we are only now beginning to establish methods to enhance the function of specific brain systems and to optimize core facets of intellectual ability. It is now clear that experience alters the synaptic organization of the brain and that such changes reflect adaptive mechanisms for human learning and memory. In this Special Issue of Trends in Neuroscience and Education, we invite original empirical work, review and opinion papers, and methodological papers that: (1) promote an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the nature of human intelligence, calling for a synthesis of research across cognitive science and systems biology; (2) set the stage for major advances in the scientific effort to enhance intelligence through experimental intervention (e.g., cognitive training, aerobic fitness training, mindfulness meditation, etc.); and (3) demonstrate how the scientific effort to improve the mind is fundamentally changing our understanding of human intelligence – supporting new perspectives about its dynamic and adaptive nature and motivating new insights about how intelligence emerges through evolution and development, is cultivated through experience and cognitive training, and is altered through psychiatric illness and neurological disease.



    May 20 2016

    May 20th, 2016


    Child methylation final

    adult methylation final published

    White matter & RT final

    The three papers we have upload previously are now included in their final published form. Please ignore previous versions. An updated vita is included to provide full citation.

    The title White matter and RT is a discussion paper and we expect to have a number of commentaries from others working in this field.

    We are currently analyzing results from over 80 mice run over a month under our theta stimulation protocol.  We  believe that low frequency laser light (1 and 8 Hz) that  increases  activation of  output cells from the anterior cingulate produce a change in behavior in the mice. These mice spend more time in the light and less in the dark following the stimulation than do various control mice.  This suggests that low frequency stimulation reduces anxiety. It fits with our hypothesis in the meditation training in humans does reduce reported fear and produces less cortisol secretion to a cognitive challenge.  The data do not suggest that the effect is limited to theta since it was found with 1 Hz stimulation, but not with 40Hz or with a rhythm which involves inhibition of output activity.

    We also find an increase in active oligodendrocytes following 1 and 8 Hz stimulation.  In our data the results were stronger with 1 than with 8 Hz.  However, there was a decrease with 40Hz.  We hope to have a full analysis of these data with a few weeks.

    We are working on an analysis of the changes in axon density and in myelination from electron micrographs of axons in the ACC and control areas.  This analysis may not be finished until fall.

    We are also analyzing gene expression in the ACC of experimental (8Hz) and control (no illumination) mice.  The data are quite extensive and analysis will go on in the coming months and then we can post our results.


    Jan 2016

    January 8th, 2016

    Posner CV 2015


    I last posted in September so there is quite a bit to update.  We are now working on two ONR grants.  The first involves the test of theta stimulation in mice to determine whether frontal theta can produce a change in white matter.  Our preliminary report was posted in Sept. as ONR final.  It is still a good summary of where we are on the theta project. We believe that the definitive study will require use of electron microscopy (EM).  To this end we currently are testing mice exposed to various rhythms or controls with EM. I will attach a preliminary EM  below which clearly shows the axon and surrounding myelin. We hope to have results using the EM in several months.


    Our second ONR grant involves understanding the basis of human skill learning.  In this category we have conducted a child and adult study of the role of an epigenetic factors (methylation) in the learning and or performance of various skills.  In Sept. I posted a preliminary version of the child study which has now been updated.  We also have written the adult study which I have attached below.


    Child Nov 15 rev.

    In my view our two papers and the theta grant provide an important perspective in how changes in cognition might occur with training of skills.  Our view is heavily influenced by the idea that low frequency stimulation might aid in improving white matter tracts and the extent of that improvement might depend upon in part on the efficiency of methylation.  Our group has written a discussion paper outlining these ideas.  It is attached below.

    Tng and Cognition

    A basic idea we have about our work is that individual differences in an epigenetic factor such as methylation might be involved in the extent of improvement in skill learning on an individual basis.  We recognize that there is much still speculative about this idea, but we have begun to develop a strategy for further testing of the idea. This strategy will be the topic of future posts in the coming months.


    Sept. 2015

    September 4th, 2015

    Where has the summer gone!  Although I have had several periods of vacation I also had begun many new projects.

    In March 2015 ONR approved our new project to test the hypothesis that white matter changes found following meditation training were due to frontal theta.

    We are currently in the midst of testing that hypothesis.  I have attached our current report to ONR that provides an update on that project.

    ONR final


    We have completed and written a study of 70 children who practiced the Attention Network Test for three sessions.  The goal was to test a hypothesis of Dr. Pascale Voelker (the first author) about the involvement of  epigentic factors in the learning of skills. I have posted a copy of the paper. Dr. Voelker has now completed a study of 70 adults involved in three forms of skill learning. The new work replicates and extends the child work and we are currently working on a paper describing these results.

    Child submit


    2.5 Millenia of attention.

    I have completed an introduction to a four volume collection of classic works in the field of attention.  The collection begins 2500 years ago with passages from the Bhagavad Gita and the Way of Life. I have written a draft of the introduction to the volumes which is appended below.  The volumes are due for publication sometime in 2016.

    intro rev Sept3 final

    May 2015

    May 3rd, 2015

    Multitasking DR 2015

    A published version of our paper on multitasking is now available and I have attached a copy.

    We also have written a review of recent findings in training for Current Opinion in Behavioral Science.

    .Current Op Behav Sci. 2015

    Since our last post a mouse study designed to test the hypothesis that frontal theta as discussed in the October post causes white matter changes.   Since each group of mice require a month of training results will probably  not be available until late in this year or early  2016.

    We expect to begin our work on skill learning (discussed in October poste)  in mice and humans this summer.



    December 16th, 2014

    Connectivity accept

    Dr. Mary Courage invited us to submit a paper for a Special Issue of Developmental Review on the topic of multitasking.  For many months Mary Rothbart and I have been working to apply the study of attention networks to the multiple issues involved in multitasking.  We reviewed an extensive literature ranging from studies of how hierarchies of goals were implemented by the brain to studies of training by the use of video games and the issue of internet addiction.  We believe we have found and reported in the attached paper some important observations on the multiple issued involved in multitasking.  For example, I edited paper for PNAS which showed that multitaskers were poor  in switching attention.  This seems like a paradox because practice we thought was important for developing the executive attention network important for switching.  We now recognize the possibility that Stanford undergraduates who choose multitasking  (e.g. listening or watching programs while studying) may be high in sensation seeking and relatively low in other features of attention.  In the attached accepted, but not yet published, paper we discuss the literature that seems to provide insight into many issues of multitasking.

    For other projects currently underway check the July, August and October posts


    October 2014

    October 28th, 2014

    WM hypothesis.pdf

    I have entered into a new phase of research.  In October I published a hypothesis  in Frontiers in Psychology that suggests a molecular hypothesis on how white matter changes might occur from meditation and other forms of learning.

    The paper proposes that the frontal theta found during meditation and in other forms of learning causes a cascade of molcular events that activate dormant oligodendrocytes that leads to increased myelination (pdf above).

    I have received a small grant with Chris Niell to test this hypothesis by exposing the anterior cingulate of mice to theta by use of optogenetics.  We will assay whitematter change and for each of the links in the chain discussed in the paper.

    In addition with Mary Rothbart, Chris Niell  & Yiyuan Tang we have applied for a five year grant to use studies of mice and human to develop a neural basis for the various stages of skill learning posited by Fitts and Posner (1965).

    This work should complement our longitudinal study of attention networks in children, by examaining thei  role of attention networks  in the development of skills.




    August 2014 Update

    August 20th, 2014

    Consult my July page and CV for my other recent activities.


    I have begun the process of editing a four volume series of classic paper in the  field of attention.

    The project is described below

    At the turn of the 20th century Attention was seen as the central topic in human psychology.  One hundred years later the attentional  networks involved in selection of information, maintaining alertness,  self control, and management of emotions have been explored by brain imaging.   Understanding attention has become central to managing our electronic devices, raising our children and obtaining the most from reading, listening and searching our connected world.

    This four volume series provides the basis for understanding the progress made in over a century of empirical studies, theories and application.  The first volume lays out classical problems in the field revealing the limits of attention, creating methods for probing mechanisms related to attention and defining the limits of the field. The second volume examines critical theories that allow computer programs to simulate and predict how attention operates.  The third volume deals with the use of brain imaging, cellular recording and optogenetics to delineate how the brain carries out the functions of attention.  The final volume connects studies of attention to applications including,  connectivity to electronic media, brain based educational programs, economics of decision making, and psychopathologies.

    The volumes will be constructed following extensive consultation with leading investigators of attention and its related fields allowing the selection of important articles from different traditions around the world.  The volumes provide a  broad background in the field frequently missing in the training of new students and thuscould help a new generation of students make advances in basic research and application of  attention.


    Together with Mary Rothbart and Pascale Voelker we  have begun a project to understand the how network and state training lead to improvements in human skill.  The  attached proposal will provide the current background and projected work.

    Washburn rev Aug14

    Research update July 2014

    July 16th, 2014

    Update July   2014

    Colleagues and Viewers:


    I had not updated my website in several years, but have now learned how to do it. During the last few years I have been engaged in several projects outlined below. In these posts I will try to keep updates on what we find and how we are proceeding.


    Origin of Attention Networks

    We have just finished a longitudinal study begun at 7 months in 2004 and finishing in 2013 at age 8.  Among our discoveries in the transition from dominant control by the orienting network during infancy and early childhood to  the executive network at age 3-4.

    Our most recent paper shows that one can predict later network performance as shown on the Attention Network Test from temperament reported by parents at 7 months. Each network has a separate set of predictors.


    Posner, M.I. , Rothbart, M.K. Sheese, B.E. & Voelker, P. (2014)  Developing Attention: Behavioral and Brain Mechanisms.  Adv. In Neuroscience Advances in    Neuroscience Volume 2014, Article ID 405094

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/405094  NIHMSID 596939

    Dev. Attn Adv in Neuro 2014

    Mental Training

    We have been training undergraduates with a version of mindfulness meditation called Integrated Body Mind Training (IBMT).  When compared to relaxation training as a control condition as  little as five days of IBM improves attention and  mood and reduces stress.  After two to four weeks of training diffusion tensor imaging shows changes in white matter, first in axonal density and later in myelination.




    Tang, Y-Y.,Lu, Q., Fan, M., Yang, Y., & Posner,M.I. (2012) Mechanisms of White  Matter Changes Induced by Meditation  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA  109 (26)

    10570-10574  doi10/.1073pnas.1207817109

    PNAS-2012-WM mech




    Educational Neuroscience

    There has been a lot of interest in whether cognitive neuroscience can improve educational outcomes.  We have written two recent reviews on this topic that appeared in the ournal Trends in Neuroscience and Education.  They outline how attention training my improve self regulation and suggest pathways that relate changes in the executive attention network (anterior cingulate gyrus) to areas of the brain related to learning (hippocampus).


    Posner MI, Rothbart, MK.K. & Tang Y. (2013)  Developing self-regulation in earlychildhood. Trends in Neuroscience and Education


    Tines1 final proof

    Posner M.I. & Rothbart, M.K.Attention to learning of school subjects.(2014) Trends in Neuroscience  and Education


    TINE 2 2014 Learning



    Clinical Applications

    We have applied training methods to the study of tobacco addiction.   The results  showed a reduction of 60% in consumption even among those who had no intention to quit.

    This paper may cause a needed re-examination of the role of intention in addiction.  We are undertaking such an examination



    Tang, Y-Y, Tang, R., & Posner, M.I. (2013) Brief meditation training induces smoking reduction. Proceedings of the US National Academy 110/34  13971-13975


    PNAS-Tabacco 2013



    Various editors have asked me to summarize or update earlier paper I had written.  Recent efforts along these lines are mentioned below.


    Petersen, S.E. & Posner, M.I.  (2012)  The attention system of the human brain:20 years after.  Annual Review of Neuroscience 35, 71-89

    Ann review final

    In 1990 Petersen and I had written a widely cited review in the Annuall Review of Neuroscience we recently updated this on the request of the editors after 20 years.



    Posner, M.I.( 2012) Imaging attention networks. Neuroimage   61/2  450-456 doi 10.1016/neuroimage,2011.12.040


    On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Journal Neuroimage I was asked together with Jon Driver to write a review of neuroimaging studies of attention.  Unfortunately Jon Driver past away before he was able to write for this review and the article is dedicated to his memory and contribution

    Neuroimage20th Ann Attn


    Posner, M.I. (in press) Orienting of Attenton  Quarterly Journal ofExperimental Psychology


    In 1979 I delivered the 7th Sir Frederick Bartlett lecture under the title Orienting of Attention it was published in 1980 and has been cited more than 5,000 times the editors asked for an update that is to be published in 2014

    .OofA 20 years later


    Posner, M.I. (2013) The Expert Brain Ch 6 in J.J. Stazewski (ed) Expertise and skill

    Acquisition: The impact of William G. Chase London:Psychology Press

    pp 243-59


    A special event honoring the career of William G.Chase was held.  The resulting book covered developments in the field of expertise related to the work of Chase.  As a former teacher and friend of Chase I was invited to present the paper mentioned above which was published in 2013.  I  feel this review provides a good background in how cognitive neuroscience has and can influence this field.

    Expertise 2013


    Skip to toolbar