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    February 2020

    February 12th, 2020

    I apologize for the long delay in updating this blog.  Our research mouse research has moved forward with an effort to study skill learning.  We have published a paper in which we teach a simple association skill to mice and block activity in either the anterior cingulate (attention) or the hippocampus (memory). I have attached the paper below

    Mouse learning #1 Aug 22 2019


    I have also written a general summary of our current mouse studies in a paper presented in a Festschrift for Dr.Robert Rafal.  This paper gives a good current summary of our efforts to achieve a method of improving white matter in any location of the human brain in the context of the work we carried out with Dr.Rafal during his training. The paper is attached below and is published in the journal Cortex

    Rafal Festschrift Cortex in press

    Our goal is to use the combined mouse and human studies to develop techniques to restore white matter in the human brain. We are currently testing if we can improve intrinsic theta in various brain region and thus activate dormant oligodendrocytes and the improve white matter in human brains and we did in the mouse brain.  While we await the out come of these studies I attach some relevant clinical paper we have written to better understand the role of attention in mental disorders.


    Yale Attn & MENTAL HEALTH


    We were asked to comment on a recent article in the American J of Psychiatry showing some of the brain areas in adolescent fear. In the commentary below we provide a perspective of the control of fear over the life span.

    Fear control of AJP ed comment

    We have conducted studies to determine the best method for non invasive improvement in intrinsic theta. In our first study we compare electrical stimulation, auditory stimulation and biofeedback as a way of increasing theta in the ACC.  We are preparing a paper showing that stimulation with electrical theta rhythms from the scalp while also carrying on a task that activates the ACC is the best way we found to increase theta.  We are also conducting a study in which we seek to improve intrinsic theta rhythms for 20 days to determine if we increase connectivity while altering white matter.  This study is currently underway. We hope to report further results on these efforts in the next few months.



    December 2018

    December 26th, 2018

    Piscopo et al-2f3mt6o

    December 2018

    In my previous post I attached the published Piscopo paper on the effects of stimulation on the mouse brain. However, the attachment did not work.  Because most of my more recent work depends on this paper I have attached it again and this time it should work.

    Currently we have a number of papers and chapters recently published, in press and in process.  These try to extend our theta stimulation efforts to humans and discuss some of their application. I will be posting these papers over the coming month and updating this blog.

    Sorry for the difficulties


    August 2018

    August 6th, 2018

    Piscopo et al-2f3mt6o

    At long last our new mouse paper is published (see above Piscopo et al). It  documents the physiological changes that accompany low frequency stimulation of the anterior cingulate using optogenetic methods.  I am very grateful to Cris and Denise Niell and Aldis Weible for spearheading this study. It largely confirms our hypothesis that the meditation effects on white matter are due to the frontal theta rhythm that we have found to accompany meditation learning.

    Our mouse work continue with studies of skill learning and we are pursuing enhancing theta  human with scalp stimulation. More on these studies will appear in future posts.


    Feb 2018

    February 13th, 2018

    We have written several new papers and chapters related to applications of attention to individual differences, pathology and education.  I have added a brief introduction and pasted each,             one below.

    1.  Mary Rothbart and I wrote an opinion piece currently in press in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B entitled Temperament and Brain Mechanisms of Attention. In this piece we try to connect work on the networks of attention to the study of early development of temperament.  The proof of the current draft is below                                                                  Proof of article Jan4-19vc5v2
    2. We were asked to write a chapter on Human Brain Development for a new volume titled  Handbook of Parenting and Child Development Across the Lifespan edited by Sanders and Marowski in Australia, We attempted to select studies of brain development that were most important for parents and those who carry out research on parenting. We summarized work on language,  and self regulation that we thought  best represented this combination.   The current draft of our chapter is below                                                                                             parenting final sub-12b77io
       3.  Mary Rothbart was asked to revise a previous chapter in the Cambridge Handbook of    Personality Psychology edited by Corr and Matthews to include more of the work on brain networks in relation to temperament and personality. Mary asked me to help along with Brad Sheese and working together we wrote a rather extensive revision. The chapter is still in the editing stage but we include our current draft. It was actually written before we were asked to contribute the opinion piece on attention and temperament pasted above, so there is some overlap between the two.                                                                                                                                                                       Hndbk  of personality  final to submit-2gumn4b
    4, 5. Mary Rothbart and I have been working with Prof.Habibollah Ghassemzadeh of Tehran Medical College on relating attention networks to  psychopathology.  One article on the diagnosis and treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was recently  published in the International Journal of Psychiatry.  We have pasted the pdf of the article below.
    OCD review article final-1q7saws
       We have now developed an approach to anxiety disorders in general,   based on the most recent studies of attention networks.  We have submitted the article for publication and the current draft is attached.
    New Habib final to sub-2g9klst
     6.  I have joined with Prof. Aron Barbey to edit a special issue of Trends in Neuroscience and Education on Intelligence. I have drafted a brief piece on the topic which may be integrated with Dr. Barbey’s approach as an introduction to the  volume.  My contribution in pdf form is available below
    IQ ms jan 2-1228mw6
      I will provide updates on articles we are currently working on and these papers in final form over the coming months.

    Jan 2018

    January 27th, 2018

    The year of 2017 has been an active one.  I have listed below new publications during 2017 from my vita.  These papers and chapters in pdf form are available by writing to me at mposner@uoegon.edu

    Gahassemzadeh, H., Rothbart,M.K. & Posner, M.I. (2017) Mechanisms of response prevention and the use of   exposure therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder   International Journal of Psychiatry 1/2

    Posner, M.I.(ed) (2017) Psychology of Attention 4 volumes of classic papers in attention  London: Routledge pp 1-2266

    Posner, M.I. (2017) Introduction to 2.5 millinea research on attention In M.I. Posner   (ed) Psychology of Attention London:Routledge pp

    Posner, M.I. (2017) Integrating technologies in the study of attentional networks In Robert L. Kane and Thomas D. Parsons (eds)The Role of Technology in Clinical Neuropsychology Oxford:Oxlford University Press

    Posner, M.I., 2017. Attentional Mechanisms. In: John Stein, J.S. (Ed.), Reference Module  in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Psychology. Elsevier, pp. 1–6.

    Posner , M.I. (2017) Cognitive Neuroscience In SAGE Encyclopedia of Educational  Research, Measurement, and Evaluation New York: Sage Publishing

    Posner M.I. & Rothbart, M.K. (2017) Integrating Brain, Cognition and Culture Journal  of Cultural Cognitive Science 1. 3-15 DOI: 10.1007/s41809-017-0001

    Voelker, P., Sheese, B.E., Rothbart, M.K. & Posner,M.I. (2017) Methylation  polymorphism influences practice effect in children during attention tasks Cognitive Neuroscience . 8 /2   72-84

    Voelker, P., Piscopo, D., Weible, A., Lynch G., Rothbart, M.K., Posner,M.I. & Niell, C.M. (2017) How changes in white matter might underlie improvement in reaction time with practice Cognitive Neuroscience 8 /2, 112-118

    Voelker, P., Piscopo, D., Weible, A., Lynch G., Rothbart, M.K., Posner,M.I. & Niell       C.M. (2017) White matter and reaction time: a reply to commentaries Cognitive   Neuroscience  8/2   137-140

    Weible, A.P., Piscopo, D.M., Rothbart, M.K., Posner, M.I.,& Niell, C.M. (2017)      Rhythmic Brain Stimulation Reduces Anxiety-Relate Behavior in a Mouse Model   Based on Meditation Training Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences 114/no10 2532-2537

    I have been waiting to make this post until I had a version of our second mouse paper which we plan to submit soon.  This paper provides the relevant physical changes related to our mouse model of low frequency stimulation. The figures are too big to post in  this site but they can be download from

    piscopo et al 2018draft for review.-1-1kdrc7l

    The figures are too big to post but they can be downloaded from


    I will post a pdf of  the full ms when it gets published




    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

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