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Neuroscience & Applied Cognitive Sciences

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The human brain is a magnificent system in the human body. It is the most complex, complicated, yet outstanding brilliant organ in the human body. Eric Kandel once said, “The brain is complex biological organ of great computational capability that constructs our sensory experiences, regulates our thoughts and emotions, and control our actions”. Scientists over the years, up until now are working relentlessly in the area of research to comprehend the complexities of this wonderful organ. Although there have been ground breaking research works which have unraveled the modus operandi of the brain, still much work needs to be done to better comprehend fully, this organ.

The task of finding more about the brain, the human nervous system and how they work resonates deeply with me, and this informed my decision to read Psychology during my undergraduate studies at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, as I sought to learn more about the human mind and how it worked to produce a particular behavior. In my course of study, I developed in-depth interest in courses that were related to the human brain, for example Biological Basis of Behaviour, Memory, Abnormal Psychology and Learning Disability and Cognitive Psychology that are relevant to Neuroscience. This made me to engage in active independent studies to supplement what I studied in the classroom.Almost invariably we are predisposed to an unlimited number of stimuli from our environment that impinges on our visual sense.

Attention serves as the basic function in human cognition that permits the deployment of limited resources on things that are considered important. It enables us to hold back resources from non-relevant competing material and thus prevent distraction. The impact of attention on stimulus processing can be dramatic: stimuli that fail to be attentionally inspected can go largely unnoticed, or ignored. By reducing the ability of task irrelevant stimuli to interfere with the processing of the current focus of our thoughts and actions, inhibition aids in the completion of these goal-directed behaviors and tasks (Houghton & Tipper, 1994;Munakata et al., 2011). Also, inhibitory processes have some affective consequences (Fenske & Raymond, 2006).

This implies that stimuli that are ignored tend to receive more negative affective evaluation than novel stimuli or stimuli that are our target of attention (quote). Although there have been a number of research works revolving around this area, there is a question as to how this occurs. There exists some amount of evidence that inhibition causes a change in the value of a stimulus and not another process that consistently accompanies inhibition (Raymond, 2009). I will love to research into this and verify whether this is always the case as stated by Raymond. My interim goals in the light of my interest are to acquire the requisite skills, training and knowledge required for doctoral degree to help me to be an independent researcher so as to conduct rigorous research to help my society. In the long term, it is my fervent desire to be an icon and offer training to people who have interest in neuroscience in my country.

Neuroscience in Ghana is at its young age. Though the interests exist, only a few individuals associate themselves with neuroscience. There is a huge margin in neuroscience research and training. A recent systematic review published in the Metabolic Brain Disease journal has identified that there are limited data on experimental and clinical neuroscience research in Ghana (Quansah & Karikari, 2016). This deficiency in knowledge is too explicit such that there is no University in Ghana that offers neuroscience program at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Attention assolves a fundamental function in cognition, allowing the deployment of limited processing resources on items that are deemed as relevant. At the same time attention allows resources to be withdrawn from other, non relevant competing material, and thus prevents distraction.It is often said that attention acts as a filter between the variety of inputs reaching our cognitive system both from external (through the senses) and internal (i.e., homeostasis and internal goals) environments, and higher order analysis, which eventually leads to the conscious processing of these stimuli.The impact of attention on stimulus processing can be dramatic: stimuli that fail to be attentionally inspected can go largely unnoticed, and this is why, for instance, we typically can’t help falling into the tricks of skilled magicians.

Our attentional system relies on a number of control mechanisms, which guide the deployment of attention towards stimuli that are particularly worthy. Some of these mechanisms are driven by built-in system properties, and prioritize stimuli that are particularly intense and unexpected (i.e., a loud sound, a bright light, a painful puncture). Other mechanisms are influenced by volition, and prioritize items in the environment that match the current behavioral goals (i.e., while looking for a red pencil on a desk, our attention will be easily captured by all the red items in our visual field).The human attention mechanism hinges on a number of control systems, which guides the deployment of attention towards stimuli that are particularly relevant.

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