Psychophysiology: Human Behavior and Physiological Response

By John L. Andreassi | Go to book overview

4
The EEG and Behavior: Sensation, Attention, Perception, Conditioning, and Sleep

In an influential chapter, Lindsley ( 1960) described patterns of EEG activity produced across behavioral states ranging from deep sleep to high alertness. Table 4.1 is adapted from Lindsley and shows his conception of a behavioral continuum, its characteristic EEG waves, associated states of awareness, and corresponding behavioral efficiency. Lindsley attributed an important role to the ascending reticular activating system (ARAS) in regulating states of attention, consciousness, sleep, and wakefulness. The functions of the ARAS also play a part in activation theory that describes the relation between levels of physiological activity and performance (see chapter 18). In 1960, Lindsley wrote:

Attention is closely allied to arousal and wakefulness and, like wakefulness and consciousness, appears to be a graded phenomenon extending from general alerting, as in the orienting reflex, to specific alerting, as when attention is focused upon a given sense mode and dominates sensory input to the point of exclusion of other sense modes. Still higher or more finely focused attention may be restricted to a limited aspect of a given sense mode. (p. 1589)

This description of attention in general and specific form can serve as a model for contemporary psychophysiologists.

This chapter discusses various human processes and their relation to EEG activity. The sections concerned with sensory, attentional, and perceptual mechanisms are followed by a brief treatment of EEG during classical and instrumental conditioning (can a person learn to self-regulate brainwave activity?). A sample question dealt with under the heading of "attention" concerns brain activity related to efficient signal detection during a "vigil." Other issues considered in this chapter include the nature of EEG patterns during different stages of sleep, depth of sleep and capacity to respond, ability to learn during sleep, and dreaming and the EEG. Additional issues that are examined include the effects of presleep activity on sleeping EEG, and EEG changes that occur after sleep deprivation.


SENSATION, ATTENTION, PERCEPTION, AND THE EEG

In the context of this chapter, perception is considered to involve the active processing (making meaning) of sensory data. Thus, it is proposed that the registration of a stimulus (sensation) and attention to it precede perceptual integration by the individual. In this interpretation, the processes of sensation, attention, and perception are viewed as being functionally linked. The purpose of this integration is to allow the perceived material to be used in some cogni-

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