Dr. Gregory DiGirolamo


Cognitive Neuroscience of Attention, Control, and Consciousness

The human mind is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating products of evolution. It has been studied from many different points of view -- philosophical, computational, psychological, and recently, also biological. It has become clear that collaboration between these approaches is needed to answer the ultimate question “how does the brain give rise to the mind?” This collaboration has resulted in a new field known as cognitive neuroscience. I am a cognitive neuroscientist who studies attention, control and consciousness. All normal people have a strong subjective feeling of intentional or voluntary control of their behavior. Asking people about goals or intention is probably the single most predictive indicator of their behavior. The importance of intentions and goals is illustrated by observations of patients with frontal lesions or mental disorders that cause disruption in either their central control over behavior or the subjective feelings of such control. My research has been directed at understanding the complex functions and intricate mechanism of executive control and consciousness and how the human brain implements them. I have investigated the cognitive operations and neural areas that instantiate control operations, tested limitations in these control operations, and assayed how control processes can be used (or not!) to modify ongoing cognitive operations or even to rehabilitate impaired cognitive operations due to brain damage or psychopathology.

Selected Publications

DiGirolamo, G. J., McCarley, J. S., Kramer, A. K., & Griffin, H. J. (2008). Voluntary and reflexive eye movements to illusory lengths. Visual Cognition, 16, 68-89.

Blaukopf, C. L., & DiGirolamo, G. J. (2006). Differential effects of reward and punishment on conscious and unconscious eye movements. Experimental Brain Research, 174, 786-792.

DiGirolamo, G. J., & Griffin, H. J. (2002). Consciousness and attention. In The Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science (pp. 203-212). London: Macmillan Reference Limited.

DiGirolamo, G. J., Kramer, A. K., Barad, V. K., Weismann, D., Cepeda, N., Milham, M., Cohen, N. J., Banich, M., Webb, A., Wszalek, T., & Belopolsky, A. V. (2001). General and task-specific frontal lobe recruitment in older adults during executive processes: An fMRI investigation of task-switching. Neuroreport, 12, 2065-2071.

Posner, M. I., & DiGirolamo, G. J. (2000). Cognitive neuroscience: Origins and promises. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 873-889.

DiGirolamo, G. J., & Posner, M. I. (1999). Attention: An overview. In M. Gazzaniga (Ed.) The new cognitive neurosciences: 2nd Edition (pp. 621-622). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kosslyn, S. M., DiGirolamo, G. J., Thompson, W. L., and Alpert, N. M. (1998). Mental rotation of objects versus hands: Neural mechanisms revealed by positron emission tomography. Psychophysiology, 35, 1-11.

DiGirolamo, G. J., & Hintzman, D. L. (1997). First impressions are lasting impressions: A primacy effect in memory for repetitions. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 4, 121-124.

Cohen, M., Kosslyn, S. M., Breiter, H., DiGirolamo, G. J., Thompson, W. L., Anderson, A. K., Bookheimer, S. Y., Belliveau, J., & Rosen, B. (1996). Changes in cortical activity during mental rotation: A mapping study using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Brain, 119, 89-100.