Research Groups

Martens group

Temporal dynamics of cognition

Imagine a crying baby in the back of a car. Why is it that some people who find themselves in that situation can still safely notice and respond to a crossing pedestrian in front of the car, while others fail to do so?

In everyday life, our mind is constantly bombarded with sensory information, but only a small subset is allowed access to conscious awareness. Attention, a complex cognitive function, is the gatekeeper that helps to select and process information that corresponds to current top-down goals or intentions, while simultaneously suppressing irrelevant information.

An important factor that determines both intra- and individual variability in human performance – but also emotional stability – is the efficiency at which relevant information can be distinguished and extracted from irrelevant information. This efficiency and time-course of selective attention is in turn determined by several other key factors, such as experience and training, age, working-memory capacity, and emotion. Studying the impact of such factors on the temporal dynamics of attention forms the core of my research, using a combination of pupil dilation deconvolution, EEG, NIRS, tDCS, and behavioral paradigms such as the attentional blink.

Current and future research will specifically focus on the question how emotion and self-relevant information can alter the temporal dynamics of attention (and vice versa), providing opportunities to develop test- and training tools in the context of psychiatric affections including depression, neuroticism, social anxiety, and mild cognitive impairment.

  • People
  • Publications
  • Sander Martens PhD Visit

    Assistant Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience Group leader Individual differences in attentional dynamics.

    Research fields

    Selective attention, individual differences, cross-modal attention, emotion, attentional blink, pupil dilation, EEG, tDCS.

    • All Publications: mepa page or  pdf Selected Publications:
      1. Martens, S., Munneke, J., Smid, H., & Johnson, A. (2006) Quick minds don’t blink: Electrophysiological correlates of individual differences in attentional selection. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.
      2. Willems, C., Damsma, A., Wierda, S. M., Taatgen, N., & Martens, S. (2015) Training-induced changes in the dynamics of attention as reflected in pupil dilation. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.
      3. De Jong, P. J., Koster, E. H. W., Wessel, I., Künzli, A., Ruiter, M., & Martens, S. (2014). Distinct temporal processing of task-irrelevant facial expressions. Emotion.
      4. Goerlich, K. S., Witteman, J., Schiller, N., van Heuven, V.J., Aleman, A., & Martens, S. (2014) Blunted Feelings: Alexithymia is Associated with a Diminished Neural Response to Speech Prosody. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.
      5. Tumati, S., Martens, S., & Aleman, A. (2013). Magnetic resonance spectroscopy in mild cognitive impairment: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews
      6. Wierda, S. M., van Rijn, H., Taatgen, N., & Martens, S. (2012) Pupil dilation deconvolution reveals the dynamics of attention at high temporal resolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA
      7. Goerlich, K. S., Witteman, J., Schiller, N., van Heuven, V.J., Aleman, A., & Martens, S. (2012). The Nature of affective priming in music and speech. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.
      8. Martens, S., & Wyble, B. (2010) The attentional blink: Past, present, and future of a blind spot in perceptual awareness. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews.
      9. Taatgen, N. A., Juvina, I., Schipper, M., Borst, J., & Martens, S. (2009) Too much control can hurt: A threaded cognition model of the attentional blink. Cognitive Psychology.
      10. Duncan, J., Martens, S., & Ward, R. (1997). Restricted attentional capacity within but not between sensory modalities. Nature.
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