Research Group Neurocognitive Development

The ability to focus on relevant information and to ignore irrelevant information is essential for learning success and academic performance. Our vision is to enhance the basic understanding of attention development throughout childhood. Auditory information has privileged access to perception and consciousness and needs to be controlled by attention. Despite this important function, little is known about the development of auditory attention in childhood. Since 2017, our group at LIN aims to close this gap and study the development of auditory attention and related learning and memory processes at the behavioral and brain level. We are particularly interested in how emotion, motivation and mobile digital media use influence attention. We also investigate attention in children suffering from attention disorders, which are of high prevalence and associated with learning disorders.

  • News

    News

    The renowned journal Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience invited us to contribute to a special issue on "EEG Methods for Developmental Cognitive Neuroscientists: A Tutorial Approach“.

    When a sound is predicted but unexpectedly omitted, an omission response can be observed in the brain. The first study of our doctoral student Tjerk Dercksen suggests the existence of both specific and unspecific predictions along the sound processing hierarchy, where precision weighting possibly influences the strength of prediction error (Dercksen, Widmann, Schröger, & Wetzel (in press), Neuroimage).
     

    The impact of emotional sounds on attentional orienting in children was demonstrated by Carolina Bonmassar. In her first PhD project she also observed a similar pattern of novel-related pupil dilation and brain responses that is in line with recent theories emphasizing the role of the Locus Coeruleus in attention processes and adds a developmental perspective. (Bonmassar, Widmann, & Wetzel (in press), Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience)

     

    Pupil size can predict learning success
    During memorization of pictures, changes in pupil diameter can predict later successful recognition in children aged 8-9 and adults. During retrieval, novel pictures showed stronger pupil constriction than familiar pictures. Wetzel, Einhäuser & Widmann, JECP

     

    New German-French project on attention development funded by DFG and ANR
    Nicole Wetzel und Aurelie Bidet-Caulet (INSERM Lyon) will gain knowledge about the development of auditory attention and its underlying neuronal mechanisms throughout childhood. The project „Control of attention in children: Interaction of voluntary and involuntary attention“ is funded by the DFG and ANR in the program Franco-German Call in Humanities and Social Sciences“ (WE5026/4).

     

    Attention control considerably develops throughout early childhood
    new study  demonstrates considerable development of attention control throughout early childhood. Wetzel, Scharf & Widmann, Child Development https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13109

  • Head

    Head

    The research group of Nicole Wetzel was initiated at the LIN in 2017. Her research focuses on the development of attention and related processes, including learning and memory. The aim of her research covers different levels of cognition, ranging from the function of specific neuronal networks to the influence of classroom arrangement on successful learning. In her work, Nicole Wetzel favors interdisciplinary approaches in order to capture the development of attention from all angles.

     

    Nicole Wetzel studied Psychology and obtained her postdoctoral lecture qualification from the University of Leipzig. She is a professor in Neurocognitive Development at the University of Magdeburg-Stendal.

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    Nicole Wetze is the LIN representative for the Leibniz Education Research Network (LERN).

  • Members

    Members

    Head  
    Prof. Dr. Nicole Wetzel+49-391-6263-93441nicole.wetzel@lin-magdeburg.de
    Postdocs  
    Dr. Elena Selezneva+49-391-6263-93391elena.selezneva@lin-magdeburg.de
    Andreas Widmann+49-391-6263-93441andreas.widmann@lin-magdeburg.de
    PhD students  
    Carolina Bonmassar+49-391-6263-93431carolina.bonmassar@lin-magdeburg.de
    Tjerk Dercksen+49-391-6263-93391tjerk.dercksen@lin-magdeburg.de
    Lab Manager  
    Dunja Kunke+49-391-6263-93431dunja.kunke@lin-magdeburg.de
    Lab Assistent  
    Gabriele Schöps+49-391-6263-95461gabriele.schoeps@lin-magdeburg.de
    Students  
    Celine Jakel  
    Luisa Kocherscheid  
    Lisa Pietschmann  

     

  • Projects

    Projects

    Selection of current projects

    1. How does attentional control develop during childhood?

    In this area of research, we investigate involuntary distraction of attention and its underlying neuronal mechanisms. Our results show that the control of attention develops significantly between the ages of 4 and 6 years and continues to improve during primary school.

    We currently investigate how children of different ages get distracted by new, emotional and meaningful events and what role motivational aspects play in distraction.

    To include very young children in our research, we have developed a new approach which utilizes pupil size as a marker for attention processes.
     

    2. How do children notice unexpected changes in their environment?

    A second line of research focuses on the development of predictive sensory processes. Our brain cannot process all the input we get simultaneously. It is assumed that perception is the sum of the expectation generated by our brain and the actual information perceived by the sensory organs. We have shown that error signals in response to predicted, but omitted sounds are observed not only for specific, but also unspecific predictions and trigger an orienting of attention. We are investigating how expectations are formed and how error signals are being generated from a developmental perspective. Here we examine both the auditory and the tactile sensory systems.
     

    3. How do learning processes develop?

    This project investigates the relation between cognitive processes during learning and the success of this learning. We use pupillometry to look at early perceptual and memory processes during active learning and we compare these processes with the later learning achievement. Our goal is to identify the underlying neuronal mechanisms and their development.
     

    4. How do tablets and other digital media influence the attention of children?

    In this project, we are investigating the direct influence of digital media on perception and attention from a developmental perspective.

     

    5. Do children with social anxiety process social and emotional stimuli differently to children without social anxiety?

    In this collaboration project with Leipzig University, we investigate the perception of social and emotional stimuli as well as the attentional processes related to the degree of social anxiety in children.

     

    6. How do attentional processes function in ADHD?

    In this joint research project with the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, we analyze the attentional processes of patients with an ADHD diagnosis. We are interested in how patients process novel but irrelevant events and how they can focus their attention voluntarily.

     

    7. How does the classroom arrangement affect attention and learning success?

    In this collaboration project with the University Magdeburg-Stendal, we study the effect of different learning environments on attention and learning success in primary school-aged children.

  • Third Party Funds

    Third Party Funds

    2020-2023
    DFG WE5026/4-1

    ANR - DFG Call in Humanities and Social Sciences, „Control of attention in children: Interaction of voluntary and involuntary attention“

     

    2018-2023
    Leibniz Association

    Programme for Women Professors
    https://www.leibniz-gemeinschaft.de/en/about-us/leibniz-competition/projekte-2018/leibniz-programme-for-women-professors/

     

    2017-2022
    CBBS ZS/2016/04/78120
    Independent Research Group „Neurocognitive Development“
    http://www.cbbs.eu/en/research-funding/cbbs-research-groups/research-groups-wetzel

     

    2016-2020
    DFG WE 5026/1-2
    Sachbeihilfe, "Die Verarbeitung neuer Distraktoren in Abhängigkeit von deren Informationsgehalt bei Kindern und Erwachsenen"
    http://forschen.uni-leipzig.de/projects/cognitive-psychology-and-biological-psychology.html?id=35711

  • Publications

    Publications

    Key publications

    Bonmassar C, Widmann A, Wetzel N. 2020. The impact of novelty and emotion on attention-related neuronal and pupil responses in children. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. 42:Article 100766. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2020.100766

    Dercksen TT, Widmann A, Schröger E, Wetzel N. 2020. Omission related brain responses reflect specific and unspecific action-effect couplings. NeuroImage. 215:116840. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116840

    Wetzel N, Buttelmann D, Schieler A, Widmann A. 2016. Infant and adult pupil dilation in response to unexpected sounds. Developmental Psychobiology. 58(3):382-392. https://doi.org/10.1002/dev.21377

    Wetzel N, Einhäuser W, Widmann A. 2020. Picture-evoked changes in pupil size predict learning success in children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 192:Article 104787. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2019.104787

    Wetzel N, Scharf F, Widmann A. 2019. Can't Ignore-Distraction by Task-Irrelevant Sounds in Early and Middle Childhood. Child Development. 90(6):e819-e830. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13109

    Wetzel N, Schröger E, Widmann A. 2013. The dissociation between the P3a event-related potential and behavioral distraction. Psychophysiology. 50(9):920-930. https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.12072

    Wetzel N, Schröger E, Widmann A. 2016. Distraction by novel and pitch-deviant sounds in children. Frontiers in Psychology. 7(DEC):Article 1949. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01949

    Wetzel N, Schröger E. 2014. On the development of auditory distraction: A review. PsyCh Journal. 3(1):72-91. https://doi.org/10.1002/pchj.49

    Wetzel N. 2015. Effects of the short-term learned significance of task-irrelevant sounds on involuntary attention in children and adults. International Journal of Psychophysiology. 98(1):17-26. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2015.06.003

    Widmann A, Schröger E, Wetzel N. 2018. Emotion lies in the eye of the listener: Emotional arousal to novel sounds is reflected in the sympathetic contribution to the pupil dilation response and the P3. Biological Psychology. 133:10-17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2018.01.010

     

    All publications

    2020

    Bonmassar C, Widmann A, Wetzel N. 2020. The impact of novelty and emotion on attention-related neuronal and pupil responses in children. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. 42:Article 100766. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2020.100766

    Dercksen TT, Widmann A, Schröger E, Wetzel N. 2020. Omission related brain responses reflect specific and unspecific action-effect couplings. NeuroImage. 215:116840. https://doi.org/10.1016

    Debnath, R., Miller, N. V., Morales, S., Seddio, K. R., & Fox, N. A. (2020). Investigating brain electrical activity and functional connectivity in adolescents with clinically elevated levels of ADHD symptoms in alpha frequency band. Brain Research, 1750, 147142. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2020.147142/j.neuroimage.2020.116840

    Fink-Lamotte J, Widmann A, Fader J, Exner C. 2020. Interpretation bias and contamination-based obsessive-compulsive symptoms influence emotional intensity related to disgust and fear. PLoS ONE. 15(4):e0232362. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0232362

    Hwang, H.G., Debnath, R., Meyer, M., Salo, V. C., Fox, N.A. & Woodward, A. (in press). Neighborhood racial demographics predict infants’ neural responses to people of different races. Developmental Science.

    Knyazeva S, Selezneva E, Gorkin A, Ohl FW, Brosch M. 2020. Representation of Auditory Task Components and of Their Relationships in Primate Auditory Cortex. Frontiers in Neuroscience. 14:Article 306. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2020.00306

    Korka, B., Schröger, E., & Widmann, A. (in press). What exactly is missing here? The sensory processing of unpredictable omissions is modulated by the specificity of expected action-effects. European Journal of Neuroscience.

    Male AG, O'Shea RP, Schröger E, Müller D, Roeber U, Widmann A. 2020. The quest for the genuine visual mismatch negativity (vMMN): Event-related potential indications of deviance detection for low-level visual features. Psychophysiology. 57(6):Article e13576. https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13576

    Wetzel N, Einhäuser W, Widmann A. 2020. Picture-evoked changes in pupil size predict learning success in children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 192:Article 104787. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2019.104787
     

    2019

    Erb J, Ludwig AA, Kunke D, Fuchs M, Obleser J. 2019. Temporal sensitivity measured shortly after cochlear implantation predicts six-month speech recognition outcome. Ear and Hearing. 40(1):27-33. https://doi.org/10.1097/AUD.0000000000000588

    Grzeschik R, Conroy-Dalton R, Innes A, Shanker S, Wiener JM. 2019. The contribution of visual attention and declining verbal memory abilities to age-related route learning deficits. Cognition. 187:50-61. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2019.02.012

    Korka B, Schröger E, Widmann A. 2019. Action-intention based and stimulus-regularity based predictions: Same or different?. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 31(12):1917-1932. https://doi.org/10.1162/jocn_a_01456

    Stuckenberg MV, Schröger E, Widmann A. 2019. Presentation Probability of Visual-Auditory Pairs Modulates Visually Induced Auditory Predictions. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 31(8):1110-1125. https://doi.org/10.1162/jocn_a_01398

    Wetzel N, Scharf F, Widmann A. 2019. Can't Ignore-Distraction by Task-Irrelevant Sounds in Early and Middle Childhood. Child Development. 90(6):e819-e830. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13109

     

    2018

    Wetzel N, Schröger E. 2018. Auditory attention in children and adults: A psychophysiological approach. Lachmann T, Weiss T, editors. In Invariances in Human Information Processing. 1st ed. New York: Taylor & Francis Group. pp. 223-248. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315169903

    Widmann A, Schröger E, Wetzel N. 2018. Emotion lies in the eye of the listener: Emotional arousal to novel sounds is reflected in the sympathetic contribution to the pupil dilation response and the P3. Biological Psychology. 133:10-17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2018.01.010

     

    2017

    Buttelmann D, Schieler A, Wetzel N, Widmann A. 2017. Infants’ and adults’ looking behavior does not indicate perceptual distraction for constrained modelled actions − An eye-tracking study. Infant Behavior and Development. 47:103-111. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2017.04.001

    Hartmeyer S, Grzeschik R, Wolbers T, Wiener JM. 2017. The effects of attentional engagement on route learning performance in a virtual environment: An aging study. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. 9(JUL):Article 235. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2017.00235

    Henry MJ, Herrmann B, Kunke D, Obleser J. 2017. Aging affects the balance of neural entrainment and top-down neural modulation in the listening brain. Nature Communications. 8:Article 15801. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms15801

     

    2016

    Wetzel N, Buttelmann D, Schieler A, Widmann A. 2016. Infant and adult pupil dilation in response to unexpected sounds. Developmental Psychobiology. 58(3):382-392. Available from: 10.1002/dev.21377

    Wetzel N, Schröger E, Widmann A. 2016. Distraction by novel and pitch-deviant sounds in children. Frontiers in Psychology. 7(DEC). Available from: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01949


    2015

    Max C, Widmann A, Kotz SA, Schröger E, Wetzel N. 2015. Distraction by emotional sounds: Disentangling arousal benefits and orienting costs. Emotion. 15(4):428-437. Available from: 10.1037/a0039041

    Wetzel N. 2015. Effects of the short-term learned significance of task-irrelevant sounds on involuntary attention in children and adults. International Journal of Psychophysiology. 98(1):17-26. Available from: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2015.06.003


    2014

    Wetzel N, Schröger E. 2014. On the development of auditory distraction: A review. PsyCh Journal. 3(1):72-91. Available from: 10.1002/pchj.49

    Wetzel N. 2014. Development of control of attention from different perspectives. Frontiers in Psychology. 5(AUG). Available from: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01000


    2013

    Wetzel N, Schröger E, Widmann A. 2013. The dissociation between the P3a event-related potential and behavioral distraction. Psychophysiology. 50(9):920-930. Available from: 10.1111/psyp.12072


    2012

    Wetzel N, Widmann A, Schröger E. 2012. Distraction and facilitation-two faces of the same coin?. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. 38(3):664-674. Available from: 10.1037/a0025856


    2011

    Wetzel N, Widmann A, Schröger E. 2011. Processing of novel identifiability and duration in children and adults. Biological Psychology. 86(1):39-49. Available from: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2010.10.005


    2010

    Bendixen A, Grimm S, Deouell LY, Wetzel N, Mädebach A, Schröger E. 2010. The time-course of auditory and visual distraction effects in a new crossmodal paradigm. Neuropsychologia. 48(7):2130-2139. Available from: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.04.004

    Mikkola K, Wetzel N, Leipälä J, Serenius-Sirve S, Schröger E, Huotilainen M, Fellman V. 2010. Behavioral and evoked potential measures of distraction in 5-year-old children born preterm. International Journal of Psychophysiology. 77(1):8-12. Available from: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2010.03.009

    Ruhnau P, Wetzel N, Widmann A, Schröger E. 2010. The modulation of auditory novelty processing by working memory load in school age children and adults: A combined behavioral and event-related potential study. BMC Neuroscience. 11. Available from: 10.1186/1471-2202-11-126

     

     

  • Teaching

    Teaching

    Nicole Wetzel is involved in the training of students in the degree programs "Management of day-care centers for children - childhood education", "Applied Childhood Studies" and "Psychology of Rehabilitation" at the Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences. She supervises dissertations as well as bachelor’s and master’s theses.

    The group regularly teaches and supervises interns from universities and schools.


    Members of our group have teaching experience in these subjects:

    • Developmental Psychology 
    • Rehabilitation Psychology
    • Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy of Childhood and Adolescence
    • Educational Psychology
    • Cognitive and Biological Psychology
  • Become a test person?

    Become a test person?

    In our children's studies we examine children aged 1-18 years with different methods. We submit all studies to the responsible ethics committee for safety evaluation.

     


    What we measure

    Response times and hits
    When we solve a problem, we can be distracted by background noise which affects our performance. Therefore, in some studies, we measure the speed and accuracy of responses to a particular task when disruptive events occur simultaneously.


    Electroencephalography (EEG)
    We measure brain electrical activity - which is always present - with electrodes mounted on a specially made hood while the child is solving a task, watching a movie or playing. Certain patterns in brain activity allow statements to be made about cognitive processes, such as whether a person is temporarily distracted.


    Eye movements and pupil size
    Where people look, how long they look at something and how their pupil size changes can be inferred from attention and learning processes. Eye movements and pupil size are recorded with a special camera that is placed at some distance in front of the child while it is solving a problem.

     


    Contact

    Dunja Kunke
    E-Mail: kinderstudien@lin-magdeburg.de
    Tel: 0391 626 393431 (AB)

  • Media

    Media

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