Michael Posner

Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology
Member, ION

Ph.D. University of Michigan
M.S. University of Washington
B.S. University of Washington

Lab Website
Office: 433 Straub
Phone: 541-346-4939


Research Interests: Cognitive-Neuroscience; Neural mechanisms and structures underlying selective attention

Overview: Michael Posner is Professor Emeritus at the University of Oregon and Adjunct Professor at the Weill Medical College in New York (Sackler Institute).

Dr. Posner's current work deals with genetic and experiential factors in the development of brain networks underlying attention and learning. We are currently examining how changes in white matter might contribute to improved performance.  In one study conducted together with the Niell lab we are imposing a theta rhythm on cells in the anterior cingulate of the mouse and examining whether the resultant activity leads to improved myelination in pathways near the cingulate.   We are also examining if epigenetic factors related to methylation might account for individual differences in this process.


Related Articles

Increasing the amplitude of intrinsic theta in the human brain.

AIMS Neurosci. 2020;7(4):418-437

Authors: Voelker P, Parker AN, Luu P, Davey C, Rothbart MK, Posner MI

In a mouse study we found increased myelination of pathways surrounding the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) following stimulation near the theta rhythm (4-8 Hz), and evidence that this change in connectivity reduced behavioral anxiety. We cannot use the optogenetic methods with humans that were used in our mouse studies. This paper examines whether it is possible to enhance intrinsic theta amplitudes in humans using less invasive methods. The first experiment compares electrical, auditory and biofeedback as methods for increasing intrinsic theta rhythm amplitudes in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC). These methods are used alone or in conjunction with a task designed to activate the same area. The results favor using electrical stimulation in conjunction with a task targeting this region. Stimulating the ACC increases intrinsic theta more in this area than in a control area distant from the site of stimulation, suggesting some degree of localization of the stimulation. In Experiment 2, we employed electrical stimulation with the electrodes common to each person, or with electrodes selected from an individual head model. We targeted the ACC or Motor Cortex (PMC). At baseline, intrinsic theta is higher in the ACC than the PMC. In both areas, theta can be increased in amplitude by electrical stimulation plus task. In the PMC, theta levels during stimulation plus task are not significantly higher than during task alone. There is no significant difference between generic and individual electrodes. We discuss steps needed to determine whether we can use the electrical stimulation + task to improve the connectivity of white matter in different brain areas.

PMID: 33263079 [PubMed]