Perception and Attention


The purpose of this initiative is to promote basic research in perception and attention relevant to cancer control and prevention. Research on perception and attention is relevant across the cancer control continuum. For example, if you want to communicate probabilistic information to people (such as risks or benefits of certain behaviors) through visual images, you need to understand how the visual system processes quantitative information. If you want to understand how the built environment influences people's propensity for physical activity, you need to understand spatial cognition. If you want to improve the accuracy of cancer screening procedures, you need to understand the attentional limitations placed on the human observer. If you want to understand how various cancer treatments may impair patients' cognitive functioning, you first need to understand, not only normal cognitive function, but also how perceptual deficits may reduce the quality of the information patients are taking in from their surroundings. These are just examples of ways in which research in perception and attention can inform our efforts to reduce the burden of cancer.

Biobehavioral and Psychological Sciences at NCI: Bridging Visual Perception and Attention
Dr. Todd Horowitz discusses basic research in perception and attention in the context of cancer control.

Funding Opportunity

Perception and Cognition Research to Inform Cancer Image Interpretation

Expiration Date
September 27, 2019

The purpose of this area of research emphasis is to facilitate research on the perceptual and cognitive processes underlying the performance of cancer image observers in radiology and pathology in order to improve the accuracy of cancer detection and diagnosis.

Despite technical advances in many areas of diagnostic radiology, the detection and diagnosis of human cancer via imaging remains fallible. For example, data from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium show false negative rates of approximately 15.1 percent and false positive rates of 9.7 percent for mammography. Although some of these errors might be due to the limitations of the images themselves, a large proportion are attributable the perceptual and cognitive faculties of the clinicians and other specialists who diagnose, stage, and treat cancer (a.k.a. “observers”). Although some sources of perceptual and cognitive errors have been identified, for the most part, errors in cancer image interpretation are still largely unexplained. Research in perception and cognition will uncover important factors that influence how observers perceive, remember, learn, and act upon the images they view.

View Full Program Announcements

PAR-17-125 (R01).

PAR-17-124 (R21).


Todd S. Horowitz, Ph.D.
Program Director