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Jul 8, 2020

Research advances understanding of how the brain focuses while ignoring distractions

Posted by in category: neuroscience

When trying to complete a task we are constantly bombarded by distracting stimuli. How does the brain filter out these distractions and enable us to focus on the task at hand? Psychologists at the University of California, Riverside, have made a discovery that could lead to an answer.

Experimenting on mice, they located the precise spot in the brain where distracting stimuli are blocked. The blocking disables the brain from processing these stimuli, which allows concentration on a particular task to proceed.

Edward Zagha, an assistant professor of psychology, and his team trained mice in a sensory detection task with target and distractor stimuli. The mice learned to respond to rapid stimuli in the target field and ignore identical stimuli in the opposite distractor field. The team used a novel imaging technique, which allows for high spatiotemporal resolution with a cortex-wide field of view, to find where in the brain the distractor stimuli are blocked, resulting in no further signal transmission within the cortex and, therefore, no triggering of a motor response.

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