Howard Rheingold: Brain Pays Attention — AND Manages Exclusion of Distractions

Advanced Cyber/IO
Howard Rheingold
Howard Rheingold

Empirical research on the neural correlates of attention is revealing a multi-functional system by which we balance the center of attention with the periphery, focus and scanning, allowing and suppressing attention to input. For students and those who are beginning to train their online infotention, it begins with strengthening the ability to ignore distractions. However, experts are also good at paying attention to perceptions on the periphery that might be important now or later (think of an expert aviator, scanning the horizon.)

How Attention Works: The Brain’s Anti-Distraction System Discovered

Attention is only partly about what we focus on, but also about what we manage to ignore.

Neuroscientists have pinpointed the neural activity involved in avoiding distraction, a new study reports.

This is the first study showing that our brains rely on an active suppression system to help us focus on the task at hand (Gaspar & McDonald, 2014).

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The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, involved 47 students carrying out a visual search task while their brain signals were monitored.

The finding may have important implications for psychological disorders which involve problems with attention.

The study’s senior author, John McDonald, said:

“…disorders associated with attention deficits, such as ADHD and schizophrenia, may turn out to be due to difficulties in suppressing irrelevant objects rather than difficulty selecting relevant ones.”