Paying Attention or Being Distracted

Scientists have found that different parts of the brain are stimulated by the functions of paying attention and being distracted. Getting distracted is actually an easier task for the brain, the scientists say. That seems logical; I’ve always found it to be so. The LiveScience link for this news brief is here.

“Neural activity goes up and down in a regular periodic way, with everything vibrating together,” said study co-leader and neuroscientist Earl K. Miller. “It is faster for automatic stimulus and slower for things we choose to pay attention to.”

The findings, detailed in the March 30 issue of the journal Science, could help scientists develop treatments for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). About 4.4 million youth ages 4-17 in the
United States have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Scientists have always recognized two different ways that the brain processes information coming from the outside world. Willful focus (as occurs when you gaze at a piece of art) produces what are called “top-down” signals, while automatic focus (like when a wailing siren snaps you to attention) produces “bottom-up” signals.

What they didn’t know was that these signals originate in completely different parts of the brain, said Miller.

My brother tells the joke; have you heard it? How many ADHD people does it take to change a light bulb? That’s easy; it’s — oh, look at that over there!

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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