Navigation Links
Paying attention sets off symphony of cell synchronization

You know the sensation. When something has your full attention you see it vividly. And when you don't pay attention, you're liable to miss something important. Now a new Northwestern University study sheds light on how attention operates.

The mystery of how attention improves the perception of incoming sensory stimulation has been a long-time concern of scientists. One hypothesis is that when you pay attention neurons produce stronger brain activity, as if the stimulus itself was stronger. That would mean that paying attention might make something appear more intense, and possibly distort its actual appearance.

In the Northwestern study, EEG measures of brain activity were used to show precisely how attention alters brain activity. The team of psychologists and neuroscientists used a new strategy for understanding the mechanisms whereby sustained attention makes us process things more effectively, literally making the world come into sharper focus.

"When you pay attention cells aren't only responding more strongly to stimuli," said co-author Marcia Grabowecky, research assistant professor of psychology in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. "Rather a population of cells is responding more coherently. It is almost like a conductor stepping in to control a large set of unruly musicians in an orchestra so that they all play together. Cells synchronize precisely to the conductor's cues."

The article, "Attention Induces Synchronization-Based Response Gain in Steady-State Visual Evoked Potentials," will be published in Nature Neuroscience. It was published Dec. 17 in advance of the print version on Advance Online Publication (AOP) on Nature Neuroscience's Web site.

Each participant in the study wore a cap with 64 electrodes to record their brain waves. The brain waves fluctuated in sync with flickering stimuli that appeared on a computer screen. At any given time, two target patterns were shown, but subjects were told to pay attention to one and ignore the other. Sometimes the target patterns were fairly dim. At other times they were quite bright.

EEG responses from the participants showed more brain activity for brighter stimuli, as expected, but responses also varied depending on attention. The patterns of these brain waves allowed the investigators to obtain a thorough description of how attention altered neural function.

"For dynamic stimuli at the focus of attention, the timing of brain activity became more precisely synchronized with the flickering," said Satoru Suzuki, associate professor of psychology at Northwestern and co-author of the study.

The results suggest that attention can make a stimulus stand out by making brain responses to the stimulus more coherent. "This doesn't change the stimulus but can make it more effective for guiding our behavior," Grabowecky said.

"When you need to dig deep to summon that extra ounce of attention, it's as if you engage a symphony of brain activity that can come to your rescue as millions of neurons together make the music that represents a vivid conscious experience," added Ken Paller, professor of psychology at Northwestern and co-investigator of the study.


'"/>

Source:Northwestern University


Related biology news :

1. Female guppies risk their lives to avoid too much male attention
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:6/15/2016)... , June 15, 2016 ... report titled "Gesture Recognition Market by Application Market - Global Industry ... - 2024". According to the report, the  global gesture ... in 2015 and is estimated to grow at ... billion by 2024.  Increasing application of ...
(Date:6/2/2016)... 2, 2016 The Department of Transport ... the 44 million US Dollar project, for the , ... including Personalization, Enrolment, and IT Infrastructure , to ... production and implementation of Identity Management Solutions. Numerous renowned international ... Decatur was selected for the most compliant ...
(Date:5/20/2016)...  VoiceIt is excited to announce its new ... By working together, VoiceIt and VoicePass will offer ... take slightly different approaches to voice biometrics, collaboration ... usability. Both ... "This marketing and technology partnership allows ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 Houston Methodist ... the Cy-Fair Sports Association to serve as their ... agreement, Houston Methodist Willowbrook will provide sponsorship support, ... connectivity with association coaches, volunteers, athletes and families. ... the Cy-Fair Sports Association and to bring Houston ...
(Date:6/23/2016)...  The Biodesign Challenge (BDC), a university competition that ... living systems and biotechnology, announced its winning teams at ... New York City . The teams, ... at MoMA,s Celeste Bartos Theater during the daylong summit. ... curator of architecture and design, and Suzanne Lee ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ON (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 , ... STACS ... DNA Technical Leader at the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, has joined STACS DNA as ... the STACS DNA team,” said Jocelyn Tremblay, President and COO of STACS DNA. “In ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... BEACH, Calif. , June 23, 2016  Blueprint ... new biological discoveries to the medical community, has closed ... co-founder Matthew Nunez . "We have ... us with the capital we need to meet our ... will essentially provide us the runway to complete validation ...
Breaking Biology Technology: