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:12/8/2016)... , Dec. 8, 2016  Singulex, Inc., the ... Counting technology, entered into a license and supply agreement ... science. The agreement provides Singulex access to Thermo Scientific ... Europe is used to diagnose systemic bacterial ... States to aid in assessing the risk ...
(Date:12/7/2016)... Avanade is helping Williams Martini Racing, one of ... biometric data in order to critically analyse every aspect ... against their rivals after their impressive, record-breaking pit stop ... with Williams during the 2016 season to capture and ... rate, temperature and peak acceleration) for key members of ...
(Date:12/6/2016)... Valencell , the leading innovator in performance biometric ... consecutive year of triple digit growth for its PerformTek ... 360 percent increase in companies who have acquired Valencell ... sales of its wrist and ear Benchmark™ sensor systems, ... hearables for fitness and healthcare applications. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:12/7/2016)... CALGARY , Dec. 7, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - Zenith Capital Corp. ... update that will be presented at the Company,s Annual and ... Meeting of Shareholders will take place on Thursday, December 15, ... Ross Glenn Hall (Room EC1040), 4825 Mount Royal Gate ... am (MST). A notice of meeting and management information circular, ...
(Date:12/7/2016)... the association for the California life ... st Century Cures legislation in Congress. The bill passed ... and in the Senate on December 7 by a 94-5 ... , president & CEO of Biocom: "Today, Congress ... patients around the world. The measure culminates three years of ...
(Date:12/7/2016)... -- Vyriad Inc. announced today the appointment of Alvin ... "We are delighted to welcome Al to ... our oncolytic viruses as the next generation of precision ... MD, PhD, CEO of Vyriad. "Al and his wife, ... for making a difference for cancer patients—their philanthropy has ...
(Date:12/7/2016)...  Muse bio, a privately-held company leading the development ... Kevin Ness has been appointed Chief Executive ... Kevin succeeds Muse bio,s founding CEO ... Officer as well as remains Slade Professor, Chemical and ... at the RAS Energy Institute at the University of ...
Breaking Biology Technology: