Ever wonder how your brain can focus on a tricky task, like weaving challah bread, while still staying aware of your surroundings? Read on to see how video-gaming monkeys helped a group of Princeton scientists explore the balance between focused attention and broad awareness.Read More
"New in Neuroscience" is a new feature highlighting recent neuroscience findings. In this edition, Malcolm Campbell discusses a recent research article about how the brain pays attention to some things, while ignoring others.
The ability to selectively attend to relevant stimuli and ignore distractions is essential to animal survival. This ability is especially interesting to neuroscientists since it involves the interaction of executive control--the “mind” of the animal--with early sensory processing. It is widely believed that executive control originates in the cortex, whereas sensory signals originate in the periphery and travel to the cortex through subcortical structures such as the brain stem and the thalamus.Read More
Jason asks: What makes certain mental tasks be perceived as more demanding than others?
For physical tasks, it is pretty ease to see how, say, lifting a 10 lbs barbell would be perceived as easier than lifting one that’s 20 lbs. But why is watching a 1 hour video on, say, physics perceived as more demanding than watching an hour of “Desperate Housewives”?
This is a great question, Jason. Why is it that we feel mentally exhausted after studying for a test or preparing for a meeting, but we read books or watch movies to relax? All of these activities require your brain, after all! And why is it harder to resist eating a cookie when you've been doing brain work for hours?
As brain users, we generally feel as if there is some substance called mental effort, which we all have in limited quantities. We have to budget it carefully because some mental tasks require more of it than others, and if we run out we simply have to wait for it to replenish itself before we can use it again.Read More