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New findings on how the brain ignores distractions

When we concentrate on something, we also engage in the unsung, parallel act of purposefully ignoring other things. A new study describes how the brain may achieve such “optimal inattention.” With this knowledge, scientists at hope they can harness our power to ignore — for instance, to reduce pain.

Optimal Inattention
To study how the brain purposefully ignores sensory stimuli, researchers looked at brainwaves connecting the somatosensory cortex (hSI) to the right inferior frontal cortex (IFC). White regions were experimental controls.
Credit:Brown University


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The study’s lead authors are former Brown research assistants Matthew Sacchet, now at Stanford, and Roan LaPlante, now at Harvard. Other authors are Qian Wan of Harvard, of MIT, Adrian Lee of the University of Washington, Matti Hamalainen of Massachusetts General Hospital, and Christopher Moore of Brown.

The National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation funded the work.

Brown University