Scientists decoded Human Brain's ability to Pay Attention

Jul 31, 2013 16:26 IST

Scientists from Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine and the University of California, Davis studied communications between synaptically connected neurons under conditions where subjects shifted their attention toward or away from visual stimuli that activated the recorded neurons.

The Scientists were able to demonstrate that attention operates at the level of the synapse to improve sensitivity to incoming signals, sharpen the precision of these signals and selectively boost the transmission of attention grabbing information while reducing the level of noisy or attention-disrupting information.  They reached this conclusion using the highly sensitive measure of attention’s on neuron-to-neuron communication. The scientific results point to a novel mechanism by which attention shapes perception by selectively altering presynaptic weights to highlight sensory features among all the noisy sensory input.

While scientific findings are consistent with other reported changes in neuronal firing rates with attention, they go far beyond such descriptions, revealing never-before tested mechanisms at the synaptic level. In addition to expanding our understanding of brain, this scientific study could help people with attention deficits resulting from brain injury or disease, possibly leading to improved screening and new treatments.

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