Social Media Sidebar

Announcement

Please sign up, comment on articles and bring your friends!

Current poll

PlanetTech is asking:

What do you think about our new web site?

Love it, indeed
Really good solution
Same as old one
The old one was better
This is a new option

Quote of the day

We are all now connected by the Internet, like neurons in a giant brain.

 

Stephen Hawking

 

A study shows how brains are able to multitask

RATE THIS! +38
Posted in Science on 25th Oct, 2015 12:22 AM by AlexMuller

What's actually going on inside our brains that allows for us to strategically focus on one task over another? Researchers at New York University published a paper in the journal Nature saying they identified one small region of the brain, the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN),as the one that controls our ability to multitask.

 

Working as a task "switchboard", the TRN enables our brains to focus on the sensory stimulus that is most vital at any given moment. Now, with a better understanding of how the process works, researchers hope to use the information to study diseases in which multitasking or sensory overload goes awry, autism, schizophrenia, and ADHD, for example.
 
“We have identified the [TRN] as a station. That is something that hasn’t really been described in the past, says Michael Halassa, a neuroscientist at NYU who led the research. “Now we can answer questions like whether individuals with autism have a broken TRN or potentially develop drugs that target [it].”
 
The ability to multitask is a vital part of life, as it's needed to perform everyday functions like driving, cooking, or even socializing with a group of friends. But at any given time, our brains are bombarded with a multitude of sensory information, and we're forced to decide what's important in that instant, focus on it, and tune out everything else. Researchers have known about this process for years, but they weren't sure exactly how it worked because they couldn't come up with a reliable experiment for identifying what parts of the brain were involved.
 
Back in the 1980s, Francis Crick had hypothesized that the TRN, a small, shell-shaped region located deep in the brain, helped the brain decide what sensory information to focus on and what to tune out. But at the time, he had little evidence to back that idea up.
 
Fast forward to today, and researchers at NYU were able to test Crick's hypothesis. By putting laboratory mice through a game-like experiment, they were able to show that different neurons within the TRN regulated which senses the brain should focus on and which should be set aside.
 
The experiment involved training mice to respond to a specific sensory stimulus, either light or sound. If the mice observed and followed the correct stimulus, they received milk as a reward. At the same time, the researchers would attempt to distract the mice with the opposite stimulus (the mice trained to respond to light would be distracted with sound, for example).
 
In real time, the researchers would record electrical signals that came from the TRN neurons in the mice’s brain. They were also able to inactivate various parts of the neural network, specifically the prefrontal cortex, which seeks out certain stimulus over others.
 
When the mice were trained to pay attention to a particular sound and ignore light, the TRN neurons that control vision were highly active, meaning that they were suppressing visual signals so that the mice could focus more intensely on the sound. The opposite happened when they were trained to follow the light in order to receive their milk reward.
 
Further, when the researchers inactivated the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for higher level functioning, using a laser beam, the TRN neural signaling went completely out of whack. This shows that the prefrontal cortex stores incoming sensory information, which the TRN then uses to suppress or not suppress certain senses, much in the same way that a switchboard works, explains Halassa.
 
Halassa and his team hope to use this new understanding of the brain’s wiring to figure out what goes wrong in certain diseases that are characterized by overstimulation, in particular autism, ADHD, and schizophrenia.
 
“One commonality in patients with these disorders is that they have a really hard time suppressing [distracting stimuli],” says Halassa.

Tags: brainneuroscienceresearchbiologypsychology

Read original article » Back to category

Comments

Author: Guest
Posted: 2015-10-25
+1
Very interesting! With our understanding of networks underpinning complex brain function, our ability to help people with disorders will increase also and treatments are very much needed Reply


 

Recent headlines

  • Posted in Business on 2017-05-27 11:41:40
    Google reportedly launched an AI investment program..read more
    Posted in Software on 2017-05-27 11:31:03
    How chatbot artificial intelligence will evolve over the.....read more
    Posted in Medicine on 2017-05-27 11:24:28
    Mind-Controlled Computer Retrains Stroke Victims' Brains.....read more
    Posted in Business on 2017-05-26 15:00:47
    Solar jobs growing 17 times faster than US economy..read more
    Posted in Science on 2017-05-26 14:50:23
    Schiaparelli: Crashed lander was ill-prepared for Mars..read more
Posted in Business on 2013-10-10 01:33
China is working towards a manned lunar mission in about.....read more
Posted in Business on 2013-10-20 07:17
Spacex says China is their main competitor for commercial.....read more
Posted in Software on 2013-10-20 06:43
Pirate Bay Browser Clocks 1,000,000 Downloads..read more
Posted in Medicine on 2013-10-10 02:10
Google reportedly investing hundreds of millions into new.....read more
Posted in Medicine on 2013-10-14 03:13
Endothelial Cells Can Repair and Regenerate Organs,.....read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Spacex says China is their main competitor for commercial.....read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Staring at Your Phone Could Be Making You Short Sighted..read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Oculus Rift virtual reality headset coming to mobile, but.....read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
China is working towards a manned lunar mission in about.....read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Delivering drugs via nanoparticles to target mitochondria..read more

Recent Blog Posts

  • Posted by AlexMuller
    Nanoparticle vaccine shows potential as immunotherapy to fight.....read more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    Obesity is top cause of preventable life-years lost, study shows..read more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    Light can be utilized to control gene function..read more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    Brain stimulation restores memory during lapses, research shows..read more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    Wax worm caterpillar will eat plastic shopping bags: New.....read more

Login to your Account

Login to your PlanetTech Account here

Username:
Password:
Remember me
or

Create a New Account

You just need username and password

The following errors occured:
Username:
Email:
Password:
Verify password:
Remember me