New York, April 19: At a time when technology-driven, fast-paced life has left many of us suffering with distraction-related attentional deficits, two psychologists have made a discovery that could revolutionise doctors’ perception and treatment of attention-deficit disorders.
Our brains rely on an active suppression mechanism to avoid being distracted by salient irrelevant information when we want to focus on a particular item or task, they said.
“This is an important discovery for neuroscientists and psychologists because most contemporary ideas of attention highlight brain processes that are involved in picking out relevant objects from the visual field,” explained lead author John Gaspar from Simon Fraser University.
The discovery opens up the possibility that environmental and/or genetic factors may hinder or suppress a specific brain activity that the researchers have identified as helping us prevent distraction.
Distraction is a leading cause of injury and death in driving and other high-stakes environments.
“There are individual differences in the ability to deal with distraction. New electronic products are designed to grab attention. Suppressing such signals takes effort, and sometimes people can’t seem to do it,” added John McDonald, an associate professor of psychology.
Now, the researchers are looking at when and why we cannot suppress potentially distracting objects, whether some of us are better at doing so and why that is the case.
The paper was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.