Discovery into brain’s antidistraction system

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 56, No. 5, June 2014, Pages 237,243 News

Two Simon Fraser University psychologists have made a brain-related discovery that could help scientists and health care professionals better treat individuals with distraction-related attentional deficits. The study reveals that brains rely on an active suppression mechanism to avoid being distracted by salient but irrelevant information when people want to focus on a particular item or task. Dr John McDonald, a Canada research chair in cognitive neuroscience, and other scientists first discovered the existence of the specific neural index of suppression in his lab in 2009. But, until now, little was known about how it helps people ignore visual distractions. Authors of the study indicate that disorders associated with attention deficits, such as ADHD and schizophrenia, may turn out to be due to difficulties in suppressing irrelevant objects rather than difficulty selecting relevant ones. Researchers are now turning their attention to understanding how people deal with distraction, and looking at when and why people can’t suppress potentially distracting objects, whether some people are better at doing so, and why that is the case.

The paper, “Suppression of Salient Objects Prevents Distraction in Visual Search,” by Dr John McDonald, associate professor of psychology at Simon Fraser University, and his doctoral student, John Gaspar, is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

. Discovery into brain’s antidistraction system. BCMJ, Vol. 56, No. 5, June, 2014, Page(s) 237,243 - News.

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