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Area Of Brain Responsible For Attention Identified

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For students with ADHD and other similar brain conditions, there are only interventions to treat the symptoms and not the condition itself.

In a new study, researchers from McGill University have identified a network of neurons that are crucial for controlling attention, reports The Huffington Post.

For the study, the researchers recorded the brain activity of macaque monkeys as they looked at objects on a computer screen. The brain signals were recorded on a computer decoder which simulated brain activity while it focused.

They found a group of neurons in the lateral prefrontal cortex of the brain that interact with each other while visualizing information and ignoring distractions.


Past research has identified individual neurons related to attentional, but not a neural "attentional map," said Julio Martinez-Trujillo, a professor of cognitive neurophysiology and co-author of the study.

"What was unclear previously is whether a map of activity can signal where attention is allocated, within the short time we use to orient attention (few hundred millisecond)," Martinez-Trujillo said. "The contribution of this study is that we obtained a realistic estimate of the attentional map, which is composed of, not only one neuron but of many neurons that interact with one another."

There are disruptions in one's ability to focus with conditions such as autism, ADHD and schizophrenia.

Based on the research, the researchers think that there may be a problem with the interaction between neurons in the prefrontal cortex that disrupts the ability to focus.

"It is essential for us is to corroborate this hypothesis in the near future," said Martinez-Trujillo. "One can imagine that drugs or other interventions that could manipulate interactions between neurons within the prefrontal map could be used to treat disorders of attention (focusing too little or too much)."

"Being able to extract and read the neuronal code from higher-level areas of the brain could also lead to important breakthroughs in the emerging field of neural prosthetics, where people who are paralysed use their thoughts to control objects in their environment," said Sebastiien Tremblay, a doctoral student and co-author of the study.

The research was published in the journal Neuron.

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