Training the Mind Not to Wander

Posted on February 24, 2015

Photo: flickr

Neuroscientists at Princeton University monitored the brain activity of students who were asked to perform a repetitive task that required close attention. While lying inside an functional magnetic resonance imaging, or f.M.R.I., machine, the students were shown a series of pictures of human faces superimposed over scenery. They were told to press a button when they saw a particular kind of face (female or male) or when they saw a particular kind of scenery (inside or outside).

The test was designed to mirror the kind of everyday task from which one could easily lose focus, said Nicholas B. Turk-Browne, the lead author of the study. "What makes this a study of attention is they needed to select the image that's relevant and ignore the other part," he said.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, show that people can learn to stop their minds from wandering if they are made aware it is happening, Dr. Turk-Browne said.

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Source material from New York Times