Attention can be defined as a focus on a particular stimulus, while ignoring other stimuli. The ability to attend to a stimulus is important in many everyday settings, such as when driving a car or listening to a lecture. When we attend to a stimulus, we are effectively choosing to process that particular stimulus more deeply, while ignoring other stimuli.
It is now well established that attention can influence individual neurons. For example, if you attend to a particular sound, neurons that respond to that sound will fire more frequently than those that respond to other sounds. Attention can also influence the overall activity of a region of the brain. For example, if you attend to a particular sound, the auditory cortex (the region of the brain responsible for processing sound) will become more active.
While it is clear that attention can influence individual neurons and brain regions, it is less clear how these effects are achieved. One possibility is that attention encourages the formation of temporary connections, or “neural assemblies,” between neurons that are processing the attended stimulus. These assemblies would be transient, meaning that they would only exist while attention was focused on the stimulus. Once attention was no longer focused on the stimulus, the assembly would “disassemble.”
This view of attention, known as the “neural assembly” theory, is supported by a number of studies. For example, studies have shown that when people attend to a particular sound, neurons that respond to that sound are more likely to fire in synchrony with one another. This finding is consistent with the idea that attention encourages the formation of neural assemblies.
It is also worth noting that attention is not a “ all-or-nothing” phenomenon. That is, we can attend to a stimulus to varying degrees. For example, we can attend to a particular sound in order to localize it in space (i.e., to determine where it is coming from), or we can attend to it in order to identify it (i.e., to determine what sound it is).
In summary, attention is an important cognitive ability that allows us to focus on particular stimuli while ignoring others. Attention can influence individual neurons and brain regions. The neural assembly theory of attention suggests that attention encourages the formation of temporary connections between neurons that are processing the attended stimulus.
Attention and running influence individual brain cells independently
Researchers have found that running and attention influence individual brain cells independently. The findings, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, could help to explain how exercise can improve attention and mental agility.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Zurich and the ETH Zurich in Switzerland. The team used a technique called ‘population imaging’ to study how groups of neurons work together in the brains of rats.
The rats were trained to run on a treadmill while paying attention to a visual cue. The researchers found that when the rats were running and paying attention, groups of neurons in the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus became more active.
However, the researchers also found that individual neurons in the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus were more active when the rats were running, but not paying attention. This suggests that running and attention influence individual brain cells independently.
The findings could help to explain how exercise can improve attention and mental agility. The findings could also have implications for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Current treatments for ADHD often involve the use of stimulant medications. However, these medications can have side effects, such as increased anxiety and insomnia. Exercise is a safe and effective treatment for ADHD, and the new findings could help to explain how it works.
The findings could also have implications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Previous research has shown that exercise can improve cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
The new findings suggest that exercise could improve cognitive function by influencing individual brain cells, rather than by affecting whole brain regions. This could lead to the development of new and more targeted treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.