Distracted? Tell Your Brain What To Ignore

Focus_slideIllustrated By Sydney Hass.
When it comes to Mondays, we're with Garfield. There's something about the start of the week that throws a wrench in our usually focused, productive work habits. Despite our good intentions, there's always some new distraction (read: funny corgi video) that just can't possibly wait until later. But, what if focus and concentration were as simple as flipping a switch in your brain?
Advertisement
Such a sci-fi quick fix may not yet exist, but a new study suggests we're well on our way. Psychologists at Simon Fraser University claim to have made a key discovery about how our brains focus. In a study published this week in The Journal of Neuroscience, 56 undergrads participated in three experiments designed to challenge their focus. During each experiment, researchers presented the students with a series of red, yellow, and green shapes. They instructed the participants to be on the lookout for a specific color or shape — for example, a green diamond — and to ignore the others. Researchers then measured subjects' brain waves to see how their brains responded to distracting stimuli (i.e. the shapes they had been instructed to ignore).
Historically, prevailing wisdom has held that our brains perceive our surroundings as a whole, picking out elements that require our attention (like reading Where's Waldo?). But, this study showed the reverse: Researchers found that respondents' brains actively suppressed perceptions of the distracting stimuli, rather than highlighting the shapes they were supposed to notice.
More research is needed to determine exactly what factors help our brains shut out distractions. Still, this new discovery could change the way we treat attention disorders — not to mention cases of "the Mondays."
Advertisement

More from Wellness

Brittany Mostiller still remembers the moment when she realized that she couldn’t afford an abortion. “I didn’t know anything about this Hyde Amendment ...
Earlier this year, Lena Dunham was hospitalized to treat a ruptured ovarian cyst, unintentionally shedding light on an often ignored area of women's health...
When it comes to penises, we’re often told that bigger is better — but in reality, that's far from the truth. In fact, studies suggest that, other than ...
When it comes to rock climbing, an all-or-nothing approach is key
Watch as we hang with some NYC skaters as they talk about what it's like to be a woman at the skate park
If your eyes tend to glaze over at first mention of the latest Health Hack That Will Change Your Life, we can’t really blame you. Although we are literally...
Your birth control is supposed to bring you peace of mind, but could it be affecting your mental health in a negative way? A large new study suggests a ...
(Paid Content) In this age of label-aversion, hookup apps, and social-media flirtation (nothing says romance like a DM, right?), few would disagree that ...
We're in plus-size pool party heaven
Nearly a month after Selena Gomez announced she would be taking time off from work to focus on her ongoing battle with lupus, her friend Michael B. ...
If you've ever wondered why you go through several cups of coffee a day while your best friend stops at two, researchers may have found the answer — and ...
I had just ended my second “serious relationship” and had been back in the usual rotation of dating apps when I met Drew*. Drew was a man that my mother ...
As you might have heard by now, the first black moon since 2014 will rise this Friday night. As ominous as it sounds, the black moon is just another term...
If you've ever felt like you get more out of your workout while exercising with a partner, it's not just your imagination. According to a study published ...