Easily Distracted People May Have Bigger Brains
Easily distracted? Maybe you just have ‘too much brain', says a fascinating new study from the University College of London.
Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the research was led by Ryota Kania, whose team discovered greater than normal amounts of grey matter in some brain regions of people who are easily distracted.
The research team examined the brains of a group of people who are easy to distract and compared then to a group who are harder to distract. The level of distractibility was scored by questioning study participants about everyday situations where they may be sidetracked – like going to the store and forgetting what they were supposed to buy – and giving the highest scores to the most easily distracted people.
Observing the participants' brains using a structural MRI scanner, the team noted that those among the easiest to distract group had notably more grey matter in the left superior parietal lobe (SPL). To learn if activity in the SPL has a part in distractibility, they used transcranial magnetic stimulation to lessen the activity of that part of the brain.
The volunteers were asked to complete a timed assignment first with distractions, and again without those distractions. Kanai's team then used the time difference to measure distraction. Repeating the task after transcranial magnetic stimulation over the left SPL, the time it took to complete the assignment grew by about 25 percent, suggesting that people with larger left SPLs have a more difficult time staying on task.
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The grey matter in our brains is 'pruned' as we mature, becoming more efficient. Kanai theorizes that a larger amount of grey matter may be a sign of a less mature brain. Distractibility and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more common in younger age groups.
Understanding the biological reasons why some people have a harder time concentrating may yield helpful solutions for improving the attention span of those living ADHD.
Other researchers involved in the study were Mia Yuan Dong , Bahador Bahrami, and Geraint Rees.
Reference: Journal of Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1523/jneurosci.5864-10.2011
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