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Science

Your Brain 'Blinks' When Your Attention Shifts, Researchers Discover (vanderbilt.edu) 87

Science_afficionado quotes Vanderbilt University's Research News: When your attention shifts from one place to another, your brain blinks. The blinks are momentary unconscious gaps in visual perception and came as a surprise to the team of Vanderbilt psychologists who discovered the phenomenon while studying the benefits of attention... The research was conducted with macaque monkeys that were trained to shift their attention among different objects on a display screen while the researchers monitored the pattern of neuron activity taking place in their brains... By combining advanced recording techniques that simultaneously track large numbers of neurons with sophisticated computational analyses, the researchers discovered that the activity of the neurons in the visual cortex were momentarily disrupted when the game required the animals to shift their attention. They also traced the source of the disruptions to parts of the brain involved in guiding attention, not back to the eyes.
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Your Brain 'Blinks' When Your Attention Shifts, Researchers Discover

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  • Scientists discover people open their mouths when yawning, sometimes leading to breathing.

    --
    And a star was born.

    • Scientists discover people open their mouths when yawning, sometimes leading to breathing.

      Careful, breathing too much will kill you - 100% of all dead people were habitual breathers.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sorry, could you repeat that? I was distracted.

    • They said that using the mouse isn't actually faster than using the keyboard, it is slower, but your brain pauses for you when you switch focus so that you can feel smarter.

      • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

        I think you got that backwards.

        The blink happens when recalling shortcuts, even if it's instinct.

        I'm not vouching for the truth, but that's what I read.

        • No, this is about shifting your visual focus in the case where you didn't even have to move your eyes.

          The research on recall shows quantization but not a pause.

          With a mouse you have to identify the pointer, and also the target, you can't do anything with the mouse without a visual context switch. Using a command line you don't even need to be looking at the screen or have your eyes open if you're a good typist.

  • by AdamStarks ( 2634757 ) on Sunday December 03, 2017 @10:46AM (#55667979)

    Who wrote this unmaintainable shit? No comments, variable names like "azfh232", and a complete lack of whitespace are bad enough, but there's race conditions, zero edge-case handling, and an overall structure that's more organic than planned.

    This is why we have code reviews, people!

  • by omnichad ( 1198475 ) on Sunday December 03, 2017 @10:49AM (#55667987) Homepage

    Changing visual focus means moving your eyes or head. There's a huge rush of information as everything in between passes by in a blur. If you don't ignore that information it tries to take over your focus. I'm sure that this is probably learned behavior, much like learning to drive means learning to ignore most visual input and only see the things that matter.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Changing visual focus means moving your eyes or head. There's a huge rush of information as everything in between passes by in a blur. If you don't ignore that information it tries to take over your focus. I'm sure that this is probably learned behavior, much like learning to drive means learning to ignore most visual input and only see the things that matter.

      Wow, you are astonishing.

      You could have saved them a metric ton of money.

      Please quit your day job.

    • If you were a more regular reader you'd have seen other studies that examined the physical mechanisms of context-switching and the physical quantization of time perception. It is a localized biological process, it is not reasonable to presume it would be learned.

      Just because you can form an idea that sounds intuitive to you, it doesn't mean you've acquired knowledge. Or even done an analysis. It just means you're credulous of your own wild and factually unsupported prognostications.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      It will help if you do not think of thought as being a stationary state in the brain. Think of it more as repeating thought patterns, happening over and over again, a lopping structure into which new input is added and output is produced upon repeated continuous basis. Sort of like a train track, going round and round, with new inputs added to the train and new outputs dropped off by the train. Change thought and you shut to another track and the new input output pattern must be generated. Some people can m

  • My brain blinks when I think of something I need to do in another room and after I walk there, it blinks to something else and I forget the reason I went there.
    #oldageblinkingsucks

  • Didn't I read this 40 years ago?
    • I was thinking the same damned thing. It was also in an old "Infinite Monkey Cage" episode (apropos, I suppose). The idea that the brain stops processing visual input while attention shifts is pretty common knowledge.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by brianerst ( 549609 )

      OK, I looked it up. saccadic masking [wikipedia.org] was discovered in 1898.

      Maybe these researchers have found the root neuronal cause of this, but it's hard to tell from their press release. The press release makes it seem like they discovered something wholly new rather than a new understanding of a very old bit of knowledge.

      • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Sunday December 03, 2017 @12:01PM (#55668257) Homepage Journal

        From the article:

        Primates are particularly suited for the study because they can shift their attention without moving their eyes. Most animals do not have this ability.

        Saccadic masking occurs during eye movement, so this is a different phenomenon; or perhaps it is the same phenomenon but it turns out that eye movement isn't really the triggering condition.

        • How do they do that? Do they have multiple foveas?

          That aside, if I was writing a summary about something that's quite similar to something else I'd add a sentence explaining why it's different, but I'm a bit eccentric sometimes.

          • Wow a bot claiming to be a human but who doesn't know that peripheral vision is a thing!

            Your vocabulary betrays you; no human would be so ignorant, and yet use medical jargon terms.

            Turing test failed, but good try to the programmer, keep working at it you'll get there!

            • Wow a bot claiming to be a human but who doesn't know that peripheral vision is a thing!

              I've heard of peripheral vision. That's how I know it's not the focus of attention. It's only really good for motion detection.

              Turing test failed

              Talking to to yourself? First sign of madness, that.

              • Peripheral vision can be focused on. There's a natural tendency to look over there with the fovea, but that doesn't have to happen.

              • Right, right, but after having just "heard of it," it helps to also read the wiki page. Or like, take one fucking physiology class.

  • "Macaque monkey's brain blinks when his attention shifts, researchers discover"

    You're welcome.

  • ...Blipverts. Excuse me, I need a Pepsi...

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Sunday December 03, 2017 @11:37AM (#55668171)

    So my whole brain doesn't 'blink'. Just that part ... [Hnggg. Hot babe just walked by.] .... that has to wait for it's input to settle down.

    • That's just your neckbeard trying to take control of the host body.

      Try reducing your corn syrup consumption and bathing frequently. Concentrated fructose tips the balance in favor of the parasite, and increased oxygenation of the skin helps to prevent it from spreading.

      Shaving is also useful, but not always practicable because the neckbeard will release hormones that make the host feel unhappy when it is threatened. So it is often helpful to reduce the strength of the parasite with the above techniques befo

  • Probably just a context switch, no?
  • I thought this was well known. It stops you getting dizzy when you move your eyes, and is responsible for the stopped clock illusion:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • The deeper the thinker, the longer the pause.

  • Or you will miss it!
  • I wonder if this is something we can train ourselves out of? Or will we forever be doomed to not being able to text and drive?

  • Maybe they shouldn't have skipped that lecture.

  • Your brain farts right before you start into an 'Orange Clown' / Demonrats / Repugnicans rant =D

  • It's hard for computers, hard for people too.

    Did you ever walk through a door and forget what you had planned to get in that room?

    Shifting context (attention) requires a large amount of processing. It's not surprising that the brain "blinks."

  • Just like a computer screen refreshes...or a browser refreshes...It's just that we are N times faster
  • Saccadic masking describes the mental time cost of processing moving images. Think of watching a single fan blade spin. Your eyes must first match the velocity of the fan blade movement, to create a sort of reference frame. The brain interprets/assumes the acquisition and processing times to be 0, and as such, perception of 'real' time, skips.

    I wonder how this is related to ADHD, and the efficacy of 'finger spinners' in addressing symptoms. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
    • Oh. Interesting.

      ADHD subjects fail to suppress eye blinks and microsaccades while anticipating visual stimuli but recover with medication https://www.sciencedirect.com/... [sciencedirect.com]

      Highlights
      Blink and saccade rates were higher in ADHD subjects in a continuous performance task.
      Medication reduced the saccade rate to control levels, and lowered the blink rate.
      ADHD subjects fail to suppress saccades and blinks while anticipating stimuli.
  • ...by combining advanced recording techniques that simultaneously track large numbers of neurons with sophisticated computational analyses, the researchers discovered that the activity of the neurons in the visual cortex were momentarily disrupted ...

    A few points, if I may.

    1. This study was done on MONKEYS. Humans are not monkeys. Though we have much the same DNA, that does not make us the same. Though we have common ancestors, that does not make us the same. (My feelings aren't hurt by this notion, it's simply foolish to assume that because some similarities exist, that other similarities can be safely assumed, because they often cannot.

    2. The 'magic' of 'advanced computer algorithms' is as far as I'm concerned, like the expression 'then a m

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