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A more focused brain

Ilustra TecnoDaniel BuenoThe brain’s ability to ignore distractions and focus on specific tasks may be associated with neural circuits working in an orchestrated manner in a region of the brain called the thalamus. Researchers from Stanford and New York Universities, both in the United States, discovered that neurons in the prefrontal cortex adjust the brain’s sensitivity to sensory stimuli, sending signals that inhibit or activate neurons in the thalamus. In the study, mice were trained to use auditory and visual stimuli as clues leading them to a door with a reward behind it. The researchers observed that when the mice focused on light to choose the correct door, the thalamus neurons that inhibit visual signals were less active. When they concentrated on sound and ignored the light, the thalamus neurons associated with vision were more active, suppressing visual signals and making the brain focus on sound (Nature, October 21, 2015). These results suggest that the thalamus functions as a control center, managing the amount of information received by the brain and sorting the incoming sensory stimuli, choosing which ones should be get attention or be ignored.