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Providing too much attention to a task may be futile

Researchers say too much attention hinders the brain from switching from an ongoing strategy to a new and perhaps more efficient one

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Being too focused on a task may not yield perfect results as researchers have found that too much attention hinders the brain from switching from an ongoing strategy to a new and perhaps more efficient one.

The study published in the journal Neuron showed that activity in a region of the brain known as the medial prefrontal cortex is involved in shifting focus from a successful strategy to one that is even better.

“The human brain at any moment in time has to process quite a wealth of information,” said study first author Nicolas Schuck, a postdoctoral research associate at the Princeton University.

The brain has evolved mechanisms that filter that information in a way that is useful for the task that you are doing.

“But the filter has a disadvantage: you might miss out on important information that is outside your current focus,” Schuck added.

Schuck and his colleagues wanted to study what happens at the moment when people realize there is a different and potentially better way of doing things.

They asked volunteers to play a game while their brains were scanned with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The volunteers were instructed to press one of two buttons depending on the location of coloured squares on a screen.

The game contained a hidden pattern that the researchers did not tell the participants about, namely, that if the squares were green, they always appeared in one part of the screen and if the squares were red, they always appeared in another part.

Not all of the players figured out that there was a more efficient way to play the game. Among those that did, their brain images revealed specific signals in the medial prefrontal cortex that corresponded to the colour of the squares.

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Researchers say too much attention hinders the brain from switching from an ongoing strategy to a new and perhaps more efficient one

Researchers say too much attention hinders the brain from switching from an ongoing strategy to a new and perhaps more efficient one

Being too focused on a task may not yield perfect results as researchers have found that too much attention hinders the