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Dodge these brain waves to stay alert

Last Updated: Friday, April 25, 2014 - 18:11

New York: Accidents often happen when we fail to see an unexpected object while driving and to see more and miss less, staying focused on our experience could be the key, a study suggests.

The alpha waves, typically thought of as electrical activity of the brain when it is at rest, can actually influence what we see or what we do not see, revealed the study.

The alpha can inhibit what is processed visually, making it hard for us to see something unexpected, said the study.

By focusing attention fully on what we are experiencing, the executive function of the brain can come into play and put a brake on the alpha waves, thus allowing us to see things that we might have missed in a more relaxed state.

“When we have different things competing for our attention, we can only be aware of so much of what we see,” said Kyle Mathewson from Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at University of Illinois.

“For example, when you are driving, you might really be concentrating on obeying traffic signals,” Mathewson noted.

The study examined 16 participants and mapped the electrical and optical data onto individual MRI brain images.

The researchers discovered that the alpha waves are produced in the cuneus, located in the part of the brain that processes visual information.

“We found that the same brain regions known to control our attention are involved in suppressing the alpha waves and improving our ability to detect hard-to-see targets,” said Diane Beck, at associate professor at Beckman Institute.

“Knowing where the waves originate means we can target that area specifically with electrical stimulation” Mathewson added.

The study appeared in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

First Published: Friday, April 25, 2014 - 18:11

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