New York: The ability to sustain focus on a goal goes down with age but researchers, including of an Indian-origin, have discovered that with the help of a sound training, even the elderly can learn to ignore distractions.
Distractibility, or the inability to sustain focus on a goal due to attention to irrelevant stimuli, can have a negative effect on basic daily activities and is a hallmark of the ageing mind.
It is possible to diminish distractibility by learning to distinguish a target sound from other distractions, the findings showed.
A similar strategy might also help children with attention deficits or individuals with other mental challenges.
"We show that by learning to discriminate amidst progressively more challenging distractions, we can diminish distractibility in rat and human brains," stressed lead author Jyoti Mishra from University of California, San Francisco.
For the study, the investigators used sounds at various frequencies as targets and distractors.
In both aged rats and older humans, trainees learned to identify the target tone in each training session through reinforcement feedback.
Then they had to continue to correctly identify that target tone amid more challenging distractor frequencies.
In both rats and humans, training led to diminished distraction-related errors and trainees' memory and attention spans improved.
The study appeared in the journal Neuron.