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  • Paying close attention to something:

  • Not that easy, is it?

  • It's because our attention is pulled in so many different directions at a time,

  • and it's in fact pretty impressive if you can stay focused.

  • Many people think that attention is all about what we are focusing on,

  • but it's also about what information our brain is trying to filter out.

  • There are two ways you direct your attention.

  • First, there's overt attention.

  • In overt attention, you move your eyes towards something

  • in order to pay attention to it.

  • Then there's covert attention.

  • In covert attention, you pay attention to something,

  • but without moving your eyes.

  • Think of driving for a second.

  • Your overt attention, your direction of the eyes,

  • are in front,

  • but that's your covert attention

  • which is constantly scanning the surrounding area,

  • where you don't actually look at them.

  • I'm a computational neuroscientist,

  • and I work on cognitive brain-machine interfaces,

  • or bringing together the brain and the computer.

  • I love brain patterns.

  • Brain patterns are important for us

  • because based on them we can build models for the computers,

  • and based on these models

  • computers can recognize how well our brain functions.

  • And if it doesn't function well,

  • then these computers themselves can be used as assistive devices

  • for therapies.

  • But that also means something,

  • because choosing the wrong patterns

  • will give us the wrong models

  • and therefore the wrong therapies.

  • Right?

  • In case of attention,

  • the fact that we can

  • shift our attention not only by our eyes

  • but also by thinking --

  • that makes covert attention an interesting model for computers.

  • So I wanted to know what are the brainwave patterns

  • when you look overtly or when you look covertly.

  • I set up an experiment for that.

  • In this experiment there are two flickering squares,

  • one of them flickering at a slower rate than the other one.

  • Depending on which of these flickers you are paying attention to,

  • certain parts of your brain will start resonating in the same rate

  • as that flickering rate.

  • So by analyzing your brain signals,

  • we can track where exactly you are watching

  • or you are paying attention to.

  • So to see what happens in your brain when you pay overt attention,

  • I asked people to look directly in one of the squares

  • and pay attention to it.

  • In this case, not surprisingly, we saw that these flickering squares

  • appeared in their brain signals

  • which was coming from the back of their head,

  • which is responsible for the processing of your visual information.

  • But I was really interested

  • to see what happens in your brain when you pay covert attention.

  • So this time I asked people to look in the middle of the screen

  • and without moving their eyes,

  • to pay attention to either of these squares.

  • When we did that,

  • we saw that both of these flickering rates appeared in their brain signals,

  • but interestingly,

  • only one of them, which was paid attention to,

  • had stronger signals,

  • so there was something in the brain

  • which was handling this information

  • so that thing in the brain was basically the activation of the frontal area.

  • The front part of your brain is responsible

  • for higher cognitive functions as a human.

  • The frontal part, it seems that it works as a filter

  • trying to let information come in only from the right flicker

  • that you are paying attention to

  • and trying to inhibit the information coming from the ignored one.

  • The filtering ability of the brain is indeed a key for attention,

  • which is missing in some people,

  • for example in people with ADHD.

  • So a person with ADHD cannot inhibit these distractors,

  • and that's why they can't focus for a long time on a single task.

  • But what if this person

  • could play a specific computer game

  • with his brain connected to the computer,

  • and then train his own brain

  • to inhibit these distractors?

  • Well, ADHD is just one example.

  • We can use these cognitive brain-machine interfaces

  • for many other cognitive fields.

  • It was just a few years ago

  • that my grandfather had a stroke, and he lost complete ability to speak.

  • He could understand everybody, but there was no way to respond,

  • even not writing because he was illiterate.

  • So he passed away in silence.

  • I remember thinking at that time:

  • What if we could have a computer

  • which could speak for him?

  • Now, after years that I am in this field,

  • I can see that this might be possible.

  • Imagine if we can find brainwave patterns

  • when people think about images or even letters,

  • like the letter A generates a different brainwave pattern

  • than the letter B, and so on.

  • Could a computer one day communicate for people who can't speak?

  • What if a computer

  • can help us understand the thoughts of a person in a coma?

  • We are not there yet,

  • but pay close attention.

  • We will be there soon.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

Paying close attention to something:

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B1 US TED attention brain covert overt pay

【TED】Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar: What happens in your brain when you pay attention? (What happens in your brain when you pay attention? | Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar)

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    吳宜軒 posted on 2017/12/25
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