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Researchers Identify How Does The Brain Know When To Pay Attention

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Brain News: International team of scientists has found the cognitive computations underlying our fast reactions to future events and how we know whether and when to pay attention.

A boxer needs to respond to her opponent as fast as possible in order to predict and prevent the next attack. Such fast reactions are based on estimates of whether and when events will occur.

According to previous studies, every future event has two distinct kinds of uncertainty: Whether it will happen within a given time span, and if so when it will likely occur. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics (MPIEA) and New York University (NYU) examined how these two different sources of uncertainty affect human anticipatory behavior.

They conducted a simple experiment – they systematically manipulated the probabilities of whether and when sensory events will occur and analyzed human reaction time behavior and reported two novel results.

First, the probability of whether an event will occur has a highly dynamic effect on anticipation over time. Second, the brain’s estimations of whether and when an event will occur take place independently.

The findings published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), indicate that the human brain dynamically adjusts its readiness to respond based on separate probability estimates of whether and when events occur. This study explains how the human brain predicts future events in order to interact accordingly with the environment.

To Know More You May Refer To:

Matthias Grabenhorst, Laurence T. Maloney, David Poeppel, Georgios Michalareas. Two sources of uncertainty independently modulate temporal expectancy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021; 118 (16): e2019342118 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2019342118

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