In the experiment, an important part was played by owl.
Scientists from Johns Hopkins University of Maryland (USA) on the example of barn owl found out how the brain chooses what to pay attention to.
Despite the fact that scientists are studying the forebrain of animals for several decades, the answer to the question how he chooses what to pay attention to, and has not been found. A group of researchers headed by Nagarajan by Mahajan (Mahajan Nagaraj) decided to study the mid-brain, which is much older than the front and is present in all animals – from fish and mammals to birds and people. The results are published in the journal Cell Reports.
“In the world there are a million things simultaneously fixed our eyes, ears, skin and other senses. On what to us is most important to pay attention to build a model of behavior? All animals take in these decisions that affect their lives, but not all of them have developed front brain. Our work gives quite a nice answer to how the brain solves a key component of this problem,” says Chris Mysore (Mysore this Andaman and Nicobar Islands), co-author of the study.
For their work, the scientists chose owls: besides the fact that they have sharp vision and hearing, the peculiarity of organization of the midbrain makes it relatively easy to track the activity of interest to researchers of neurons. The researchers measured the activity of individual neurons in the average brain 15 owls, and what they found puzzled them.
Although usually individual neurons encode visual space is topographically, in their experiment, the scientists found that single neurons respond to a few things that are sometimes very far from each other.
In progress Nagaraj Mahajan came to the conclusion that, if the neurons should signal important stimuli in the environment, regardless of where the visual data, the only possible way for the brain to encode space, while maintaining the energy metabolism, is to have significantly fewer neurons than stimuli themselves. Moreover, each neuron would encode several different signals. Scientists have discovered that the brain of an owl is almost perfectly consistent with those calculations.
When the researchers counted the number of neurons of the midbrain, it was found that they were 40 percent less, and the place in which the encoded individual neurons were organized in a combinatorial principle, is very similar to the principle of Sudoku.
“We think that the neurons of the midbrain may be an important key to the puzzle of the inability to focus on one thing. Our work is fundamental, but this idea can be tested on patients. If we’re lucky, it will find a way of treating attention deficit disorder,” hopes Mysore.
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