About this author
Zack Lynch is author of The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World (St. Martin's Press, July 2009).
He is the founder and executive director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) and co-founder of NeuroInsights. He serves on the advisory boards of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, Science Progress, and SocialText, a social software company. Please send newsworthy items or feedback - to Zack Lynch.
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Brain Waves

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May 31, 2005

MIT Finds Waldo in Your Brain

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Posted by Zack Lynch

waldo.gif "Attention is a general problem for the brain, and maybe it has a general solution," according to a new study, published in a recent issue of Science, that addresses a central question that anyone who has tackled a "Where's Waldo?" book can appreciate. When looking for Waldo on the crowded page, does the brain scan the page spatially, like a mental spotlight moving across an otherwise dark page? Or does the brain take in the whole page at once and gradually zoom in on relevant features such as color and shape?"

Using the visual system as a model, Professor Robert Desimone, director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, and colleagues report that neurons synchronize their signals to command attention, like a chorus rising above the din of noisy chatter in a crowded room. "We think that synchronizing signals could be a general way the brain focuses on what's important," says Desimone, who also holds an appointment through MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

"If timing is important for visual attention and this is the way the brain focuses," reflects Desimone, "that exploration might open up whole new domains for understanding and possibly treating attention disorders, which are common in mental illnesses, including ADHD and even schizophrenia."

This line of reasoning seems right on target to me. Now comes the hard part of translating this basic research in the better tools for mental illness.

NOTE: Italicized paragraphs directly from MIT press releases.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Cogniceuticals


1. Alfred on June 4, 2005 11:21 AM writes...

So MIT is finally getting around to the universal question. I've been searching for the answer almost all my life. But it hasn't been Where's Waldo. My struggle with life is the meaning of "WHAT me worry?" as opposed to "what ME worry?" and how it relates to my existence. Here I am 45 years later still trying to answer the same question. Sometimes I know I don't see the club head hitting the golf ball, but is it ME or WHAT?

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