A new study reveals how neurons in the TRN sort sensory information in the brain while multitasking.
Not everyone has been successful trying to multitask, and a new study reveals that the ability lies in a part of the brain called the thalamic reticular nucleus, or the TRN. According to a press release from Eurekalert, researchers from the New York University Langone Medical Center believe that neurons in the TRN act like a switchboard, routing attention to a single sense while blocking out other distractions.
The study, which examined the ability of mice’s brains to multitask, was published in Nature. It showed that neurons in the TRN were less active when the mice focused on a visual stimulus administered right before a reward of milk. TRN neurons are believed to dampen brain signals in people.
When the researchers switched the stimulus to a sound instead of a flash of light, they found that the TRN neurons controlling vision became more active, dampening the mice’s visual perception and making them focus more on the sound that led to a reward.
According to neuroscientist and senior investigator Michael Halassa, “Our latest research findings support a newly emerging model of how the brain focuses attention on a particular task, using neurons in the TRN as a switchboard to control the amount of information the brain receives, limiting and filtering out sensory information that we don’t want to pay attention to.”
This helps people focus on complex tasks like driving, interacting with people, and studying. The study opens up new avenues for research into the way our brain regulates sensory information, and responds to the most important information first.