Every second, we are bombarded with information from the many sights and sounds around us. In order to keep the brain from becoming overwhelmed by the steady stream of data competing for attention, brain cells work together to sort and prioritize information. Human and animal studies are helping researchers piece together the calculations brain cells use to prioritize information in hopes of better understanding the many varieties of awareness and attention.
Using live brain imaging and computer simulations, scientists are beginning to develop a greater understanding of how cells in various brain regions take information in, and how the brain uses this information to make decisions. This insight may one day lead to better diagnoses and treatment options for disorders marked by attention problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and schizophrenia.