Your Brain in the Digital Age
Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 6:45 p.m.
Everyday, we’re faced with a multitude of stimuli demanding our attention—the kettle’s whistling, the TV’s blaring, the cell phone’s chirping. Our brain begins its balancing act between our voluntary goal-directed attentional system (making a cup of tea) and our stimulus-driven attention-grabbing system (the cell phone’s alerts). Without a fine balance between the two, we would be unable to focus on anything. So how does our brain allow us to make decisions in light of the barrage of external and internal stimuli we confront daily?
Sarah Shomstein, an associate professor of cognitive neuroscience at George Washington University, talks about the brain’s neural mechanisms that allow attentional selection. According to Shomstein, because the brain isn’t able to process the amount of information coming at us all at once, it has developed a way to select a subset of information for further processing. The critical question, she says, is how the brain chooses what to process first and what to process next. She addresses the science behind that question and suggests ways we might enhance the brain’s ability to keep us focused. So pay attention!
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)