Study Finds Where You Lost Your Train of Thought

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Source:   —  April 19, 2016, at 5:21 PM

They've seen what'south happening in the brain at the moment we obtain startled and lose our train of thought, and they've turned up a link between that just-lost thought and one of the classic symptoms of Parkinson'south disease.

Study Finds Where You Lost Your Train of Thought

Researchers have found just where you lost your train of thought.

They've seen what'south happening in the brain at the moment we obtain startled and lose our train of thought, and they've turned up a link between that just-lost thought and one of the classic symptoms of Parkinson'south disease.

It might arrive when someone interrupts you, and you forget what you were saying. Or when a loud noise startles you.

"An unexpected event appears to clear out what you were thinking," said Adam Aron, a neuroscientist at the Univ of California, San Diego, who led the research.

Their experiment seems to indicate the brain engages a physical stopping order that interrupts the train of thought.

"We know what the electrical signals see love when somebody has to stop a movement," Aron told NBC News.

"The radically new idea is that just as the brain'south stopping mechanism is involved in stopping what we're doing with our bodies it might also be responsible for interrupting and flushing out our thoughts," Aron said.

"We are providing a neural mechanism by which that happens," he added. "The same stopping system that gives you that kind of jolt when you're getting out of the elevator, and someone else is in your way and you've to stop, that same stopping system is stopping your train of thought."

"An unexpected event appears to clear out what you were thinking."

The team focused on one portion of the brain'south stopping system called the subthalamic nucleus.

They got volunteers to keep on an electrode cap and get on a computer-based memory task. First, they certified to look if a astonishment could create people lose concentration.

They showed them boring strings of consonants and said they'd be shown another string and would've to determine quickly if it was identical to the first. A ordinary tone preceded the test portion of the experiment.

The volunteers had to hold the first string of consonants in mind as they compared it to the second.

Sometimes, the researchers played the sound of a bird singing instead of the tone. It did create their twenty-one volunteers either unhurried down or create errors, they reported in the journal Nature Communications.

Then they got twenty-two different volunteers to do the test with the electrode cap on. And they got seven volunteers with Parkinson'south sickness to do a similar test, but they'd had surgery to implant the electrodes to treat their symptoms.

The electrodes could read the brain action precisely in the Parkinson'south patients, while the caps gave a coarse idea of brain action in the learner volunteers.

The more the subthalamic nucleus was engaged by the startling sound, the more likely the volunteers were to create mistakes, the team found.

"We've shown that unexpected, or surprising, events recruit the same brain system we utilize to actively stop our actions, which, in turn, appears to influence the degree to which such surprising events affect our ongoing trains of thought," said cognitive neurologist January Wessel, who worked on the study and who's presently at the Univ of Iowa.

The subthalamic nucleus of the brain is also involved in some specific symptoms of Parkinson's — the inability to modify focus easily, and the inability to begin motion. Parkinson'south patients sometimes discover they "freeze' because their brain somehow doesn't tell their legs to move, for instance.

Deep brain stimulation, in which electrodes are implanted in the brain, is meant to treat these and other symptoms.

"It might also be potentially fascinating to look if this system could be engaged deliberately - and actively used to interrupt intrusive thoughts or unwanted memories."

And Parkinson'south patients have also found they sometimes become over-focused and cannot modify gears in their thoughts, Aron said.

If the same thing is happening in a healthy brain, it might imply the system itself is universal, the researchers said.

For instance, it may be what happens when people should create a "broad stop" — for example, to avert colliding with someone else suddenly.

"It might also be potentially fascinating to look if this system could be engaged deliberately — and actively used to interrupt intrusive thoughts or unwanted memories," Wessel said. That might proposal a way to treat depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

"We don't wish to stretch it too distant to create huge claims about treating anything," Aron added. "This is highly speculative, but it could be fruitful to examine if the subthalamic nucleus is more readily triggered in ADHD."

It might be possible to somehow train people to overcome whatever'south making them so easily distracted, he said.

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