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Focusing in on Attention

November 25, 2015

Functional MRI brainscans could identify attention deficit disorders in the resting brain.



Networks are composed of brain regions (spheres) and functional connections (lines). The orange network predicts better attention and the blue network predicts worse attention. A sphere’s size corresponds to the number of connections it has in both networks, and its color corresponds to the network in which it has more connections. (Monica Rosenberg)


A snapshot of attention span. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Paying attention is an incredibly complicated activity, involving over a hundred areas of the brain. In the journal Nature Neuroscience, Yale graduate student Monica Rosenberg and her colleagues report that they’ve developed a method for measuring a person’s ability to focus based on functional MRI brain scans taken while the person is merely daydreaming.

MONICA ROSENBERG (Yale University):

We sort of measured brain connectivity while people were performing a task but then we looked at those connections while they weren’t performing any task. And we saw that just your intrinsic connectivity while you’re thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner could predict your attention, so that was really exciting.


She says the work could allow them to spot ADHD and other disorders earlier, and also track the effectiveness of treatments. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.