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Groundbreaking Model Explains How The Brain Learns To Ignore Familiar Stimuli, Trinity College Dublin Study


6/20/2014 6:47:46 AM

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A neuroscientist from Trinity College Dublin has proposed a new, ground-breaking explanation for the fundamental process of 'habituation', which has never been completely understood by neuroscientists. Typically, our response to a stimulus is reduced over time if we are repeatedly exposed to it. This process of habituation enables organisms to identify and selectively ignore irrelevant, familiar objects and events that they encounter again and again. Habituation therefore allows the brain to selectively engage with new stimuli, or those that it 'knows' to be relevant. For example, the unusual sensation created by a spider walking over our skin should elicit an appropriate evasive response, but the touch of a shirt or blouse on the same skin should be functionally ignored by the nervous system. If habituation does not occur, then such unimportant stimuli become distracting, which means that complex environments can become overwhelming.

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