What part of the brain controls concentration?

In the next article we are going to answer the question ‘’What part of the brain controls concentration?’’ We will talk about concentration, what happens in the brain when we concentrate, how to use daydreaming in our favor and some tips on how to concentrate.

What part of the brain controls concentration?

The part of the brain that controls concentration is the frontal cortex. The frontal cortex is the part of your brain that is directly involved in most of your daily activities. So it consumes too much energy.

The brain is divided into several parts, each of which has one or more specific functions. For now we will only focus on one: the prefrontal cortex.

The prefrontal cortex

The part we are talking about is located right on our forehead (hence the name). It is a very small part of our brain between 4 to 5%, but the most interesting thing is that this part is what differentiates us from the animal world.

The frontal cortex is where we select our thoughts. It is the place we decide what to think about.

Thanks to this part we can have goals such as: “I go to the store to buy milk”, we would not be able to create plans: “I leave home, walk two blocks, buy milk and come home before dinner time.”

Without this part of the brain, we would not be able to solve problems: “I leave the house but I forget my keys, so I have to find a viable solution to get back home.” And of course, we could not make decisions: “I am going to ask the neighbor next door to let me use her balcony to enter the house.”

For obvious reasons, you may be imagining that this is where the conflict occurs between concentrating on doing a task and thinking about something else.

And although it sounds like the best part of the brain, it has major limitations:

1. It is not capable of handling large volumes of information.

2. You are unable to retain information for long.

3. It is metabolically expensive, that is, it uses too much energy. The brain can only work with the glucose available in your body.

Daydreaming, the enemy of concentration?

It is still curious: if daydreaming is so dangerous, why do we spend so much time of our hours so that our mind wanders, goes around the bush?If this phenomenon causes problems at the individual and social level, why hasn’t brain evolution eliminated it already?

Well, because it is not like that, it seems that that idle mind, which jumps from one topic to another, is not a hindrance that generates regrets and failures, but on the contrary, it can be an essential part of your brain tools: it encourages creativity and resolution of problems allowing the brain to establish links between pieces of information that we do not connect when we are focused on one of them. 

Attention is a cognitive and behavioral process that is based on selectively concentrating on a specific piece of information, while ignoring other perceptible information, everything else.

But as we say, not through an effort of concentration but the opposite, letting the mind wander. Attention, as we understand it, is our brain choosing one from a series of possible objects or trains of thoughts available. Its essence is selective focus and concentration of consciousness. 

However, being distracted, particularly intentionally, is something that encourages creativity and generates an increase in brain connectivity between the two key networks that control our attention: the executive system and the default network, two neural circuits that are in constant struggle with each other.

The executive system

The executive system is made up of a series of brain areas (prefrontal cortex, cingulate cortex, and orbitofrontal cortex) that are coordinated for goal-centered thinking and impulse control.

What is the default neural network?

The default neural network is a set of regions of the brain that collaborate with each other and that could be responsible for much of the activity carried out while the mind is at rest. 

Among the areas involved are the posterior cingulate cortex, the medial prefrontal cortex, the angular gyrus areas with which we think about ourselves; the dorsal medial subsystem, with which we think about others; and the medial temporal subsystem, where our autobiographical memory and the simulations of futures reside.

Historically, it was believed that most brain regions were delayed until required to initiate a specific task. 

The latest studies have shown that the development of a specific activity implies an increase in the energy consumption of the brain that represents less than 5% of the basal activity and that most of the global brain activity (60-80% of the energy consumption) is deploys in circuits that have no relation to external events, such as the default neural network.

The default network is active when we do not think about anything in particular and apparently in that supposed inactivity it takes care of important things: classifying and selecting memories, planning and reviewing possible future scenarios and ordering the new information. It is the most active brain region when we daydream and imagine what Christmas 2021 will be like. 

As far as we know, our ability to concentrate depends on the executive system dominating and keeping the default network under control, but the difficulty arises from our The brain seems to have an innate tendency to find it more interesting to witchcraft than to concentrate.

What happens in the brain when we daydream?

The answer may lie in the systems of connections: the default network has numerous connections between its components, allowing you to jump from one mental state to another with ease, while the centers of the executive system, on the other hand, have much fewer. connections, requiring a more powerful input to stand out from the electrical noise present in the brain. 

This explains why we spend more than half of our hours every day distracting ourselves from what we think really matters, and why we dedicate most of our valuable brain glucose to what seems to be of little importance. No, our brain is smarter than all that.

Does meditation work for concentration?

Study 1

The famous mindfulness, an aggiornata version of meditation, makes some sense when it is considered a process of meditation and none when it is turned into an esoteric tool with thaumaturgical powers.

At its best, it is simply the ability to calm our mind, focus our attention on the present, and shut out the distractions that constantly assail us.

Study 2

In 2011, a study by researchers from the University of Wisconsin observed that daily meditation exercises changed the pattern of brain activity from the frontal areas to others located mainly in the left hemisphere, which are involved in the management of emotions, the achievement of objectives, the connection with the world around us. 

A year later, it was found that meditation favors connectivity between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain involved in controlling attention and working memory, and the right insula, an area associated with monitoring our feelings and thoughts and that it is assumed to be an intermediate station between the two service networks: the executive and the default network.

How to take advantage of the default neural network?

Some of us think we are multitaskers but we are not, nobody is. What we really do is shift our attention from one topic to another, from one task to another. Ideally, make that change cleanly and focus on the new goal quickly. 

The possible risks of these leaps of focus is that something does not receive enough attention or that we sacrifice the quality of our attention. Among the tips for students or ourselves to focus attention and take advantage of the default neural network are the following:

Entertain your neurons

Attention is thought to be an unlimited resource, but it is not. So if you generate some distractions, such as background noise or some drawings in your notes, there is no room for other distractions and you will maintain concentration better.

Work with goals 

However, if a case comes to him, he regains his balance (he gives up drugs a bit, that must be said) and gives the best of himself.

Bribe yourself

The promise of a reward at the end of a task keeps people on their toes. It seems to work better with an accomplice, a parent or a teacher who is the one who regulates the awarding of an award or not? That prevents us from winning the prize too early, when the task is not yet well finished.

Avoid stress 

Stress stimulates the release of hormones, including adrenaline, which binds to receptors in cognitive control circuits and makes it difficult for the executive system to control a distracted mind.

Take a nap 

Lack of sleep worsens our mental activity and reduces our ability to avoid internal and external distractions. 

In addition, sleeping a sufficient number of hours is necessary to consolidate memories. Research indicates that if you have an hour to spare before an exam, a nap can be more effective in getting a good grade than spending that time taking another turn of your notes.

Scrabble

A group of people who were asked to listen to a recording with a monotonous voice in the background were able to remember more if they were allowed to scribble on a sheet at the same time. However, the content can make a difference: if the doodles are related to what you are doing they help you focus more. 

However, if the squiggles turn out to be fancy, they become the new center of attention and you move away from what the goal really is.

It wanders within the subject. Try to keep your thoughts on what you are trying to learn. A simple experiment compared the responses after a class. 

One group had to answer related questions every five minutes, the other group could review all the slides at the end. The questioning group withheld more information. The trick would be not to try to answer questions the day before the exam, but to do it over and over again, at increasingly long intervals.

Dream future

The wandering of our minds allows us to escape from the present and move mentally in time and space, and also to the minds of others. It can, therefore, take us to the past or the future. 

Going to the past is more likely to lead to decreased motivation and even lower spirits while going to the future has the opposite effect. Associating a task with the future – I work on this because I’ll go to Granada later – helps us to focus on it.

Learn to meditate 

Meditation techniques are sometimes associated with magical or stupid components, but they can help us focus and move from uncontrolled and unintended mental wandering to deliberate, much more useful. Mental wandering can be an adaptive process that helps to accommodate the demands of the environment in which we move.

Don’t force yourself to focus

Trying to focus too hard can prevent us from keeping our minds on the task at hand. Too much activity in the control system generates such an effort that it is not possible to maintain it for a long time. 

Thus, it is better not to make a notable effort but something more normal, more relaxed, which will be easier to maintain over time. Simply telling people not to focus too much on a boring task has been found to improve results.

Practice daydreaming, but dream about specific things 

If you have a tendency for your mind to wander, practice intentional daydreaming, when you have time, focusing your thoughts on a certain topic and staying within those limits, going in and out, but not jumping to topics that have nothing to do with it. watch.

Train concentration 

It is something that generates noticeable changes in a few sessions lasting a few minutes. In addition, the brain areas involved are highly affected in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, so gymnastics of these regions can be a way to protect ourselves from the cognitive decline associated with age.

What if all else fails? 

The latest research shows that people who lose focus and have difficulty concentrating are better than the rest of the population at retrieving information from memory. Many times we have useful information in our brain but the problem is to bring it back to consciousness.

FAQS: What part of the brain controls concentration?

How does concentration work in the brain?

The mental process of concentrating your attention on a single thought or task is simply concentration. Thoughts may be lost and memories wasted without the opportunity to focus. Some consider concentrating a way to brand our brains in order to remember stuff and help our memory.

What causes focus in the brain?

In terms of concentration and focus, neuromodulators such as acetylcholine, dopamine and norepinephrine play a significant role. Each one plays a critical role in ensuring that, in the face of unwelcome distractions that compete for the resources of your brain, you can effectively concentrate your attention where appropriate.

Where is attention located in the brain?

Meticulous study over decades has shown that a handful of areas in the parietal and frontal lobes of the brain belong to the regulation of this essential capacity, called selective attention. 

Now a new study shows that the temporal lobe also controls the spotlight of attention in another region in an unexpected position.

How many hours can the brain be focused?

The human brain can concentrate for up to two hours, during which a break of 20-30 minutes is needed. The average American spends approximately 9 hours at work a day.

Why do I struggle to focus?

Being unable to concentrate can be the result of a chronic condition, including: alcohol use disorder. attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) chronic fatigue syndrome.

In the next article we answered the question ‘’What part of the brain controls concentration?’’ We talked about concentration, what happens in the brain when we concentrate, how to use daydreaming in our favor and some tips on how to concentrate.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!

References

Konnikova M (2012) The Power of Concentration. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/16/opinion/sunday/the-power-of-concentration.html

·         Williams C (2017) Daydream believer. New Scientist 3126: 27-30.

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