When researchers in Norway examined the brain activity of people doing repetitive tasks, they found that momentary lapses of concentration begin in the body’s physiology some 30 seconds before a person actually loses concentration. “So what’s causing the brain to wig out? As far as the researchers could tell, the test subjects’ brains weren’t getting tired, and they certainly weren’t falling asleep. ‘Autopilot would be a better metaphor,’ explains Dr. Stefan Debener, who collaborated on the study.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Because there are physiological indicators of an approaching loss of concentration, scientists hope technology can be used to keep people from losing focus, especially in crucial fields such air traffic control. “Imagine, for example, a feedback device that could warn air traffic controllers when their attention waned too close a dangerously low threshold, or help keep you alert on the highway. With such a device in every human’s pocket, brain farts could one day become a thing of the past.”
Consciousness isn’t just a problem for philosophers. On this episode of Dispatches, Kmele sat down with scientists, a mathematician, a spiritual leader, and an entrepreneur, all trying to get to the heart of “the feeling of life itself.”