Updated: Nov 28, 2017
We distracted French reporter Laure Pollez using her own cellphone and measured how it affected her brain activity.
Our brains come equipped with neural circuits to prevent us from responding to events when we shouldn't. When you are driving your car, for instance, you certainly don't want to give in to the impulse to respond to an incoming text message on your cellphone #screen. The area of your brain responsible for dealing with these impulsive responses is your prefrontal cortex, located behind your forehead and measured with our brain imaging equipment.
Visit from French TV Journalist
"The amount of brain activity that she used to inhibit her responses increased when she also had to ignore loud alerts from messages sent to her cellphone"
On November 2, French journalist Laure Pollez (@laurepollez) and her film crew visited the Brain Imaging Laboratory to learn how we are investigating brain activity and personal technology use. Although the results of the real study have not been released, we were able to share with her a demonstration "experiment." In the demonstration, we monitored Ms. Pollez's brain activity using functional near-infrared spectroscopy while she tried to ignore distractions from her phone.
Distraction from the Cellphone
The demonstration experiment asked that Ms. Pollez perform a computer task that tries to trick her into pressing a button when she really shouldn't. This is called "inhibition" and the brain imaging equipment measures how much brain activity is required to suppress her impulsive responses. The amount of brain activity that she used to inhibit her responses increased when she also had to ignore loud alerts from messages sent to her cellphone, i.e., ignore #distraction.
The Pirates of Attention
A chance to share our research with France
Ms. Pollez's visit to our laboratory was included in the November 23 episode of "Complément d'enquête," a French news show that has aired on France 2 (public national television) for many years. The segment containing the visit, titled "Les pirates de l'attention" (The Pirates of Attention), shows Ms. Pollez's visit and how we measured her brain activity during the demonstration experiment. The actual segment is available on the Complément d'enquête YouTube channel; this link takes you to where our part starts: https://youtu.be/JVSHr3bBqG4?t=8m56s.
We thank Ms. Pollez and Complément d'enquête for giving us a chance to share our research with people in France.
(photo by Andrew Luu)