Why focusing on a visual task will make us deaf to our surroundings

Concentrating attention on a visual task can render you momentarily ‘deaf’ to sounds at normal levels, reports a new UCL study funded by the Wellcome Trust. The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, suggests that the senses of hearing and vision share a limited neural resource. Brain scans from 13 volunteers found that when they were engaged in a demanding visual task, the brain response to sound was significantly reduced. Examination of people’s ability to detect sounds during the visual demanding task also showed a higher rate of failures to detect sounds, even though the sounds were clearly audible and people did detect them when the visual task was easy. “This was an experimental lab study which is one of the ways that we can establish cause and effect.…


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