Do you get distracted easily?
Your phone. Something in the sky. A really cute puppy walking by.
These are several common distractions that people encounter every day. Being distracted breaks your concentration. But, can it also alter what you consider to be reality?
That’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. A recent study from Ohio State University discovered that distractions may actually change what somebody perceives – and believes – they are seeing.
“As powerful as the brain is, it can only do so much at once,” says Dr. Munther Barakat, director of behavioral health for Aurora Health Care. “Distractions demand that your brain pay attention to them, and you lose focus on what you’re currently doing and what’s going on around you.”
Based on this study, researchers are now taking this one step further. Does being distracted directly lead to having a bad memory?
Our memories are put together like a puzzle. Different pieces of a single experience are stored in different parts of the brain. When we recall something, the brain puts the pieces back together to make the memory.
Often, we chalk up having a bad memory to having a “brain cramp,” the passage of time or just being forgetful. However, the root cause might be because a distraction led your brain to incorrectly perceive reality. Your brain could piece together an incorrect memory from that experience.
“Whether we remember something that happened accurately or inaccurately, memories impact our overall health every day. They can drag us down or lift us up. Gaining a better understanding of the potential causes and influences of memory making could help improve the mental health of people everywhere,” Dr. Barakat says.
One day, he says, this research may help provide better treatment and education for people with attention disorders, particularly children, and help them avoid conditions like depression, anxiety and anger issues.
Until then – remember to do your best to stay focused…no matter how cute that puppy might be.
About the Author
Matt Queen, health enews contributor, is a communication coordinator at Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee. He is a former TV sports anchor and journalist with extensive public relations experience across the health care spectrum. Outside of work, Matt enjoys watching sports (of course), cooking, gardening, golfing and spending time with his wife and two young children.