Attention is an expendable resource – or at least that’s how neuroscientists think it is. There have been quite a lot of models regarding attention that have been circulating the field lately, but they all come down to that one. Apparently, you can only pay attention for so long before running out of it.
This theory makes quite a lot of sense, though. Usually, when you’re paying close attention to something, you’re usually only doing so with one of your senses. When trying to hear a sound that’s very subtle, you focus all of your attention on trying to hear it. When doing this, you probably aren’t paying much attention to what your eyes are seeing. However, there has been recent evidence to support that attention can also be rhythmic, meaning that in the same example of hearing, when you hear a constant beeping sound, like the tick-tock of a clock, your attention is also somewhat synchronized with the beeps. You’re paying more attention to when you hear the beep, and less attention in the silence in between.
Lately, though, there has been increasing evidence to support that two different modes (i.e., hearing and vision) can actually support each other. In another really interesting study regarding attention, though, it was found that hearing and visual cues can actually work together. In the experiment conducted, the participants were much more easily able to identify and hone their attention on visual cues when they have been synchronized with audible sounds. However, when the visual and audio cues were unsynchronized and random, the participants took much longer to fixate their attention on the visual cues.
It seems that different modes of sensory inputs can be processed at the same time, and actually work together to make honing in on something much quicker. However, in the presence of noise, and disorganization, our brains will take much longer to process information. This makes sense, though, our brains always look for patterns, and when there are none, we can get confused at times. Our brain likes looking for certain things that make things easier to classify and associate together. This is the similar thing that happens whenever we see a pattern of numbers, we normally know what number will be coming next.
Research is being done to understand more and more about how attention works in the brain, but as for now, the current model is what is to be accepted.