The Italian Almanac


Italian Science - August 3

The human brain does not necessarily perceive events in the order they happen, it may decide to sense more important things first, Italian scientists have revealed in a new study. Experts from Rome's Santa Lucia Institute say they have evidence our sense of temporal succession is influenced by the strength of the response events trigger in the head.

"This discovery shows us that our brain gives priority to events we consider important and fools us into thinking they happen before others simply by intensifying the perception," said Francesco Di Russo, who led the team that conducted the research.

Di Russo said that one of the reasons this breakthrough is important is that it may help in the development of cures for attention disorders and other neurological problems. Using sensors on the head, the team studied the reactions of volunteers' brains when two objects appeared in front of them simultaneously. It verified that some events are perceived before others.

In the past, scientists thought this took place because the brain processes things it is expecting to happen more quickly. Di Russo's study, on the other hand, suggests that the speed an event is perceived is not altered by whether it is anticipated. But is affected by the level of attention to the brain devotes to it.

The results of the study, carried out with University of California experts, will be published in Nature Neuroscience, a US medical journal.