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A neurotransmitter that benefits attention and learning

 

Narrator:            This is Science Today. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley are looking into the function of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which influences changes in the brain and is associated with attention. Michael Silver, an assistant professor at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute says they're using a non-invasive technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging to do this.

Silver:                        We're interested in how it is benefitting attention and the interactions between attention and learning. And one of the things we're doing is using these brain imaging techniques to measure the activity in many areas simultaneously and look at the relationship among those different areas and so we're really developing kind of a neural circuit diagram of, for example, how attention influences our perception of the world. And then how acetylcholine is influencing these effects of attention on perception. And so attention is this way of selecting certain aspects of the environment, so we're very interested in how that happens and how this phenomenon, this beneficial effect of attention on perception is influenced by this neurotransmitter, acetylcholine.

Narrator:            For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.