Do you have Selective Attention?

It’s the season for parties, get-togethers and crowds.  Have you ever had trouble putting background noise in the background and focusing on the conversation that is in front of you?

This discovery may hold the key to explaining why some people, who do not have hearing problems, still find it difficult to keep track of conversations in large crowds.

A group of neurons in the auditory processing areas of the brainstem help us to tune into specific conversations in a crowded room.

It could be that the neurons in their auditory brainstem, associated with receiving pitch signals, are not properly activated. 

This process of focusing on the voice of the speaker is called “selective attention” and that it happens in the part of the brain called the auditory cortex, which processes speech information.

Selective attention helps the brain to modulate sound information and to prioritize information over the background noise, such as focusing on one conversation above all others in a crowded room. However, what triggers selective attention in the auditory cortex has been debated by scientists.

2 comments on “Do you have Selective Attention?

  1. This is fascinating. I’ve known since I was very young that I don’t have good listening skills. My teachers always told me to stop daydreaming and pay attention to what was going on in the class. As an adult, I realized I was not a good listener and that doodling helped me focus on other people speaking. I still have to do something idiotic with my hands – scribble, fold paper, flip notebook pages – in order to be able to listen. Other people think I’m being rudely distracted when I’m trying to focus. My sons think I’m ADD. And I’ve discovered that I have a hard time filtering out background noise even when I’m trying to listen to one person. Instead, I hear every sound around me and miss what the speaker is saying. So now I know what’s wrong: I don’t have effective selective auditory attention. Now, how do I fix this? (No drugs.)


    • Shari,
      So much of what we’ve been “punished” for is actually a function of our brains, not our characters. That’s why Peggy and I find the neuro science so fascinating.
      You might not need to fix anything just give yourself some credit for how you have compensated.
      P.S. Much of the time what you’ve missed hearing may not have been worth hearing in the first place! If it’s something important to listen to make sure you are alone with that person.

      Liked by 1 person

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