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What goes on in the brain when boredom strikes

On average, adults in the United States experience 131 days of boredom per year — at least that is what a recent commercial survey suggests. In people who are prone to boredom, this state can negatively affect their mental health. So, what happens in the brain when we get bored, and how can this help us find ways of dealing with boredom? A new study investigates. One way or the other, boredom is something we all have experienced repeatedly throughout our lives, and according to some research, it seems that animals might share this experience with us, too. "Everybody experiences boredom," says Sammy Perone, who is an assistant professor at Washington State University in Pullman. However, he adds, "some people experience it a lot, which is unhealthy." In assessing the brain wave "maps" obtained via the EEGs, the researchers looked specifically at activity levels in the right frontal and left frontal areas of the brain. That was because these two regions become active for different reasons. The left frontal part, the researchers explain, becomes more active when an individual is looking for stimulation or distraction from a situation by thinking about something different. The researchers found that participants who had reported being more prone to boredom on a daily basis displayed more activity in the right frontal brain area during the repetitive task, as they became increasingly bored. "We found that the people who are good at coping with boredom in everyday life, based on the surveys, shifted more toward the left. Those that don't cope as well in everyday life shifted more right.", says Sammy Perone.

(Source: www.medicalnewstoday.com)

Why is it hard to get over addictions?

New research offers fascinating insights into how our brains ignore environmental cues of addictive substances or habits, why it's harder to ignore such cues when we're stressed, and how we might be able to beat addiction. However, are our brains defenseless when we come into contact with these cues, or are our "central processing units" constantly hard at work, successfully keeping these distractions at bay? Until now, it was unclear how much control our brains can exert over these stimuli, but new research looks under the hood and finds that we are, indeed, continually fending off unwanted reward signals that can trigger cravings and addiction. We do this by using our brain's executive control processes. So, the researchers devised an experiment in which the participants had to look at a screen that showed various shapes, including a diamond shape and a colorful circle. The researchers told the participants that they would receive money if they successfully found and gazed at the diamond, but if they looked at the colorful circle, they would not receive anything. Then, the researchers told the participants that differently colored circles meant different rewards for completing the diamond task. So, a blue circle on the screen signified that they would earn a higher amount of money if they completed the diamond task, whereas an orange circle indicated less money. As such, the diamond became the focus goal, while the colorful circle was the distracting reward cue. "Study participants found it really difficult to stop themselves from looking at cues that represented the level of reward — the colored circles — even though they were paid to try and ignore them Crucially, the circles became harder to ignore when people were asked to memorize numbers: Under high memory load, participants looked at the colored circle associated with the high reward around 50% of the time, even though this was entirely counterproductive.", says Poppy Watson.

(Source: www.medicalnewstoday.com)