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Neuroimaging study sheds light on how to clear thoughts from your brain’s working memory system

By | Eric W. Dolan |

New research published in Nature Communications provides unique insights into the process of consciously purging information from the brain’s working memory system. The study suggests that there are distinct mechanisms by which people can remove thoughts from their mind, which have varying levels of effectiveness.

“I have been studying how the brain discards information for a number of years. I am fascinated by the powerful mental processes, which we so often take for granted, that allow us to juggle myriad thoughts and accomplish goals in our daily lives,” said study author Jarrod Lewis-Peacock, an associate professor at The University of Texas at Austin and head of the Lew Pea Lab.

“The control, or lack thereof, of thoughts plays a critical role in many mental health disorders as well. Along with my wonderful collaborator Dr. Marie Banich at the University of Colorado Boulder, who has special expertise in cognitive control and psychopathology, we decided to bring a cutting-edge neuroscientific approach to the age-old question of ‘How do we stop thinking a thought?’”

In the study, the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to record the brain activity of 60 volunteers as they viewed images and tried to remove thoughts from their working memory.

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