Tue, 21 May 2024


Your pupils could indicate how focused you are
Published on: Thursday, May 02, 2024
By: ETX Daily Up
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Your pupil diameter changes when performing a task that requires the activation of working memory, according to a US study. (Envato Elements pic)
Who hasn’t found it difficult to concentrate? A new US study, published in the journal Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, has sought to understand the brain mechanisms that regulate concentration and recollection by focusing on working memory.

This form of short-term memory enables us to process events, words, dates or images in a temporary way to use them to accomplish a task. This is what enables us, for example, to perform a mental calculation or remember a phone number long enough to write it down.

Neuroscientists found that working memory varies considerably from one individual to another. Matthew Robinson and Lauren Garner of the University of Texas have tried to explore this further by seeing if pupil dilation can be a good indicator of working memory.

Several scientific studies have highlighted the fact that our pupils don’t just react to light: they dilate when we’re wide awake, paying close attention, or making a major cognitive effort. The researchers set out to determine whether the diameter of the pupils changes when we perform a task that requires the activation of our working memory.

To do this, the researchers asked 179 volunteers to perform various exercises in which they had to memorise information over short periods. During this time, an eye-tracking device continuously measured the dilation of their pupils.

Participants whose pupils dilated more intensely and consistently tended to perform better on memory tests. “Importantly, we found high performers also showed more pupil sensitivity compared with low-performing participants. This is exciting research because it adds another valuable piece of the puzzle to our understanding of why working memory varies between individuals,” Garner explained.

While the findings point to an intriguing relationship between the brain and the eyes, the small sample size of participants means it is not yet possible to state with certainty that the pupils are activated when working memory is at work.

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