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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 November 2005, 06:31 GMT
Ignoring data can 'help memory'
By Pallab Ghosh
BBC science correspondent

Scan of a human brain
Brain scans were used to analyse performance at memory tasks
New research suggests that the ability to ignore information prevents people from being scatter-brained.

A study in the Nature journal says that being able to remember objects is more to do with focusing on relevant facts than having a large memory capacity.

University of Oregon researchers say this ability to focus leaves more brain room to memorise pertinent information.

They also said that this suggests that scatter-brained people may find it harder to remember things.

But with their heads filled with more extraneous facts, it may well turn out that scatterbrains are in fact more creative.

University of Oregon researchers asked volunteers to memorise red-coloured objects in a series of pictures and ignore everything else in the frame.

Brain scans measured their ability to do this as carried out the memory task.

When tested afterwards, it was those that were best able to filter out irrelevant information that were able to remember more of the red-coloured objects.

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