Do you want to know if you are focused? Look at the size of your pupils

Do you want to know if you are focused?  Look at the size of your pupils

Who has never had difficulty concentrating, as our attention is demanded at every moment? In this context, it is more important than ever to understand the brain mechanisms that regulate concentration and memorization. An American study provides new answers.

This study, published in the journal Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, focuses particularly on working memory. This form of short-term memory allows us to manipulate events, words, dates or images in a fleeting manner, in order to use them to accomplish a task. It is what allows us, for example, to perform mental calculations or to remember a telephone number long enough to write it down.

Neuroscientists have found that working memory varies considerably between individuals, although they cannot explain exactly why. Matthew Robinson and Lauren Garner tried to unravel this mystery by exploring a new indicator of working memory: pupil dilation.

For good reason, several scientific works have highlighted the fact that our pupils do not only react to light. They expand when we are wide awake, very attentive, or when we make a significant cognitive effort. Matthew Robinson and Lauren Garner wanted to determine whether the diameter of the pupils changed when we performed a task that required the activation of working memory.

To do this, the researchers asked 179 volunteers to carry out different exercises during which they had to memorize information over short periods. During this time, an eye tracking device continuously measured the dilation of their pupils.

It appeared that participants whose pupils dilated more intensely and consistently tended to perform better on memory tests. “IImportantly, we found that the highest performing participants also had greater pupil sensitivity compared to others.“, adds Lauren Garner in a press release.

The discovery of this correlation between pupil dilation and working memory indicates the existence of an intriguing relationship between the brain and the eyes. However, the small size of the sample of participants prevents us from asserting with certainty that the pupils are activated when working memory is at work. But everyone can already have fun looking at the apple of their neighbor's eyes to see if they are really focused on the task they are accomplishing.

Good in his body, good in his head!