Scientists Study Barn Owls To Understand Why People With ADHD Struggle To Focus

Research on the brains of barn owls suggests that attention problems like ADHD may involve a brain circuit that usually helps us ignore distractions.
Scientists at Johns Hopkins University are studying barn owls to understand how the brain maintains focus. Source: Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Kids with ADHD are easily distracted. Barn owls are not.

So a team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore is studying these highly focused predatory birds in an effort to understand the brain circuits that control attention.

The team's long-term goal is to figure out what goes wrong in the brains of people with attention problems, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

"We think we have the beginnings of an answer," says Shreesh Mysore, an at Hopkins. The answer, he says, appears to involve an ancient brain area with special cells that tell us what to ignore.

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