Filtering out useless information can help people increase their capacity to remember what is really important, researchers say.
Scientists at the University of Oregon in the US have demonstrated that awareness, or visual working memory, does not depend on extra storage space in the brain but on an ability to ignore what is irrelevant.
"Until now, it's been assumed that people with high capacity visual working memory had greater storage, but actually it's about the bouncer – a neural mechanism that controls what information gets into awareness," said Edward Vogel, who headed the research team.
The findings reported in the journal Nature would overturn the accepted concept of memory capacity, which has suggested that how much a person can remember depends on the amount of information crammed into the brain at one time, reports Australian.
According to Daily Mail, "satty" people tend to allow themselves to be inundated with distracting data, say scientists. On the other hand, that very defect might help to make them more imaginative. The brain contains its own version of the nightclub "bouncer" who keeps out unwanted riff-raff, the researchers found.
Study leader Dr Edward Vogel, from the University of Oregon in Eugene, USA, said: "Until now, it's been assumed that people with high capacity visual working memory had greater storage. But actually, it's about the bouncer - a neural mechanism that controls what information gets in to awareness."
The findings are said to have broad implications that may lead to more effective ways to maximise memory, as well as improve the treatment of problems associated with attention deficit disorder and schizophrenia.
The scientists used a new technique for measuring brainwaves moment-by-moment as objects popped into the minds of volunteers.
Brain activity was recorded as people performed computer tasks asking them to remember arrays of coloured squares or rect source