News from Stanford University researchers, real scientists mind you, not just people who thinks something is true because they saw it online, say that our brains are constantly shifting between states of wakefulness and sleep and not just while our bodies are at rest. Their study indicates that part of the brain’s organizational structure and functionality depends upon its many different regions having the ability to cycle on and off even while awake. Asleep, the brain goes through numerous stages of activity and rest, familiar to all of us, at times we dream, and other times not. But it turns out that the brain also requires temporary shutdowns even during the day in order to keep things moving along smoothly. The brain chooses its times to reboot based upon several factors, generally based upon need, and during while awake it never shuts down completely, (Same as asleep.), but selectively inhibits those regions that it feels are unneeded at the time. “Selective attention is similar to making small parts of your brain a little bit more awake,” says Tatiana Engel, and similarly, selective inattention disables functions on a regular basis.
Which explains a lot, like why some folks come home from the big box store with more bars of soap than a homeless shelter could use in a century. (We love to pick on the poor, we were once poor and feel so much better than them now, or is that just our brain closing down empathy for a bit.) It also explains why teenagers ride skateboards down what everyone knows is a handrail and why some people jump out of perfectly good airplanes counting on a parachute packed by a stranger who may or may not have stayed up too late watching the full Itchy and Scratchy compendium from The Simpsons on Blu-Ray. Pay attention, costs nothing.