A friendly bystander can increase activity in part of brain used to pay attention
The mere presence of someone else can make the brain sharpen its focus. In the company of a friend, monkeys became more productive at a simple job, researchers report April 8 in Cerebral Cortex. This diligence was accompanied by heightened activity in brain regions that focus attention.
The results clarify why performance can change when an observer hovers nearby, even if that observer isn’t talking or interacting in any way. This effect, known as social facilitation, might explain why people sometimes excel when an audience is watching.
In the experiment, Elisabetta Monfardini of INSERM, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, and colleagues trained three rhesus monkeys to touch images of rainbows, armchairs, backpacks and other objects as they appeared on a screen. Sometimes the monkeys worked alone. Other times, a familiar