According to researchers, being able to filter out useless information can help people increase their capacity to remember what is really important.
Scientists at the University of Oregon in the United States have demonstrated that awareness, or visual working memory, does not depend on extra storage space in the brain, but rather on an ability to ignore what is irrelevant.
Edward Vogel who headed the research team says that until now, it has always been assumed that people with a high capacity visual working memory had greater storage, but in fact it is about a 'bouncer' or neural mechanism that controls what information gets into awareness.
The findings completely 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.
Vogel and his team believe the results could lead to better ways to enhance memory and improve the diagnosis and treatment of cognitive problems such as attention deficit disorder and schizophrenia.
The study is published in the journal Nature.