Exposure to salient, dynamic sensory stimuli during development increases distractibility in adulthood. Academic Article uri icon


  • It has been suggested that excessive exposure of children to the dynamic and highly salient audio-visual stimuli conveyed by electronic media may induce attention-related deficits in adulthood. This study was designed to evaluate this hypothesis in a controlled animal model setup. Building on their natural responsiveness to odors, we exposed juvenile rats for 1 h daily to a dynamic series of interchanging, highly salient odors, while controls were exposed to a non-changing mixture of these odors. Upon reaching adulthood, we tested the attentional capacity of the rats and measured their brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels as a proxy of neuronal plasticity. As compared with controls, rats exposed to the dynamic stimulation showed no attentional deficits under baseline task conditions, but their performance was dramatically impaired when an auditory distractor was introduced in the task. In addition, BDNF levels in the dorsal striatum of these rats were significantly increased relative to controls. These findings provide first empirical evidence that a continuous exposure to dynamic, highly salient stimuli has long-term effects on attentional functions later in life, and that these effects may have neural correlates in the dorsal striatum.

publication date

  • January 1, 2016