What is attention?
Attention is the cognitive ability to generate, direct, and maintain an appropriate state of alertness to correctly process information.
Types of attention
There are three different processes or types of attention:
- Sustained attention: the ability to continuously maintain focus on a task or event over a long period of time.
- Selective attention: the ability to direct attention and focus on a task without interruption or interference from either external or internal factors or stimuli.
- Alternating attention: the ability to rapidly shift focus from one task to another.
The most common difficulties experienced by people with attention problems are:
- Becoming easily distracted and failing to pay attention to details.
- Difficulty following instructions and completing tasks.
- Making careless mistakes.
- Avoiding tasks that require sustained mental effort.
For example, when we are shifting focus continuously from one stimulus to another and we are not able to focus attention on any of them, we are struggling with attention problems. This will decisively influence memory processes because if we do not pay sufficient attention to a stimulus, we will not be able to process it and retain it in memory.
Can attention be trained?
To improve attention, like other cognitive functions and processes, it is necessary to work on it. NeuronUP’s cognitive stimulation program allows us to train attention and concentration and helps us to activate the various brain functions with which we perceive and process our environment. Working through cards, games and other activities, the different attention processes (sustained attention, selective attention, alternating attention, processing speed and hemineglect) will improve the ability to concentrate, maintaining a state of brain activation suitable for the correct processing of information.
Train Attention is essential for an effective neurorehabilitation in users affected by disorders such as ADHD or other specific neurodevelopmental learning disorders. Also in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) especially to work on Attentional control and slowness of information processing, in Alzheimer’s disease, where attention is more affected as the disease progresses in many head injuries (TBI) where attention intervention is the basis for rehabilitation.
Five exercises to improve attention
1. Matching Shapes
This first activity is perfect for training selective attention in adults. The client has to find the matching shapes among various figures. The therapist will select the level of difficulty (from basic to advanced) that is most appropriate for the given individual:
2. Organize the Bookcase
This exercise to improve attention requires a great deal of concentration. The client has to organize the objects in the bookcase just like in the model but must pay close attention because the model is in a mirror! This activity targets sustained attention and selective attention, as well as hemineglect, spatial relations, and processing speed.
3. Picture Maze
This activity to improve attention is designed exclusively for children. In this exercise, the child has to travel along a maze of pictures following various instructions while alternating from one figure to another. This activity trains selective attention and alternating attention.
First try at basic level.
In this example, the client has to help Oscar score a basket. To do so, John has to:
- Travel from one square to another until reaching the blue square.
- Then follow the red circles until arriving at the blue circle.
- Switch again to the red squares until you reach the basket.
Check the solution below to see if you got it right.
And now, do you dare to do the advanced level?
In this case you have to help Rich get in shape. To do so, you have to go from asparagus to right-pointing fish, to asparagus again, and so on and so forth until the end. And here’s a clue: you can move diagonally as well!
More complicated, right? Check out the solution in the picture below:
4. Space Conquest
This is an activity for children that takes place in outer space. The kids have to go from planet to planet until reaching their destination. It is an ideal exercise for training spatial relations, sustained attention, inhibition, planning, and processing speed.
5. Sorting Bugs
This activity involves sorting the moving insects so that each type is on its own corresponding side. This activity trains planning, selective attention, sustained attention, hemineglect and processing speed.
Let the Games Begin!
Due to its success among our adult clients, a children’s version of this activity has been launched. Let the games begin! gets children to sort the soccer balls on one side and the basketballs on the other.
These activities are just a few examples of exercises to improve attention available at NeuronUP for neurorehabilitation professionals. If you would like to get more information about these or other exercises to improve attention read:
– Worksheets for improving attention and memory in children and adults
– Rehabilitation of divided attention