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  • Get access to a complete battery of cognitive tests to assess Focused attention

  • Identify and evaluate the presence of alterations or deficits

  • Validated instruments to improve or rehabilitate focused attention and other cognitive functions

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What is Focused Attention?

Focused attention is the brain's ability to concentrate its attention on a target stimulus for any period of time. Focused attention is a type of attention that makes it possible to quickly detect relevant stimuli. We use focused attention, or mental focus, to attend to both internal stimuli (feeling thirsty) and external stimuli (sounds) and is an important skill that allows us to carefully and efficiently carry out tasks in our daily lives.

Our ability to keep attention on a stimulus or activity can vary depending on different factors:

  • Personal Factors: Level of activation, motivation, emotion, or sensory modality that processes the stimulus. We're more likely to process a stimulus correctly when we're awake and motivated, rather than sad or tired, or if the stimulus is boring
  • Environmental Factors: It's easier to pay attention to a stimulus or target activity if there are few environmental distractions, and it becomes more difficult to concentrate with more frequent or intense distractions.
  • Stimulus Factors: Novelty, complexity, duration, or salience of the stimulus. If there is only one single, simple, obvious stimulus, it will be easier to detect it.

Types of attention

Attention is a complex process that has a series of different sub-components. The most accepted model is the Sohlberg and Mateer Hierarchical Model, that breaks attention into the following sub-components:

  • Arousal: Refers to our activation level and level of alertness, whether we are tired or energized.
  • Focalized Attention: Refers to our ability to focus attention on a stimulus.
  • Sustained Attention: The ability to attend to a stimulus or activity over a long period of time.
  • Selective Attention: The ability to attend to a specific stimulus or activity in the presence of other distracting stimuli.
  • Alternating Attention: The ability to change focus attention between two or more stimuli.
  • Divided Attention: The ability to attend different stimuli or attention at the same time.

Practice and cognitive training may help improve focused attention, and as a consequence, the ability to focus on a stimulus or activity.

Examples of Focused Attention

  • Anytime you drive a car, you have to pay attention to the road, to other cars, to speed and traffic signs, and to the lights and warning signs of your own car. Distractions while driving can have fatal consequences, and well-developed focused attention can help prevent unnecessary accidents.
  • Students must be able to correctly and efficiently pay attention to important stimuli in the classroom, which may be the teacher lecturing, the textbook, or a classmate talking about an upcoming project. If the student isn't able to keep their mental focus, they may see significant academic repercussions.
  • Workers in almost every field have to use focused attention. Whether it be helping a client in a store or writing documents in an office, it's important to be able to dedicate time and attention to the work you're doing.
  • You use focused attention every single day, from when you pick up something that fell off your desk, to when you make dinner, to when you clean up the table after eating.

Problems and Disorders Related to Focused Attention

It's completely normal to sometimes not be aware of what's going on around you, but significant damage to focused attention makes it impossible to do a large number of daily activities that require our attention to some degree. Deficient focused attention will make doing other daily tasks more difficult and less efficient.

Focused attention may be altered by a number of disorders, whether it be due to problems with focused attention itself or with one of the attentional sub-processes that it uses (arousal and activation in this case).Someone with poor focused attention will not be able to maintain attention on relevant stimuli. The most well-known disorder that is characterized by sustained attention is heminegligence, or hemispatial neglect, which makes it impossible to detect stimuli in half (right or left), of the space that surrounds you. Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD or ADD, respectively) also has a large focused attention component that makes it difficult to detect relevant stimuli, although it is more due to memory problems. We can also see mental focus problems in disorders like schizophrenia, Alzheimer's Disease, or dementias in general. It is common for focused attention disorders to appear in people who have suffered any type of brain damage, whether it be due to stroke or brain injury. On the other hand, people with anxiety disorders may have an excessively high level of mental focus.

How Can You Measure and Assess Focused Attention?

Focused attention makes it possible to do a number of activities in your daily life. The ability to correctly and efficiently turn your mental focus to a stimulus depends on your focused attention, which is why assessing focused attention can be helpful in a variety of different areas of daily life. Academic areas: Understand if a child will have problems paying attention in class and if they may need new information or instructions explained to them in a different way. Clinical areas: Know is a patient will be able to pay attention the indications given to them, or if they'll be able to efficiently fit into their environment. Professional areas: Know if a potential employee will be a good driver, quality control manager, office worker, etc.

With the help of a complete neuropsychological assessment, it is possible to easily and effectively evaluate a number of different cognitive skills, like focused attention. CogniFit's assessment to evaluate focused attention was inspired by the Continuous Performance Test (CPT). This test helps to evaluate other behavioral alterations, like impulsiveness, anxiety, and inattention, among others. In addition to focused attention, the test also measures inhibition and shifting.

  • Inattention Test FOCU-SHIF: A light will appear in each corner on the screen. The user will have to click on the yellow lights as quickly as possible and avoid clicking on red lights.
  • Speed Test REST-HECOOR: A blue square will appear on the screen. The user must click as quickly and as many times as possible in the middle of the square. The more times the user clicks, the higher the score.

How Can You Rehabilitate or Improve Focused Attention?

All cognitive skills, including focused attention, can be trained and improved. CogniFit makes it possible to do so with a professional program.

Brain plasticity is the basis of focused attention rehabilitation and other cognitive skills. CogniFit has a battery of clinical exercises designed to help rehabilitate the deficits in focused attention and other cognitive functions. The brain and neural connections can be strengthened by challenging and working them, so by frequently training these skills, the brain structures related to focused attention will become stronger. This means that when your ears send information to the brain and the brain processes it, the connections will work faster and more efficiently, improving overall your mental focus.

CogniFit was created by a team of professionals specialized in the area of neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity, which is how we were able to create a personalized cognitive stimulation program that would be tailored to the needs of each user. This program starts with an evaluation to assess focused attention and a number of other fundamental cognitive domains, and based on the results, creates a personalized brain training program for each user. The program automatically collects the data from this initial cognitive assessment, and, with the use of sophisticated algorithms, creates a program that works on improving the user's cognitive weaknesses and training their cognitive strengths.

The key to improving sustained attention is adequate and consistent training. CogniFit has professional assessment and training tools to help both individuals and professionals optimize this function. It only takes 15 minutes a day, two to three times a week.

CogniFit's assessments and stimulation programs are available online and can be practiced on most computers and mobile devices. The program is made up of fun, interactive brain games, and at the end of each training session, the user automatically receives a detailed graph highlighting the user's cognitive progress.

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