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

  • Identify and evaluate the presence of alterations or deficits

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

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What is sustained attention?

Sustained attention could be defined as the brain's ability to focus its attention on one stimulus over a prolonged period of time. Sustained attention is a type of attention that makes it possible to focus on one activity for as long as the activity requires, even if there are internal or external distractions. It is usually divided into vigilance (detecting the appearance of a stimulus) and concentration (keeping attention on the stimulus or activity). This cognitive ability is very important for efficiently carrying out daily activities.

Our ability to focus our attention on a single activity or stimulus over a period of time depends on a variety of factors:

  • Personal Factors: Like motivation, emotions, amount/level of activation, or the sensory modality by which the stimulus is processed. It is easier to keep attention on a stimulus if you feel some type of emotion, are active, if you process the stimulus auditorily. It will be even more difficult to process stimuli that have a component of visual perception and auditory perception at the same time.
  • Environmental Factors: It is easier to focus on a stimulus when there are fewer distractions.

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 Heirarchical 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.
  • Alternate 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 sustained attention, and as a consequence, the ability to focus on a stimulus or activity over a long period of time.

Examples of sustained attention

  • Whenever you drive a car, you must pay attention to the road and other drivers for a long period of time. Any distraction while driving could have fatal consequences, which is why it is so important to have well developed sustained attention.
  • A student at any level must be able to pay attention in class for a the length of any class period or exam. If the student is unable to do this, it will be reflected in their academic performance.
  • An air traffic controller is responsible for the planes in the air, and must certainly be very focused for the length of his or her shift. If their attention falters, there could be fatal accidents.
  • Any worker, whether in an office or supermarket, must have good sustained attention in order to attend to clients or read through and create documents, reports, and be attentive during meetings.
  • Our daily life requires that we use sustained attention even in task that seem simple, like watching a movie or making food.

Pathologies and disorders associated with deficient sustained attention

It is normal that we may sometimes experience a difficulty paying attention to a monotonous task and allow ourselves to get distracted by another stimulus. However, when sustained attention is seriously damaged, it is impossible to do the majority of daily activities that require any type of sustained attention. A deficit in sustained attention is usually accompanied with fatigue and an inability to do any activity efficiently.

Sustained attention may be altered by a number of disorders, whether it be due to problems with sustained attention itself or with one of the attentional sub-processes that depends on it. If someone has poor sustained attention, we would be impossible to hold attention on a single stimulus, allowing any interruption to distract them. The most well-known disorder that is characterized by sustained attention is Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD or ADD, respectively). Deficient sustained attention can also be seen in disorders like dyslexiaschizophrenia, Alzheimer's Disorder, or dementias in general. It is common for sustained 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 sustained attention.

How can you measure and assess sustained attention?

Sustained attention makes it possible to do a number of activities in your daily life. Activities that require a prolonged attention on a single task, as might be the case in academic, medical, and professional fields. Sustained attention plays a vital role in academics, as a child with attention problems may have trouble staying focused throughout an entire class period and may need extra assistance. In the medical field, it is important to know whether a patient will be able to stay focused throughout an entire session, and if they are able to fit in properly in society. Finally, sustained attention plays an important role in the professional field. A driver, pilot, or office worker must be able to stay focused on a single task for a long period of time. Knowing your sustained attention level will help understand where potential problems may lie in the above mentioned fields.

With the help of a complete neuropsychological assessment, it is possible to easily and effectively evaluate a number of different cognitive skills, like sustained attention. CogniFit's assessment to evaluate sustained 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 sustained attention, the test also measures inhibition and recontextualization.

  • 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.

How can you rehabilitate or improve sustained attention?

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

Brain plasticity is the basis of sustained attention rehabilitation and other cognitive skills. CogniFit has a battery of clinical exercises designed to help rehabilitate the deficits in sustained 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 sustained 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 sustained attention.

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 sustained attention and a number of other fundamental cognitive areas, 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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