Attention Brain

Most of us when we think of attention brain, think of the usual psychological definition;

"Attention is the cognitive process of selectively concentrating on one aspect of the environment while ignoring other things. Examples include listening carefully to what someone is saying while ignoring other conversations in a room (the cocktail party effect) or listening to a cell phone conversation while driving a car. Attention is one of the most intensely studied topics within psychology and cognitive neuroscience."

However Sharon Begley in her article, which I quote from in the following paragraphs, takes an entirely different tack in her attention to attention.

"....Such discoveries of how the mind can change the brain have a spooky quality that makes you want to cue the "Twilight Zone" theme, but they rest on a solid foundation of animal studies.

Attention, for instance, seems like one of those ephemeral things that comes and goes in the mind but has no real physical presence.

Yet attention can alter the layout of the brain as powerfully as a sculptor's knife can alter a slab of stone.

That was shown dramatically in an experiment with monkeys in 1993. Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, rigged up a device that tapped monkeys' fingers 100 minutes a day every day. As this bizarre dance was playing on their fingers, the monkeys heard sounds through headphones. Some of the monkeys were taught: Ignore the sounds and pay attention to what you feel on your fingers, because when you tell us it changes we'll reward you with a sip of juice. Other monkeys were taught: Pay attention to the sound, and if you indicate when it changes you'll get juice.

After six weeks, the scientists compared the monkeys' brains. Usually, when a spot on the skin receives unusual amounts of stimulation, the amount of cortex that processes touch expands. That was what the scientists found in the monkeys that paid attention to the taps: The somatosensory region that processes information from the fingers doubled or tripled. But when the monkeys paid attention to the sounds, there was no such expansion. Instead, the region of their auditory cortex that processes the frequency they heard increased.

Through attention, UCSF's Michael Merzenich and a colleague wrote, "We choose and sculpt how our ever-changing minds will work, we choose who we will be the next moment in a very real sense, and these choices are left embossed in physical form on our material selves."

The discovery that neuroplasticity cannot occur without attention has important implications.

If a skill becomes so routine you can do it on autopilot, practicing it will no longer change the brain. And if you take up mental exercises to keep your brain young, they will not be as effective if you become able to do them without paying much attention."

Dalai Lama News

The last couple of lines really made an impression on me, because I have been practicing a number of attentional, prayerful, and meditative skills for almost 30 years, so I know I have shaped my brain, if what Merzenich and Begley report is to be believed.

There are days when I can do my Chi Gong meditations very effectively with great attention, and other days, I wander.

And I have the same experience with cognitive brain fitness programs like the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program created by Michael Merzenich.

I cannot believe that I can lose track of what I am doing in the few milliseconds between Posit Science Brain Fitness Tasks.

Lucky for me, the computerized attention brain fitness programs, like the Brain Fitness Program or Lumosity or Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro can track my progress and give me feedback about how I am doing in the appropriate way to hold my attention and continue to challenge me so that my attention grows consistently.

In other words, it is like I am engineering my neuroplasticity when I use the computerized brain fitness programs.

I like that idea, and I had better get to practicing.

If you would like to join me in this endeavor, please click one of the links below.

Would You Share Something That You Are Grateful For?

When I was beginning my personal growth journey, a wise person told me that when I was feeling resentful or afraid or sad, that I should remember the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was ready to feel better. That phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.

Would you share what you are most grateful for? Your story could be just what another person is searching for to renew themselves? Thanks.

Have a question and want to talk with a therapist? Call 815-316-2621 for Julie Logan, LCSW, RN. 7121 Windsor Lake Parkway, Loves Park, Illinois 61111

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