Attentional Focus

By Rayma Ditson-Sommer, Ph.D.


There are two ways the human brain pays attentions to the task at hand. Either through the unconscious, input-driven path or the consciously analytical path. The first, the unconscious, input – driven approach is a higher level control by the brain. In this way, the brain voluntarily selects between two potential actions. This approach uses more recently-evolved systems housed in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Thiscortex is located at the top of the brain and controls conscious activity by selecting specific actions that lead to achieving pre-planned goals. This are of the brain also rejects those actions which will sabotage the positive goals it desires to fulfill.

The second, the limbic system, is located in the lower center of the brain. This system is responsible for emotional reaction to incoming data. It works in conjunction with the other parts of the brain. For example, when another part of the brain, the amygdale detects a potential danger it immediately signals survival need to the limbic system and the “fight- or-flight” response jumps into action. This spontaneous stimulus is without consultation with the conscious brain system to decide if danger isactually eminent. There is no time for evaluation when the signal for survival is given.

The executive, unconscious system is utilized when conflict rises between the two systems. Its primary purpose is to alter habitual responses that stand in the way of goal achievement. When one element differs from its background it draws more attention to itself without a conscious effort. The unconscious attention begins in the limbic system andmoves on to the cerebral cortex for positive processing. If this movement does not take place, emotionally sets in and performance is altered. It is important that the limbic system, housed in the Theta brain wave be less in charge than the Beta brain wave. If the opposite is true, anxiety, survival, panic is all emotionally based concepts devoid of cal thinking. At this point, the brain becomes analytical, trying to sort out the stimuli, thus hampering motor movement and nullifying motor memory.

Focused attention is the road to excellence and positive goal attainment. It is a function of several parts of the mind brain. Brainactivity is a circuitous route that is physiologically dedicated to a specific task at a designated time. It is markedly amplified by the brain focusing its attention on the feature that the brain circuit is to process through the frontal lobe. The brain continually refines it’s processing capacities to ever meet the challenges it is presented. The communication powers of neurotransmitters help the brain use its astonishing powers to learn and unlearn, adapt and change. Focused attention required the activation of the visual cortex along with the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain. To accomplish selective attention, it is necessary to activate the prefrontal cortex this nudging the brain into processing one signal and rejecting another.

It is of note that the brain does not have a single processing center designated to focused attention. Multiple systems are necessary and include:

<!–[if !supportLists]–>1.     <!–[endif]–>Prefrontal Cortex: involved in task-related memory and planning

<!–[if !supportLists]–>2.     <!–[endif]–>Parietal Cortex: body and environmental awareness

<!–[if !supportLists]–>3.     <!–[endif]–>Anterior Cingulate: motivation

<!–[if !supportLists]–>4.     <!–[endif]–>Cerebellum/Basal Ganglia: habit formation and movement coordination

We usually describe our goals by our behaviors. Whether we choose one path or another., we conceptualize our will in terms of externally pursuing a specific goal. The quality of the choices we make are related to our ability to achieve attentional focus.

Attentional focus dictates mental direction and in turn actually alters our brain. The power of attention, the power of the mind, reshapes neural circuitry and cortical maps. This is accomplished through the exercise of the will and the effect of attention. The mind has proven that we can alter biological matter significantly through mastering focused attention.

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Copyright: Rayma Ditson-Sommer, Ph.D., 2012. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.

Copyright: Rayma Ditson-Sommer, PhD. Phoenix, Arizona, 2012. Posted with permission.