Attention is a cognitive function that is used in almost all daily life activities. When we pay attention to objects and people around us, to sounds, images and every stimulus that may be in the environment for instance.
It is therefore important to stimulate attention to keep the brain active.
“Attentional and executive functions are so-called “high-level” brain functions that infiltrate and control all cognitive functions, thus allowing access to knowledge and learning. Without attention, there is no learning. The links between attention and memory are therefore direct.
Sandrine Censabella, neuropsychologist and professor at the Catholic University of Louvain.
What is attention?
Attention is the cognitive function that allows us to differentiate between important and distracting stimuli. Indeed, in the environment there are several stimuli and our brain must succeed in filtering them to know where to focus our attention (attentional focus). Depending on our objective, a stimulus can be important or not. For example, if I am looking for a friend in a crowd and I know that he is dressed in red, my attention will be focused on the people with a red shirt and my brain will not process the stimuli of people dressed in other colors.
Attentional skills also allow us to stay focused on an activity and use all of our skills to achieve the result. If we are distracted, we take longer to organize or finish an activity and once we have finished, we don’t necessarily remember what we did.
Attention can be more fragile in certain situations. The main disorder related to attention is ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). ADHD is often associated with children because it is a difficulty that emerges in childhood, but there are also many adults who suffer from ADHD.
There are also other pathologies that can create attention problems, such as Alzheimer’s, Stroke or head trauma.
In all these situations, the difficulties can be varied: in general, the person may have difficulty filtering out certain stimuli. On the one hand, the person perceives all stimuli as important and therefore his or her focus quickly shifts from one object to another (ADHD), on the other hand, the brain is unable to maintain attention on a stimulus and is therefore easily distracted.
Exercises to train and improve your semantic memory
Training your attention is very important and you can do it quietly at home. Of course, if you have a pathology or a specific disorder, you should ask your doctor or a health professional for advice.
To train attention, one of the most effective exercises is the double task, i.e. doing two activities at the same time. The activities should be of a different nature, for example singing a song while you cook a meal or drawing the infinity symbol (by continuing to draw it several times on the same shape) while you watch a movie.
This activity has a double effect: your brain stays active because it has to do two things, so it is more difficult for your attention to be drawn to a third stimulus. Also, in both activities, one task is “less important” than the other so your brain learns to focus on the more important activity. For example, if you are cooking and singing, your brain focuses on the preparation of the meal and you will sing the song without thinking about the words.
In general, to train attention, try to increase the amount of time you spend on an activity. For example, if you read the newspaper for 10 minutes a day, try increasing to 13 minutes and then to 15. You need to increase gradually and pace yourself.