Neurofeedback and Attention

Improving your ability to focus with neurofeedback training

In neurofeedback training we often reference areas of the brain identified by numbers that represent particular functions of the brain. The number system often used was developed by an anatomist named Brodmann and are therefore designated the Brodmann areas. For instance,an area of the brain shown to increase in activation while a participant is concentrating on a difficult task with unwanted environmental noise in the background is the posterior cingulate cortex which can be denoted by Brodmann area 23. (1) There are multiple areas thought to participate in shifting your attention from one task to another and focus on specific objects and include the frontal cortex, parietal cortex, and superior colliculi. Assessing how well these areas are functioning helps the provider choose a training pattern that will best improve function in these areas. (2) Patients often note one of their main goals for their child or themselves is to improve focus and attention but when asked how they will evaluate that change there isn’t always a straight forward response. If we break down the idea of holding attention, we may come to a couple of conclusions. You may note that initially a color, sound, smell, or feeling alerts you and you choose to narrow down something or someone to observe. You may then activate your ability to inhibit unnecessary sights and sounds in your environment in an effort to make your observation. While making your observation you use your sensory perception to identify the knowledge you receive. Further, that you process, and organize the information as well as store it for retrieval in the future. Knowing how you define attention will help you know where exactly you need the most help. As an example, I have some patients who report a strong ability to focus when they are in their room or have noise blocking headphones on but whom become very anxious and disoriented when they are surrounded by background noise. Therefore, they have a hard time blocking out their surroundings when they intend to focus on a particular subject. An answer to my earlier question about when they will know they are improving might be that they can be in a room with multiple people talking and still be able to relax and understand what they are observing. When we are trying hard to focus and we have background interference, research shows that we activate additional areas of the brain and thereby we use more energy in this situation. Therefore, it also makes sense that a person trying to improve this particular concern will need to be attaining adequate sleep and eating a nutritious diet to supply them with the excess energy to focus.

Improving your attention generally means training to improve function across multiple areas of the brain in addition to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  To learn more about neurofeedback sessions contact…