Describing six Aspects of a complex syndrome
Attention is an incredibly complex, multifaceted function of the mind. It plays a crucial role in what we perceive, remember, think, feel, and do. And it is not just one isolated activity of the brain. The continuous process of attention involves organizing and setting priorities, focusing and shifting focus, regulating alertness, sustaining effort, and regulating the mind’s processing speed and output. It also involves managing frustration and other emotions, recalling facts, using short-term memory, and monitoring and self-regulating action. Observing the problems that result when attention fails has allowed me to notice the effects of attentional processes on multiple aspects of daily life. Documenting the interconnected improvements that occur when attentional impairments are effectively treated has shown me the subtle but powerful linkages between attention and multiple aspects of the brain’s management system. All of these observations have led me to conclude that attention is essentially a name for the integrated operation of the executive functions of the brain.
Each cluster of my model (see chart) encompasses one important aspect of the brain’s executive functions. Although each has a one-word label, these clusters are not single qualities like height, weight, or temperature. Each cluster is more like a basket encompassing related cognitive functions that depend on and interact continuously with the others, in ever-shifting ways. Together these clusters describe executive functions, the management system of the brain.