T Minus 19
Cognitive Systems: Attention
The second key aspect of cognitive function that I will discuss is attention, as we will be measuring that as well.
While most people have been told to "pay attention", what is attention, actually?
Attention is our ability to focus on something specific while tuning out other things. From a neuroscience perspective, attention translates to increasing the signal coming one area and reducing the signal from other areas (sometimes referred to as the gain of the signal).
Again, the information processing model:
Attention can easily be explained with an information processing model. For example, one could say that without attention sensation does not translate into perception. One can also thing along the lines that attention helps memory processing and decision-making by increasing the gain of desired inputs and diminishing the gain of other inputs.
Think of why we have laws against using a cell phone while driving in terms of the above explanation. If our attention is focused on our cell phone, the gain is increased there but the gain is diminished for other sensory input - like what is happening outside of the car. Because of this, we might miss a pedestrian stepping out into the road.
In terms of our brain performance analysis, attention is one of the five key components of cognitive function and as with perception, it is impacted by fatigue and thus we monitor it with EEG.
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Dr. Olav Krigolson is the Associate Director for the Centre for Biomedical Research, an Associate Professor in Neuroscience, and the Principle Investigator of the Theoretical and Applied Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Victoria.