Posts Tagged ‘attention skills’

Try These Mind Games for Mental Fitness

February 15, 2013

brainexercising1If, like many of us, you are a little nervous about your ability to remember things or stay focused on a project or activity, here are a few exercises you might want to try to keep your brain’s cognitive functions—memory, attention, language, visual/spatial skills and executive function—in good shape.

  • When listening to music, choose a song you don’t know and memorize the lyrics. This boosts the level of acetylcholine, the chemical that helps build your brain.
  • Shower or get dressed in the dark, or use your opposite hand to brush your teeth. These changes help build new associations between different neural connections of the brain.
  • Change your route to work or reorganize your desk. These simple changes will force your brain to wake up from habits and pay attention again.
  • Combine activities like listening to an audio book with jogging, or doing math in your head while you drive. This will force your brain to work at doing more in the same amount of time
  • Walk into a room and pick out five items and their locations. When you exit the room, try to recall all five items and where they were located. Wait two hours and try to remember those items and their locations.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at www.optimindsct.com.

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About Our Attention and Multitasking

January 6, 2012

Have you ever wondered why you feel the urge to turn down the car radio when you are lost or looking for an address? The evidence we have right now strongly suggests that attention is strictly limited. When attention is deployed to one modality—talking on a cell phone, for example—it necessarily extracts a cost on another modality, such as the visual task of driving. 

We’re talking about divided attention, or the ability to multitask and pay attention to two things at once. It’s generally much harder than selective, or focused, attention. The factors that come into play are your attentional capacity and the processing requirements—essentially how much of which areas of your brain are needed to process the input. 

Your attentional capacity can be taken up by inhibiting (tuning out) distractions, dividing your attention across multiple things, or even sustaining your attention on one thing (vigilance). Fatigue takes a big toll on attention. If you’re tired, it’s harder to concentrate. Depression has a similar effect. In fact, many memory complaints may actually be depression- or fatigue-related reduced attentional capacity. And guess what? Getting older both reduces your attentional capacity and increases your processing requirements. Basically, it takes more and more inhibition skill to tune out distractions and stay focused. But all is not lost; there are steps you can take to multitask better! 

Tips on How to Divide Your Attention More Effectively 

  • Do very different tasks. It’s much harder to do two very similar tasks (read and talk) at the same time than it is to do two very different tasks (run and talk). If you can use separate areas of the brain, that will help, but warning: the brain doesn’t always segregate perceptual information as clearly as you might think.
  • Practice. If you’re better at each task independently, you’ll be better at doing them at the same time (even if you don’t do them as well simultaneously as when you do each one separately).
  • Keep it simple. If you have to multitask, multitasking simple tasks will be more successful than trying to prove Fermat’s Last Theorem in your head while simultaneously writing a novel.
  • Train your brain. Researchers have shown that working memory can be improved by training and that such training helps people with attention deficits and it also improves reasoning ability overall.

 Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has been helping people of all ages improve their cognitive, reading and memory skills. Find out more about Optiminds programs by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or email us at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit our website at www.optimindsct.com.

 

What are Cognitive Skills?

May 4, 2011

Cognitive skills are the underlying brain skills that make it possible for us to think, remember and learn. They allow us to process the huge influx of information we receive each and every day at work, at school and in life. If your cognitive skills aren’t up to speed, no matter what kind of information you try to grasp—or how many times you try to grasp it—the process can feel sluggish and slow.

Cognitive skills include a wide variety of abilities that are necessary for analyzing sounds and images, recalling information, making associations between different pieces of information, and maintaining focus on a given task.

Some examples of cognitive skills include:

Processing Speed—the speed at which your brain processes information. Faster processing speed means more efficient thinking and learning.

Auditory Processing—the ability to analyze, blend and segment sounds. Auditory processing is crucial for speaking, reading and spelling. When you read, for example, you need to be able to identify the individual and blended sounds that make each word unique and recognizable.

Visual Processing—the ability to perceive, analyze and think in visual images. Visual processing is imperative for reading, remembering, walking, driving, playing sports and thousands of other tasks people perform every day.

Long-Term Memory—the “library” of facts and knowledge a person has accumulated in the past.

Short-Term Memory—Also called working memory, this skill handles the dynamic job of keeping at the forefront of your mind the information you need to complete immediate and short-term tasks.

Logic and Reasoning—the ability to reason, form concepts, and solve problems using unfamiliar information or new procedures. Logic and reasoning enable you to create correlations, solve problems, plan ahead and draw conclusions.

Attention Skills—There are three types of attention skills. Sustained Attention is the ability to stay focused and on-task for a period of time. Selective Attention is the ability to quickly sort through incoming information and stay focused on one thing in spite of distractions. Divided Attention is the ability to multi-task.

Optiminds is a Cognitive, Professional Brain Training Skills Center owned and operated by Jane Stewart, Ph.D. Visit us at: www.optimindsct.com, give us a call at (248) 496-0150 or email us at: jstewart@optimindsct.com.


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