Control Your Attention and You Control Your Brain

By asking subjects to direct their attention to particular areas in space while their brains were being scanned by MRI, researchers have mapped brain regions active in the high-level neural control of attention. Like an initial satellite reconnaissance of new terrain, this first mapping represents a key step toward understanding the detailed topography and function of brain regions involved in high-level “executive” control of attention.

By integrating the results of large numbers of trials, the scientists determined that certain discrete brain areas of the cortex invariably showed activity during the attentional tasks. Principal among these areas are the superior frontal, inferior parietal and superior temporal cortex.

It is now apparent that the state of your attention reflects your brain activity. If your attention is scattered and fragmented on many things and places, then your brain activity is also scattered and fragmented throughout your brain. If you sustain your attention for long enough on one thing your brain will reflect that, shutting down brain areas not related to the object of your focus and activating the brain areas that are related to it.

Sustained concentrated focus on one single object collects your attention in that one place, much like a magnifying glass collects the suns rays in one powerful point. If it’s a visual object you are focusing your attention on the visual part of your brain will be most active. If you sustain your attention long enough on that one signal other brain areas will get less and less active and your visual part will get more and more active. Take it all the way and you will collect all your conscious brain activity in one part of your brain, in this example your visual part. At that point you don’t hear, feel, smell or taste anything. Your other senses are certainly taking everything in as usual and your brain is recording it, but you won’t be conscious of any of it at that moment.

Every top athlete and professional understands the benefits of getting their thoughts under control. World Champions often describe attentional control as one of the most important skills for a world class athlete. A definition of attentional control was provided by the American sport psychologist, Dr. Robert Singer, “An individual’s readiness in a particular situation to selectively perceive and process information”. Displaying a high level of attentional control is the same as having excellent powers of concentration.

When you improve your focus and concentration beyond a certain point you gain enough control over your attention to be able to do almost whatever you want with your attention and your mind.

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