How to Measure Attention?
Attention is central to many aspects of cognition, but there is no singular neural measure of a person’s overall attentional functioning across tasks.
Using a model of fMRI data collected from 92 individuals performing several types of attention-related tasks, the lab of Yale's Marvin Chun successfully predicted how well those individuals would perform on the tasks based on their brain scans alone. This generalized model can also predict the severity of an individual case of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.
The new research makes it possible to put a number on it like heart rate and blood pressure. It was done by analyzing brain scans of individuals as they performed a series of attention-related tasks, such as sustained focus exercises, and then linked that information to patterns of activity across different brain regions. They then created a computational model that is so sensitive it can predict how well an individual will perform on an attention-related task even when the brain is resting. The measurement can help diagnose ADHD and be used as neurofeedback to help improve an individual's own focus.