Master of attention – the training pill

Understanding the difference in the way normal and injured brains respond to highly controlled dosages of stimuli/feedback combinations could be an important key to understanding the experience-based recovery mechanisms of the brain. A key question in that respect is whether the plastic processes of the brain can be harnessed through controlled exposure to stimuli for the maintenance, improvement and even repair of cognitive skills.

Healthy and brain injured subjects respond differently to prismatic distortions of visual input depending on the type of visual feedback received, as demonstrated in two recent studies (Wilms, 2012bWilms & Malá, 2010). This suggests that the experience-based plastic processes of the brain are susceptible to variations in visual feedback during training at a much more succinct level than previously known. Feedback in this project refers to the instant feedback provided through observation of failure or success in precise target-pointing. The difference in the plastic response patterns to task-related feedback, in both healthy and injured subjects, has not been mapped across age and impairment. This lack of data represents a problem in the further development of cognitive skills learning and rehabilitation models. 

Ordinary models of skills learning may apply to some extent to the training of cognitive skills in healthy individuals. However, it is quite a different matter to determine the format and delivery of training aimed at restoring an impaired or destroyed cognitive skill. The purpose of this research is to map the effects of intensity and feedback in relation to generalized benefits to visual attention.


Inge Wilms