Awareness and Attention

Awareness and Attention


Most people believe that we only use a tenth of our brain capacity or else it might explode, hardly! The human neuro-dense brains has progressed to manage energy while carrying out as many tasks as possible, a feat that requires the full brain capacity.  The brain uses only 20% of the body’s energy even though it only makes up a small portion of your body’s weight.

This myth was further propagated by the American sci-fi film, Lucy where the heroine takes a drug that allows her to use 100% of her brain capacity which leads to superpowers. However, the premise is inaccurate. We are always bombarded with information from everything that surrounds us and to keep the brain from being overwhelmed by all that data competing for attention around the clock, brain cells have to work together to sort and prioritize incoming information.

Research by scientists are helping them analyze the variations of awareness and attention by using computer simulations and live brain imaging to develop better understanding of the way cells in the different regions of the brain receives information and uses it to make decisions. The goal is to gain better insights that helps to diagnose and treat disorders caused by attention problems such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.

Do we only use 10 percent of our brain?

The idea has been deeply rooted in most cultures and is repeatedly stated in books and other media types. While some parts of the brain work harder than others, 90% of the brain isn’t just sitting around lazily. MRI scans have shown that humans use most of the brain almost every second of the day and in the course of the day, every part of the brain is active. It is possible to develop brain functions by doing the following:

  • Eat food that improve brain health
  • Exercise
  • Challenge your brain

The dangers of living in an Imaginary world

Daydreaming might help to solve some problems, inspire great content or trigger creativity but when it develops to a compulsive habit, the consequences are dire. Neuroscientists have found the network web of brain regions is triggered when we drift mentally from the task before us.

The scientific study of people who struggle with this awareness disorder will help researchers understand the role of daydreaming in normal consciousness and the dangers of it. People who space out lose awareness of their surrounding by immersing themselves in an alternate reality and abandoning other important aspects of everyday life such as relationship with others and work. Recently, scientists have discovered a network of brain cells (the default network) dedicated to autobiographical mental imagery and this discovery is helping them understand the different purposes of daydreaming in our lives. Cognitive scientists are studying how brain diseases prevent us from mental meander and the consequences when we space out for too long.

Depiction of an imaginary Life

Most people spend at least 30% of their day spaced out building castles in the air while others think about the various task they have to complete and the decisions they’re going to make. According to cognitive psychologist, Michael Kane of the University of North Carolina, when people fall into mind wandering they are thinking of problems, situations, real encounters they have to contend with but exotic daydreams like Walter Mitty in the “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” are rare.

Intense focus on problems that plague the mind doesn’t always lead to solutions but allowing the mind to float freely enables you access unconscious ideas hiding beneath the surface. When people daydream, they lack the meta-awareness of what is going on in their mind.

How disorientation undermines conceptual understanding

Distorted perceptions and disorientation not only create symptoms of dyslexia. A child with ADHD or dyslexia sees disorientation as entertainment and spends hours creating an imaginary world to play in. Our reality is what we experience and to realize an experience, it has to be perceived. With disorientation, perception is distorted and such a person experiences a reality others can’t perceive. This prevents ADHD patients from learning or experiences core life lessons essential for development. The child also experiences distorted sense of time.  A minute might seem like a lifetime or too short but time is never the same. Some other problems it causes include

  • A shift in time sense
  • Distortion in auditory or visual perceptions
  • Reversal of balance and movement senses.

To help the child who cannot adjust behaviour he isn’t conscious of, the child should be equipped with tools of orientation and taught how to be conscious of their energy level and internal clock. After orientation counselling, A Davis facilitator uses Dial-Setting to offer the child an imagined thermostat to help him regain control over his internal clock. Next, the child learns the concept of consequence that states everything that happens is because of another event. Due to past distortions, he might be unaware of his actions and the resultant reaction of others around him. Once he understand consequence, he familiarizes himself with sequence, time and order v disorder. It will take some time to overcome this disorder but with the help of Davis Orientation, the person is more aware and experiences a consistent passage of time that helps him live in the same world as others and act accordingly.

A young girl

Frequently asked questions about Attention and Awareness

Is ADHD a treatable illness?

ADHD was first recognized as an official mental disorder in 1980 and is thought to have three subtypes which include predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms. Without treatment, the symptoms degenerates but with proper treatment, it can be managed effectively

Is there a relationship between attention and consciousness?      

These are two related psychological concepts that raise conflicts even among scholars. When we see a hammer, we are conscious of it, when we look away it fades from our awareness. These two process are interwoven and scholars have argued that consciousness and attention are distinct phenomena with distinct neuronal mechanisms and distinct functions.

Is it possible to be attentive without being aware?

What is the measure of consciousness?

Who is in control of the decisions we make?

For in-depth answers to these vital questions, please visit <> where more questions are featured with expanded answers.

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