What is Attention Span?
Attention span is the ability to keep focused on one thing without becoming distracted in any way. The best illustration of this on the web is a three-minute challenge on YouTube, in which you are continually reminded to pay attention to the speaker, who is not trying to be particularly interesting.
The key element here is that attention needs to be unbroken from moment to moment. Attention tests that are made up of discrete items such as the TOVA and IVA are not the same task, even if they are called “Continuous Performance Tests” since they give the brain an opportunity to pause and recharge between trials. They are useful as measures of attention, but not true attention span. Unbroken, undistracted attention is more important for optimal performance in many types of tasks.
We have been offering an effective way to measure and train true attention span for over 20 years. Our Focus measure responds to the intensity (single-pointedness) of your focus by increasing. The yellow bar on the chart rises. We can then set a lower limit (threshold) and challenge the user to keep his Focus level above it for as long as he can. We call this the “Focus Run Time” and can measure it automatically with our Peak BrainHappiness Trainer software. We can also automatically keep track of the “Best Focus Run” in the session.
Early on, even before we developed the automatic tracking, we held Concentration Derbys (we’re from Kentucky) at our exhibit table, giving away $100 to the person who had the longest Attention Span at the meeting. This proved to be a quite popular way to show off the system, and it also established the validity of the approach (to us) because no one ever complained the Derby was unfair, even those who could only do four seconds. The all-time record holder, a baseball coach, held on for over 33 minutes! I was amazed.
That was before the Internet took over our lives. Many people believe that it is responsible for shortening our attention span. In any case, it is clear that most of us would like to be able to concentrate for far longer than we typically do.
Doubling Attention Span
Over 10 years ago, a test showed that with just five sessions of our Peak Achievement Focus training, the Attention Span (our Focus Run Time) of the top executives of a Fortune 500 company doubled. It was performed by Lt. Col. (Ret.) Louis Csoka, Ph.D., who was the founder of the Army’s Center for Enhanced Performance at West Point. He went on to use our Trainer in many different venues.
Improving Focus and Attention Measures
A university study of ADHD, published in Clinical EEG and Neuroscience and other journals, demonstrated that our Focus measure improved very significantly in 12 sessions with training, and was accompanied by very large measured changes in behavior and attention tests, as well as traditional EEG measures of attention such as theta/beta ratio, which were not directly trained. The authors wrote: “Our study shows that improvement can be indicated within a shorter number of sessions (ie, 12) compared to previous protocols that required more sessions per participant (>30) to statistically indicate significant improvement either in EEG or in behavioral measures.”
The Importance of Training Location and Method
We were the first to discover the importance of pre-frontal cortex (forehead) training in creating better attention training outcomes. It is the patented combination of this electrode site, right near the brain’s Executive Attention Network, with our Focus protocol that leads to superior results. Our Peak BrainHappiness Trainer Pro, the premium edition of the Peak Achievement Trainer, is still designed around this combination. There have been many studies of the effectiveness of neurofeedback in improving attention problems. All of the others have used different locations and methods. It is perhaps not surprising that there are several meta-analyses which indicate that neurofeedback doesn’t work or is minimally effective for ADHD. They are incorrect if the right methods are used.
In fact, people who try our methods for Focus, Alertness, and Neureka! are very pleasantly surprised that they understand and can control them in the first few minutes. This leads to rapid training success. All three of these are combined in the Peak BrainHappiness Trainer Pro, which can be used to train happiness and other positive feelings and to improve memory.
A Competitor’s Mistakes
A recent competitive entry into the field has actually perpetuated this mistake in an unethical manner. They started out training attention with a pre-frontal method, using a system already on the market. They gathered results and then summarized them in an unpublished poster on their website, along with video endorsements. (By the way, we have many more endorsements.) Then they switched to their own system with an electrode at the top of the head (Cz), and are now selling it, without informing anyone of the switch.
They claim it will take at least 30 sessions, performed three times a week, to show an improvement, even for those without ADHD. There is not even an iota of published or cumulated data on the new system. Our data shows large improvements in five sessions in normal (executive) trainees, and 12 sessions with ADHD, with weekly sessions. Neither system requires expensive and uncomfortable Quantitative EEGs (brainmaps). Both feature dry EEG sensors.
For more information, please check out our website.
One Trainer can be shared by the whole family, class, or clinic, with no per-use or monthly charges. No license or certification is required to train others with this educational instrument. We also offer an add-on product, the Mood Elevator, based on remarkable published research on improving the depressed feelings of those who are suffering from the blues.