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An overview of attention-related content on Genes to Cognition Online.
Attention is one of the fundamental cognitive processes. It is an important area of research in relation to attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but is also integral to a number of processes and disorders. For example, in Attention and Memory, Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel discusses the importance of attention to memory formation. Genes associated with attention are similar to those associated with ADHD, and include the dopamine receptor DRD4 and the dopamine transporter, DAT1. Unsurprisingly, dopamine is the biochemical most intimately linked with attention, but serotonin and norepinephrine are also important. The frontal lobe, which is involved in higher, executive processes is the brain region most intimately linked to attention, but the parietal lobe is involved in spatial attention. GENES A number of candidate genes have been associated with ADHD, which are also important correlates of attentive processes in general. Use the chromosome Map of Disorders and Processes to explore some of the candidates. New techniques including whole genome scanning are providing increasingly powerful measures for understanding attention from the molecular perspective. BIOCHEMICALS Because two of the main candidate genes associated with attention are involved in receiving and transporting dopamine, this biochemical is of particular interest to researchers. Dopamine regulation in the brain is very much intimately associated with how the cortex develops, and this may underlie delayed neurodevelopment in ADHD. This disorder has also been associated with serotonin and norepinephrine (noradrenalin). CELLS In Brain Cells and ADHD, Professor Judith Rapoport explains that it has been difficult to find the cellular effects of ADHD because there are many candidate genes and so-called risk genes are never present in most of the patients. A more complete understanding the physiology of neurons, synapses, and glial cells will doubtless take us closer to understanding all disorders at the cellular level. BRAIN The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is an important determinant of “higher” brain functions. It is a critical part of the executive system, which refers to planning, reasoning, and attention. Use the G2C 3-D Brain to explore the PFC and to explore recent research abstracts. You can also explore the parietal cortex, which is an important correlate of spatial attention. In the Neuropathology of Attention, Professor Philip Shaw discusses these brain areas in relation to attentional processes. COGNITION Attention is considered to be a “higher” cognitive process, and correlates with measures of learning, memory, and intelligence. Selective attention refers to the ability to focus on some part of the environment, while simultaneously filtering out another. You can use the Inattentional Blindness external link to explore a fascinating experiment by Simons and Chabris (1999), which highlights an interesting aspect of selective attention! ENVIRONMENT In Environmental Factors in ADHD, Professor Philip Shaw discusses environmental risk factors associated with ADHD. These include alcohol and nicotine in the fetal brain and lead-poisoning in growing children. Diet as a risk factor is controversial, but a recent study by McCann and colleagues (2007) found that some food additives and colorants may have a very slight effect on the level of hyperactivity in all kids. In the Dana review article Diet and the Brain, these factors are explored further.
attention, deficit, hyperactivity, disorder, adhd, prefrontal, cortex, pfc, gene, biochemical, cell, brain, cognition, behavior, environment, dopamine
Creative Commons License This work by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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