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3k - Frontal Visual Attention

Posted by Helen St Clair Tracy in Level 3 - Introduction to the Visual Brain
Published: 07/03/2019, 12:15am | Updated: 15/03/2019, 6:27am

Video Link: https://vimeo.com/323532202

We introduced the frontal lobes and your conscious attention in lesson 1f, please review this lesson if needed.

The visual information of what you are looking at has been processed through the eyes, and brain, so that you can recognise these words to read them.

Looking at the image below

Touch the pink button.

Let us think about that in terms of a few basic brain processes:

  • Reading the words, the visual information finds matches in your libraries of words, so that you can make sense of the words you see.
  • We introduced an image without telling you what it was or what we wanted. We just said 'Look at the image below'. You would have recognised it as a number of coloured circles, but beyond that, would not know what it was - so thinking in terms of matching what you are looking at with your memories, you don't have a memory to know exactly what it is. If you re-read this lesson a second time - you will! Right now, you are creating the memory of this image, so that you will be able to successfully recognise it again.
  • Touch the pink button - this is an instruction, the first thing you have to do is find the pink button, and to do this you use your visual search. There are two pinkish buttons, and you may have felt a little confused or frustrated, because our instruction wasn't clear enough. This is what happens when visual information and instructions or explanations don't match so well, it becomes frustrating and can affect learning.
  • Let us be clearer - touch the pink button that is the second row from the top and second from the left.
  • Did you touch it? For those of you who did, you would have reached through space, using the depth map of where the button is to accurately touch it.
  • Whether you touched it or not - you would have made a decision, to touch the pink button or to continue with the lesson without touching the pink button. This decision comes from the control centre in your brain in your the frontal lobes.

The purpose of this exercise was to try to show you what a control centre is, and to come to understand what your conscious attention is.

We assumed that both your eyes and brain created an accurate representation of the image with coloured circles. In the previous lessons we have given examples of the different brain visual processes, and any one of these can affect how well you can see and understand the image of coloured circles.

However, there is another area that can affect how well you can see and understand what you are looking at, and this is your frontal visual attention. Assuming good eye and brain vision, if you were trying to find the pink circle when:

  • You were very tired
  • You were very irritated or excited
  • You were rushing / in a hurry
  • You were preoccupied

Then you would still probably have found it, but it would have taken a little longer, and may have been a little more frustrating.

Trying to find your friends on the beach when you are worried you have lost them, is harder because you are worried. The worry reduces your capacity to visually search and focus, and is a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the more you worry the harder the searching becomes.

These challenges are controlled by your frontal lobes, and can be attributed to many reasons why your ability to concentrate is reduced.

We are all affected by reduced frontal visual attention at times, for example looking for lost keys that are in front of you, but you miss them, or stubbing your toe on the edge of a bed that has been in the same position for years.

Have you ever stubbed your toe on a piece of furniture that has been in the same place for years? Maybe when in a hurry or tired or thinking of something else?  Your conscious (frontal) visual attention is likely to be reduced, making your movements through the room less accurate, meaning you stub your toe, or knock a door frame walking through it, or bump your head on a cupboard door. This is due to reduced frontal visual attention and is not a CVI.Have you ever stubbed your toe on a piece of furniture that has been in the same place for years? Maybe when in a hurry or tired or thinking of something else? Your conscious (frontal) visual attention is likely to be reduced, making your movements through the room less accurate, meaning you stub your toe, or knock a door frame walking through it, or bump your head on a cupboard door. This is due to reduced frontal visual attention and is not a CVI.

When is a brain based visual impairment not a CVI?

One might argue that the key difference between CVIs and reduced frontal visual attention, is that CVIs are permanent. CVIs, as you will see in future lessons, often have a range of severity for each person, with the severity varying according to the type of surroundings and how the person is feeling. Reduced frontal visual attention can be short lived, and is tied in with concentration.

Thus, vision can be affected by:

  • The eyes - ocular visual impairments
  • The brain - cerebral visual impairments
  • The frontal lobes - frontal reduced visual attention.

These classifications often relate to who will diagnose and support the person, a resource which varies from place to place, and can be confusing. For example, a child with reduced frontal visual attention may be supported by a psychologist, whereas a child with reduced visual attention due to a cerebral visual impairment may be supported by a specialist teacher of the visually impaired, a paediatrician and an eye doctor / ophthalmologist.

We have included this section on frontal visual attention, even though it does not technically come under the CVI umbrella, because it is an area where there is often confusion, and the same visual behaviours, including...

  • being distracted
  • being clumsy
  • not seeing things sometimes
  • dislike for busy, noisy crowded places

...can be caused by

  • different CVIs
  • combinations of CVIs
  • reduced frontal visual attention, or
  • a combination of reduced frontal visual attention and CVIs...

...and to effectively support the person you need to know...

Whilst it may seem very confusing, there are ways to work out why some people find different things challenging, which will be explained in future lessons.

Hopefully by now, you will have a basic understanding of your own brain's visual processes.

Before you move onto the next lesson, please check:

  • You understand the difference between the visual challenges created by the eyes, CVIs and the workings of the frontal lobes.
  • You know each challenge can create the same visual behaviours, but will have a different approach to help the person
  • You understand the term 'control centre' for the conscious decision making part of your brain in your frontal lobes.

Next lesson: Level 3l An Introduction to the Visual Brain - Conclusion

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