Developing a Model of Attentional Phenotypes

There is an interesting paper on attention by Fossella and colleagues titled ‘Attentional Phenotypes for the Analysis of Higher Mental Function’ available here. This is another paper in a series by the same group which sets out their strategy for investigating human attentional mechanisms.

Diagram Illustrating Three Areas of the Attentional Model

The researchers describe their methodology for investigating attentional mechanisms. They begin by identifying three types of functional mechanisms – alerting, orienting and executive attentional functions. For each they suggest associated neuranatomical circuits. They also identify candidate neurotransmitters for involvement in attentional processes and use these to suggest a candidate gene for further investigation. This is the DRD4 allele and in this paper they look at some of the evidence correlating a variation in the number of repeat sequences within the gene with performance on relevant psychometric tests. The researchers convey their approach to investigating attention with clarity and this approach could be replicated for investigation of other psychological functions.

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  1. This interesting review of attentional phenotypes does give us more fodder to consider what thinking “looks like,” while, in my own opinion, we should begin using the elements of brain science more explicitly to translate actual *brain function findings* into more functional sets of questions. Interestingly this piece does track us down that functional path just a bit, but remains quite out of reach for the many who treat ADHD symptoms around the world. Who can measure executive function vs orienting and alerting in the office?

    One of the most important overlooked facts that seems to find universal approbation in the counterproductive sense is the assertion that ADHD is a “24X7” diagnosis – when in fact it presents as almost completely contextual after latency and into adolescence. If we simply take that small but important first step into the changing reality of dynamic executive function we are more likely to move away from appearance labels as diagnostically useful, and get down to actual brain function, as we should, in our ADHD assessments.

    For those interested in a practical office look at those options I have a complimentary 23 page outline on functional assessment over at CorePsych Blog for your readers review.

    Thanks for your excellent work on keeping us posted on evolving psych information!


  2. Dear Charles,

    Many thanks for your helpful comments highlighting the complexity of this area and also for drawing the reader’s attention to your useful outline of the functional assessment. I’ll review more papers as I find them



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