For the past couple weeks we’ve been talking about the underlying causes of ADHD. We’ve looked at how a holistic treatment modality, such as Interactive Metronome, can address these issues more effectively than prescription medications.
Today I want to dive deeper into the organization of the brain. We’ll discuss what needs to happen for us to improve focus, therefore improving cognitive function.
According to Bressler and Menon, the human brain processes information through different brain circuits or loops, collectively forming a large scale brain network.
Research on this large scale brain network suggests that cognitive and motor performance results from the communication between various areas of the brain .
These different areas of the brain communicate with one another through a set of fast paced brain signals. These signals are specific to the cognitive or motor function being performed.
If you remember from last week’s blog, we talked about the importance of improving neural efficiency in those with ADHD. Neural efficiency allows the brain to communicate and process information at a quicker rate.
Brain Networks Involved in Focus
There are a number of brain networks or circuits that make up the large scale brain network. Each of these networks is dedicated to the performance of different cognitive and motor tasks.
Neuroscientists have identified three core brain networks involved in attention and focus, those of which are fine tuned with regular Interactive Metronome training.
These three brain networks are the default network, central-executive network, and salience network.
The default network of the brain is active when we are not engaged in a specific task that requires conscious thought or effort. In other words, this network is engaged when we are mentally passive.
If you can think of a time when your mind has wandered, the default network was at work in your brain.
When we are not working on a specific task, our brains are prone to spontaneous mind wandering. Mind wandering can also occur when performing a subconscious task, or a task that has become second nature to you.
For example, when you first learned how to drive, you consciously had to think about pressing the gas and the brake, turning the steering wheel at the right time, and correctly following the rules of the road.
Now driving has become so second nature to you. You are able to think of things unrelated to driving (mind wandering) and still reach your destination safely. The default network of your brain is in control here.
It’s interesting to know that when you are doing mindless tasks, your brain is still engaged.
When you are fully focused on a task or learning new information, the central-executive network is the active network in your brain. This network is responsible for higher order cognitive processing and attentional control.
When the central-executive network is active, task relevant information gets placed in our working memory. Our working memory holds information we can easily access in order to complete the task at hand.
For example, when you quickly memorize a phone number or a set of numbers for a passcode, your brain stores those numbers in your working memory.
Once you’ve used that information to make a phone call or enter a passcode, those numbers disappear from your working memory. Hours later you might have forgotten the numbers completely.
This happens because the working memory can only hold a limited amount of information. Only information relevant to the task we are currently focused on is placed here.
If you have a child with ADHD, you might notice they quickly forget information that is told to them. This can be indicative of a less functional working memory.
Finally, the salience network is the network which controls the default and central-executive networks.
The salience network monitors our internal and external outputs and decides which information is most relevant to the task at hand.
Internal inputs include our thoughts and mind wandering, while external inputs are distractions from the outside world. Based on our situation at any point in time, the salience network must suppress either the default network or the central-executive network.
For example, if you are studying for an exam, the salience network is suppressing the default network in order to control mind wandering and keep you focused on the information you are reading.
How Will Interactive Metronome Improve Focus?
If you read last week’s blog, I briefly explained how Interactive Metronome worked. Here’s a short clip of the Interactive Metronome in action.
As you can see, I am clapping my hands to a steady metronome beat, aiming to stay in the green zone.
The green zone confirms that I am on beat. The yellow zone shows that I am slightly off beat and the red zone shows that I am very much off the beat.
The number that pops up in the boxes is how many milliseconds off the beat I am.
If the numbers pop up in the red or yellow zone to the left of the green zone, I am ahead of the beat. This means I need to slow my clapping down.
Conversely, numbers that pop up in the red or yellow zones to the right of the green zone indicate I am clapping behind the beat. I’ll need to speed up my clapping to get back in the green zone.
In order to stay in the green zone, I’m required to keep full attention and focus.
The timing of my claps is placed in my working memory. This allows me to maintain a steady rhythm for a prolonged period of time. My central-executive network is highly active right now.
The moment my mind begins to wander, I’ll typically enter the yellow or red zones. My salience network must work to dampen this mind wandering for me to remain in the green zone.
As soon as my timing becomes off, Interactive Metronome provides me with feedback (the yellow and red zones). With this feedback I am able to make real time corrections to get back on beat.
Synchronization is Necessary to Improve Focus
It has been noted that “poor synchronization between [these] three major brain networks has been implicated in Alzheimer’s, ADHD, schizophrenia, autism, the manic phase of bipolar and Parkinson’s” .
Additionally, these are all disorders that have been linked to inefficient brain clock timing, which was the focus of last week’s blog.
If the millisecond timing between the communication of these brain networks is off, the salience network will have trouble suppressing the default network during tasks which require cognitive processing.
All in all, Interactive Metronome improves the communication between the default, central-executive, and salience brain networks. It also enhances the timing in the brain which controls how quickly information is processed.
With regular training, mind wandering becomes less of a distraction. The client is able to sustain controlled attention and improve focus for longer periods of time.
If you’re ready to sign your child up for Interactive Metronome training, call us today at 678-335-5566.
Talk to you soon.