Brain Improvement Programme: Addictions to get focus

Ways the brain focuses on things

Evolution shows that all creatures use the same mechanisms to search for food, as food is not in equal abundance.  The brain works in a similar fashion to search for information when applying the knowledge and intellectual function.

The balanced brain searches for an area abundant in information and works through that area until it has no more sources available (an “area-restricted search”), then it searches for another abundant area.

Attention deficit and brain injuries will see no pattern to work through. It will scatter the search randomly firing out all over the place with no coherence. It performs worse on testing.

Addicted brains only search the same information repeatedly and cannot open the remit of search. This also performs worse alone, but can be used to help those with attention issues.

An example of each is:

  1. Balanced brain test = animals, mammals, cats - lion, tiger, panther, domestic cat, dog - sheep dog, wolf, dingo etc.

  2. Attention issues test = dog, fish, lady bird, snake etc.  

  3. Addicted brain = dog, dog, dog, dog…dog

Thus, two errors from the brain are (A) give up too soon or (B) stay too long.

Harnessing Addiction Patterns for Attention

Brain injury survivors and attention deficit give up too soon, and addicts stay too long and focus too much on the same thing.

Dopamine in the brain affects how long you focus on an area-restricted search (this is across all animals including roundworm). If the dopamine receptor neurons are destroyed or blocked (brain injured) then the brain cannot do the area-restricted search, so the brain goes on an extensive search even when there is information in the local area.

This explains the lack of structure if given a list search as above for the animals. If there is excess dopamine receptor activity in the brain then the area-restricted search will increase, this is the case for addicts.

To be smarter with a brain injury or attention issues, adopt the addicts approach to help improve focus. Create categories and sub-categories for information to easily store, access and retrieve it when demanded. This is why word associations and mnemonics help to commit information to memory  - it gives categories.


  1. List cities in the world for 1 minute - write them down!

  2. Look at your list and confirm if you're categorising or randomly searching.

  3. Then try to create categories and sub-categories for how to recall cities.

  4. Repeat the 1 minute of listing cities and see if you improve - did you use the categories to help you?

Do this exercise with other topics. E.g. animals, foods, movement shapes etc.