Brain Improvement Programme: Addictions to get focus

HOW 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. You search for an area abundant in information and work through that area until it has no more sources for you (an “area-restricted search”), then you search for another abundant area.  My example is ‘animals’…

With a brain injury you probably randomly say animals with no pattern to help you work through the list, e.g. dog, fish, lady bird, snake etc.  A healthy brain will search in areas of abundance, so it will find a group & work through the list, e.g. mammals - domestic - cat, dog, then wild mammals - rhino, elephant, etc.

Two errors from the brain are (A) give up too soon or (B) stay too long.  Brain injury survivors (like ADHD) give up too soon, and addicts stay too long & focus on it too much.

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 your 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 you need to use the addicts approach to help you get focus. You have to 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 & sub-categories  for how to recall cities.
  4. Repeat the 1 minute of listing cities & see if you improve - did you use the categories to help you?