“Considering all your results, it’s very clear that you have issues with attention and distractibility both in the lab and in daily life.” He won’t be drawn on what this might mean for my brain, but he does say there’s “Room for improvement” and invites me to Boston for a course of intensive training and brain stimulation.
Their training programme targets the brain’s ‘dorsal attention network’, which links regions of the prefrontal cortex – the bit of the brain above the eyes that helps us make decisions – and the parietal cortex, the ‘switchboard’ for our senses, which is above and slightly behind the ears.
First step is a magnetic resonance imaging brain scan, so that Esterman can pinpoint the brain region he wants to stimulate.
On another test, which measured my attentional blink – basically how soon the brain can refocus after a distraction – I show similar improvements, scoring 46% before training and 87% afterwards.
“But functionally, how you engage the brain something is different,” adds Esterman.
Attention researcher Nilli Lavie of University College London has found that making a task more visually demanding – by adding more colours or shapes to the page, or increasing the number of sounds your brain has to process – takes up more processing power, and leaves the brain nothing left to process distractions.
Now I have two more questions: how can I keep it going? And which brain wrinkle should I iron out next?