Abstract and Keywords
Functions of attention include achievement and maintenance of a state of alertness, selection of information from sensory input, and regulation of responses when dominant or well-learned behavior is not appropriate. These functions have been associated with activation of separate networks of brain areas. In this chapter, the developmental course of the attention networks during infancy and childhood and the neural mechanisms underlying its maturation are reviewed. Alerting is active early in infancy, although the ability to endogenously maintain the level of alertness develops through late childhood. The ability to orient to external stimulation is also present from quite early in life, and mostly aspects of orienting related to the control of disengagement and voluntary orientation improve during childhood. Executive attention starts developing by the end of the first year of life, showing major maturational changes during the preschool years. The efficiency of all three functions is subject to important individual differences, which may be due to both genetic endowment and educational and social experiences. In the final section, I discuss evidence indicating that efficiency of attention can be improved through training during childhood. Attention training has the potential to benefit aspects of behavior central to education and socialization processes.
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