The role of selective attention on academic foundations: a cognitive neuroscience perspective

Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2012 Feb 15;2 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S30-48. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2011.11.001. Epub 2011 Nov 9.


To the extent that selective attention skills are relevant for academic foundations and amenable to training, they represent an important focus for the field of education. Here, drawing on research on the neurobiology of attention, we review hypothesized links between selective attention and processing across three domains important to early academic skills. First, we provide a brief review of the neural bases of selective attention, emphasizing the effects of selective attention on neural processing, as well as the neural systems important to deploying selective attention and managing response conflict. Second, we examine the developmental time course of selective attention. It is argued that developmental differences in selective attention are related to the neural systems important for deploying selective attention and managing response conflict. In contrast, once effectively deployed, selective attention acts through very similar neural mechanisms across ages. In the third section, we relate the processes of selective attention to three domains important to academic foundations: language, literacy, and mathematics. Fourth, drawing on recent literatures on the effects of video-game play and mind-brain training on selective attention, we discuss the possibility of training selective attention. The final section examines the application of these principles to educationally-focused attention-training programs for children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Adult
  • Aptitude / physiology
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Child
  • Cues
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Educational Status
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Human Development / physiology
  • Humans
  • Language Development
  • Learning / physiology
  • Mathematics
  • Mental Processes / physiology
  • Perceptual Masking / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reading
  • Speech / physiology
  • Teaching