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Concept: Attention restoration theory

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Adults and children are spending more time interacting with media and technology and less time participating in activities in nature. This life-style change clearly has ramifications for our physical well-being, but what impact does this change have on cognition? Higher order cognitive functions including selective attention, problem solving, inhibition, and multi-tasking are all heavily utilized in our modern technology-rich society. Attention Restoration Theory (ART) suggests that exposure to nature can restore prefrontal cortex-mediated executive processes such as these. Consistent with ART, research indicates that exposure to natural settings seems to replenish some, lower-level modules of the executive attentional system. However, the impact of nature on higher-level tasks such as creative problem solving has not been explored. Here we show that four days of immersion in nature, and the corresponding disconnection from multi-media and technology, increases performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50% in a group of naive hikers. Our results demonstrate that there is a cognitive advantage to be realized if we spend time immersed in a natural setting. We anticipate that this advantage comes from an increase in exposure to natural stimuli that are both emotionally positive and low-arousing and a corresponding decrease in exposure to attention demanding technology, which regularly requires that we attend to sudden events, switch amongst tasks, maintain task goals, and inhibit irrelevant actions or cognitions. A limitation of the current research is the inability to determine if the effects are due to an increased exposure to nature, a decreased exposure to technology, or to other factors associated with spending three days immersed in nature.

Concepts: Psychology, Attention, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Educational psychology, Problem solving, Attention restoration theory, Creative problem solving

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We were interested by the influence on ionic diode properties of conical nanopore functionalized with weak polyelectrolyte layer-by-layer. We have considered with different couples of polyelectrolytes: poly-L-lysine/Poly(acrylic acid) and poly(ethyleneimine)Poly(acrylic acid) as well as the influence of cross linking. The results show that the nanopore decorated with poly(ethyleneimine)/Poly(acrylic acid) exhibit an interesting behavior. Indeed, at pH 3 the nanopore is open only at low salt concentration while at pH 7 it is already open. The nanopores functionalized with poly-L-lysine/poly(acrylic acid) do not show an inversion of ionic transport properties with the pH as expected. After cross-linked in order to prevent large conformational changes, the ionic diode properties is depended on the pH.

Concepts: Psychology, Acid, Attention, PH, Attention restoration theory

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Strong implicit responses to food have evolved to avoid energy depletion but contribute to overeating in today’s affluent environments. The Approach-Avoidance Task (AAT) supposedly assesses implicit biases in response to food stimuli: Participants push pictures on a monitor “away” or pull them near with a joystick that controls a corresponding image zoom. One version of the task couples movement direction with image content-independent features, for example, pulling blue-framed images and pushing green-framed images regardless of content (‘irrelevant feature version’). However, participants might selectively attend to this feature and ignore image content and, thus, such a task setup might underestimate existing biases. The present study tested this attention account by comparing two irrelevant feature versions of the task with either a more peripheral (image frame color: green vs. blue) or central (small circle vs. cross overlaid over the image content) image feature as response instruction to a ‘relevant feature version’, in which participants responded to the image content, thus making it impossible to ignore that content. Images of chocolate-containing foods and of objects were used, and several trait and state measures were acquired to validate the obtained biases. Results revealed a robust approach bias towards food only in the relevant feature condition. Interestingly, a positive correlation with state chocolate craving during the task was found when all three conditions were combined, indicative of criterion validity of all three versions. However, no correlations were found with trait chocolate craving. Results provide a strong case for the relevant feature version of the AAT for bias measurement. They also point to several methodological avenues for future research around selective attention in the irrelevant versions and task validity regarding trait vs. state variables.

Concepts: Psychology, Attention, Correlation and dependence, Criterion validity, Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient, Attention restoration theory

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Attention Restoration Theory is applied to explore the causes and consequences of mental fatigue in clergy and suggest practical interventions to restore cognitive wellbeing. Previous research has investigated the physical and emotional health and wellbeing of clergy, but has largely neglected clergy cognitive wellbeing. Due to the demanding nature of their work, clergy are particularly susceptible to mental fatigue and depletion of their capacity to maintain attention. Symptoms include inability to focus attention, inhibit distractions, make decisions or solve problems. Mental fatigue can be overcome, and cognitive capacity restored, by spending time in restorative environments that allow directed attention to rest.

Concepts: Psychology, Attention, Physics, Mind, Problem solving, Attention restoration theory, Behavioral concepts, Rachel and Stephen Kaplan

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We seek to understand what is known about the use of visual art-making for people who have a cancer diagnosis, and to explore how art-making may help address fatigue in the cancer care context. Art-making involves creating art or craft alone or in a group and does not require an art-therapist as the emphasis is on creativity rather than an overt therapeutic intention. An integrative review was undertaken of qualitative, quantitative and mixed-method studies on art-making for people who have cancer, at any stage of treatment or recovery. An adapted version of Kaplan’s Attention Restoration Theory (ART) was used to interpret the themes found in the literature. Fifteen studies were reviewed. Nine concerned art-making programmes and six were focused on individual, non-facilitated art-making. Review results suggested that programme-based art-making may provide participants with opportunities for learning about self, support, enjoyment and distraction. Individual art-making can provides learning about self, diversion and pleasure, self-management of pain, a sense of control, and enhanced social relationships. When viewed through the lens of ART, art-making can be understood as an energy-restoring activity that has the potential to enhance the lives of people with a diagnosis of cancer.

Concepts: Medicine, Cancer, Understanding, Attention, Knowledge, Attention restoration theory, Art, Behavioral concepts

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Attention Restoration Theory (ART) suggests the ability to concentrate may be restored by exposure to natural environments. Although widely cited, it is unclear as to the quantity of empirical evidence that supports this. A systematic review regarding the impact of exposure to natural environments on attention was conducted. Seven electronic databases were searched. Studies were included if (1) they were natural experiments, randomized investigations, or recorded “before and after” measurements; (2) compared natural and nonnatural/other settings; and (3) used objective measures of attention. Screening of articles for inclusion, data extraction, and quality appraisal were performed by one reviewer and checked by another. Where possible, random effects meta-analysis was used to pool effect sizes. Thirty-one studies were included. Meta-analyses provided some support for ART, with significant positive effects of exposure to natural environments for three measures (Digit Span Forward, Digit Span Backward, and Trail Making Test B). The remaining 10 meta-analyses did not show marked beneficial effects. Meta-analysis was limited by small numbers of investigations, small samples, heterogeneity in reporting of study quality indicators, and heterogeneity of outcomes. This review highlights the diversity of evidence around ART in terms of populations, study design, and outcomes. There is uncertainty regarding which aspects of attention may be affected by exposure to natural environments.

Concepts: Attention, Effect, Evidence-based medicine, Systematic review, Natural environment, Effect size, Meta-analysis, Attention restoration theory

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During cognitive tasks requiring externally directed attention, activation in the default-network (DN) typically decreases below baseline levels (‘deactivation’). Healthy aging is associated with reduced deactivation, which is usually attributed to a failure to suppress DN processes. Recent evidence instead suggests that older adults may be more reliant on DN than young adults when performing these tasks.

Concepts: Attention, Cognitive neuroscience, Ageing, Attention restoration theory

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Pseudoneglect is influenced by vertical visual field stimulation, such that attentional biases are stronger for upper space distractors. Leftward biases result from right hemisphere visuospatial processing, and may be accentuated by additional right hemisphere activation during upper space distraction. Three experiments examined potential explanations for this finding. Experiment 1 controlled for perceptual grouping and leftward biases remained stronger in upper space. Experiment 2 used peripheral distractors to eliminate two further potential explanations: centre-of-mass and framing effects. Eye tracking was included to compare overt and covert attention. Findings supported the occurrence of a stronger leftward attentional bias during upper space distraction. Distractors were rarely fixated, suggesting covert attentional mechanisms are preferentially drawn toward upper space distractors. Experiment 3 employed a cueing paradigm that purposefully directed attention away from centre to determine whether pseudoneglect was influenced by overt attentional orienting. Results indicated that when attention was overtly directed away from centre, the strength of pseudoneglect did not differ based on visual field. It is concluded that covert attention toward upper space distractors recruits additional right hemisphere activation, leading existing leftward biases to be accentuated.

Concepts: Psychology, Attention, Left-wing politics, Visual system, Sense, Cognitive bias, Attention restoration theory, Attention span

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Developments in lighting technologies have allowed more dynamic digital billboards in locations visible from the roadway. Decades of laboratory research have shown that rapidly changing or moving stimuli presented in peripheral vision tends to ‘capture’ covert attention. We report naturalistic glance and driving behavior of a large sample of drivers who were exposed to two digital billboards on a segment of highway largely free from extraneous signage. Results show a significant shift in the number and length of glances toward the billboards and an increased percentage of time glancing off road in their presence. Findings were particularly evident at the time the billboards transitioned between advertisements. Since rapidly changing stimuli are difficult to ignore, the planned increase in episodically changing digital displays near the roadway may be argued to be a potential safety concern. The impact of digital billboards on driver safety and the need for continued research are discussed.

Concepts: Psychology, Attention, Neuroscience, Attention restoration theory

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Green exercise research often reports psychological health outcomes without rigorously controlling exercise. This study examines effects of visual exercise environments on directed attention, perceived exertion and time to exhaustion, whilst measuring and controlling the exercise component. Participants completed three experimental conditions in a randomized counterbalanced order. Conditions varied by video content viewed (nature; built; control) during two consistently-ordered exercise bouts (Exercise 1: 60% VO2peakInt for 15-mins; Exercise 2: 85% VO2peakInt to voluntary exhaustion). In each condition, participants completed modified Backwards Digit Span tests (a measure of directed attention) pre- and post-Exercise 1. Energy expenditure, respiratory exchange ratio and perceived exertion were measured during both exercise bouts. Time to exhaustion in Exercise 2 was also recorded. There was a significant time by condition interaction for Backwards Digit Span scores (F2,22 = 6.267, p = 0.007). Scores significantly improved in the nature condition (p < 0.001) but did not in the built or control conditions. There were no significant differences between conditions for either perceived exertion or physiological measures during either Exercise 1 or Exercise 2, or for time to exhaustion in Exercise 2. This was the first study to demonstrate effects of controlled exercise conducted in different visual environments on post-exercise directed attention. Via psychological mechanisms alone, visual nature facilitates attention restoration during moderate-intensity exercise.

Concepts: Psychology, Attention, Measurement, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Control, Attention restoration theory