chapter  2
24 Pages

The Assessment and Rehabilitation of Attention Disorders

T he concept of attention has gured prominently in the historical develop-ment of psychology (Cohen, Sparling-Cohen, & O’Donnell, 1993). James (1890) suggested that common conceptualizations of attention are universal. However, although thousands of papers on different aspects of attention are published each year (Whyte, 1992a), a lack of coherence at conceptual, methodological, modular, and theoretical levels leads to a corresponding lack of scientic agreement regarding the specic nature of attention (Anderson, Craik, & Naveh-Benjamin, 1998; Kerns & Mateer, 1998; van Zomeren & Brouwer, 1994). Indeed, Anderson et al. (1998) noted that 100 years after James’ (1890) often-cited assertion, researchers still do not know what attention is. This state of affairs represents a problem for the clinician because attention-type difculties (however specically termed) are among the most common sequelae of brain damage following disease or injury and can have multiple negative inuences on the lives of patients (Cohen, Malloy, & Jenkins, 1998; Kerns & Mateer, 1998; van Zomeren & Brouwer, 1994; Whyte, Hart, Laborde, & Rosenthal, 1998). Consequently, in spite

of current conceptual inconsistencies, assessment of attentional functions is an integral aspect of all neuropsychological evaluations (Cohen et al., 1998). Further, attentional functions mediate other cognitive processes through facilitory, enhancing, or inhibitive processes (Cohen et al., 1998). To be sure, aspects of attention can be conceived of as the substrate of performance on all conscious tasks (Whyte, 1992b). On occasion, one major goal of neuropsychological assessment is to distinguish between cognitive dysfunction due to problems with attention, difculty with another substrate (for example, perception or memory), or both. Isolating these difculties may result in mutually exclusive functional implications and associated recommendations.