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How Attention Works, Why It Fails, & How To Train It

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Adam Gazzaley, MD, PhD |  Ari Tuckman, PsyD, MBA
1 Hour 41 Minutes
Sep 26, 2022
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Digital Recording
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Our attention system has an amazing ability to sort through countless simultaneous inputs and decide what to focus on in that moment—and then the next, and the next.

Most of the time it works well and focuses on the most important input, but we all have times when we get distracted or when our attention gets stuck. ADHD, anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, and normal aging can all affect how well attention works and how clients function in their lives.

Attention is the foundation for all other cognitive processes, so how can we improve it? New high-tech options promise to improve cognitive abilities, but do they actually work, or is it just marketing hype? Clients see the advertising, so clinicians need to know how to answer their questions. We will discuss the current state of the field of brain training, where it is going, and how to evaluate claims so you can make well-informed recommendations.


Planning Committee Disclosure - No relevant relationships

All members of the PESI, Inc. planning committee have provided disclosures of financial relationships with ineligible organizations and any relevant non-financial relationships prior to planning content for this activity. None of the committee members had relevant financial relationships with ineligible companies or other potentially biasing relationships to disclose to learners.  For speaker disclosures, please see the faculty biography.


This online program is worth 1.75 hours CPD.


Adam Gazzaley, MD, PhD's Profile

Adam Gazzaley, MD, PhD Related seminars and products

Adam Gazzaley, MD, PhD, is the David Dolby Distinguished Professor of Neurology, Physiology and Psychiatry at the UC San Francisco, and the Founder & Executive Director of Neuroscape, a translational neuroscience center engaged in technology development and scientific research of novel brain assessments and optimization tools. Dr. Gazzaley is co-founder of Akili Interactive (On Fast Company’s 2022 list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies) and JAZZ Venture Partners. He has been a scientific advisor for over a dozen technology companies including Apple, GE and Janssen. He has filed multiple patents – notably his invention of the first video game cleared by the FDA, authored over 160 scientific articles and delivered over 700 invited presentations around the world. He wrote and hosted the nationally televised PBS special “The Distracted Mind with Dr. Adam Gazzaley”, and co-authored “The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World”, winner of the 2017 PROSE Award. Dr. Gazzaley is the recipient of the 2015 SfN Science Educator Award, 2020 Global Gaming Citizen Honor and named in Newsweek’s 2021 Inaugural list of America’s Greatest Disruptors. He is a Board of Trustee and Science Council Member and Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences.


Speaker Disclosures:
Financial: Dr. Adam Gazzaley has employment relationships with the University of California and Neuroscape. He is also co-founder and chief science advisor of Akili Interactive and co-founder and chief scientist of Jazz Venture Partners. Dr. Gazzaley is a scientific advisor for MindMaze, ElMindA, Neuroelectrics, and several others, for a complete list contact PESI, Inc. He receives royalties as a published author and receives a speaking honorarium from PESI, Inc.
Non-financial: Dr. Adam Gazzaley is a member of the American Academy of Neurology, the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, the Organization for Human Brain Mapping, the Society for Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology, and the Society for Neuroscience. He is a former advisor for Janssen and Sensync. Dr. Gazzaley is a journal reviewer for Nature, Neuron, Nature Neuroscience, Journal of Neuroscience, and several others, for a complete list contact PESI, Inc.

Ari Tuckman, PsyD, MBA's Profile

Ari Tuckman, PsyD, MBA Related seminars and products

Ari Tuckman, PsyD, MBA, is a psychologist, international presenter, author, and ADHD expert. He is the author of four books on adult ADHD – one for clinicians and three for the general public. He has also written several book chapters and is a frequent author for ADHD-related publications, including ADDitude Magazine and Attention Magazine.

He is a popular and dynamic presenter who routinely earns excellent reviews for his ability to make complex concepts understandable and useful. He has given more than 650 presentations and podcast interviews for professionals and members of the public, across America and in Sweden, Turkey, Greece, Mexico, England, Spain, Denmark, Canada, and Iceland.

He has appeared on CNN, National Public Radio, and XM Radio and has been quoted in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe,, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Men’s Health, and many other media outlets. He is a former board member and current conference committee chair for CHADD and is the 2023 recipient of their Hall of Fame award for his significant contributions to the field.

Speaker Disclosures:
Financial: Ari Tuckman maintains a private practice. He receives royalties as a published author. Ari Tuckman receives a speaking honorarium and recording royalties from PESI, Inc. He has no relevant financial relationships with ineligible organizations.
Non-financial: Ari Tuckman is the National Conference Committee co-chair for CHAAD.


  1. Apply a nuanced understanding of attentional processes to clinical interventions. 
  2. Integrate an understanding of how psychiatric conditions impact attention into one’s clinical interventions. 
  3. Demonstrate a current understanding of the field of brain training into recommendations to clients/patients. 


  • How attention works 
    • Attention as a filter—help clients resist the noise 
    • Attention as a gateway—help clients focus on the most important information in that moment 
    • The benefits (and limits) of sleep, diet, and exercise—be all you can be 
  • How attention fails 
    • Everyday glitches that happen to all of us 
    • Psychiatric conditions dysregulate attention 
    • Evidence-based strategies to prevent the failures 
  • Can we really train attention? 
    • Who are the current big players in cognitive training? 
    • How to cut through the claims to see what the science says 
    • How to answer clients’ questions about cognitive training programs 

Target Audience

  • Psychologists 
  • Licensed Clinical/Mental Health Counselors 
  • Social Workers 
  • Marriage & Family Therapists 


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