Abstract Cognition is the mental action of gaining knowledge. This essay will be covering memory and attention which are two basic parts of cognition. Attention is the mental capability of taking notice of something. It’s controlled by two areas of the brain depending on whether it’s selective or instinctive. It is theorised that we cannot be aware of all of our sensory input at once. There are ways to test attention, but it can also be affected by diseases such as ADHD and schizophrenia. The causes of which remain unknown. Memory is how the mind stores information. There are many types of memory. It is split into long-term and short-term, which is a way of temporarily remembering information currently being processed. Long-term memory is split into two categories explicit, and implicit. Explicit memory can be divided further into episodic, a recollection of experiences and events, and semantic memory, a structured record of facts and knowledge. Implicit memories are separated into procedural memories, unconscious memories of skills and actions, and priming, unconscious memories for identification. Amnesia and dementia are diseases that can affect memory. Tests for memory include N-back, an exercise that tests working memory, and eyewitness recall, used to get accounts of events. This is an unreliable test as it’s impossible to remember everything. Brain regions associated with memory are the Amygdala, responsible for response and memory of emotions, and the Hippocampus, helps form memories. Attention and memory are important to understand as they can be related to many severe illnesses. CognitionCognition is the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and senses (Oxford dictionaries). This is greatly involved in learning. It is important to study cognition because it affects everyone, it helps therapists, and studying it could help treat mental illnesses. Areas of cognition include attention, perception, problem solving, language use, memory, creativity and thinking. This essay will be outlining the areas of attention and memory, including the tests, diseases and brain regions associated with them.AttentionAttention is the mental capability of considering or taking notice of someone or something (Oxford Dictionaries) whilst ignoring any other irrelevant information. The three key characteristics of attention are that it’s selective, is limited in capacity and duration and it’s a basic part of the cognitive system. Selective attention can be described using the bottleneck theory (Left), which is the process of lots of information being filtered down, like a liquid being poured out of a bottle, because it is theorised that we cannot be aware of all of our sensory input at once. This theory was first proposed by Broadbent in 1958. Attention is limited, therefore we can only concentrate on a certain number of things for a length of time, which is a reason why it’s illegal to be on the phone whilst driving, it distracts you from the road as you cannot concentrate on too many things at once.Brain regionsThe prefrontal cortex is a brain region associated with attention. It is located directly behind the forehead and is in charge of wilful concentration, which is the ability to focus all your concentration on something despite distraction, boredom or fatigue. This would be important if you were trying to pay close attention to something uninteresting. Another brain region associated with attention is the parietal lobe. It is located behind the ear and is activated on the occurrence of a sudden event. It focuses your concentration on that event, such as when a fire alarm goes off, you instantly concentrate on the sudden noise.Diseases Attention is related to diseases such as ADHD and schizophrenia. ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it is a mental disorder which affects brain development and activity. This means that a person with ADHD would be inattentive and may suffer from hyperactivity and impulses. The cause of ADHD isn’t entirely understood, however it is thought that genetics and brain function and structure may be some likely causes. Treatments for ADHD can include medication and therapy. Medication cannot permanently cure this disorder, but may help with concentration and impulsiveness. Schizophrenia is a severe, long term, mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally (Mayo Clinic). Doctors often describe schizophrenia as a type of psychosis (NHS). This means the person may not always be able to distinguish their own thoughts and ideas from reality. This could mean delusions, hallucinations and unusual behaviour. The exact causes of schizophrenia remain unknown, however, research suggests a combination of physical, genetic, psychological and environmental factors can make a person more likely to develop this condition (NHS). People with schizophrenia may suffer attention deficits. These patients have displayed increased and reduced brain activity in different studies. Many patients recover from having schizophrenia, but may experience occasional relapses in later life.TestsAttention is an important part of the cognitive system, and so there are many tests to measure it. Some examples of tests are change blindness and the dot probe task. Change blindness is a term used by psychologist to describe the tendency people have to miss changes in their immediate visual environment (Kendra Cherry). In the experiment participants are shown two of the same images, but with a difference, back and forth for a few seconds, or something of this fashion. Many people do not notice substantial changes to the scene because their attention is focused elsewhere in the picture. The dot probe task was initially developed by MacLeod, Matthews, & Tata in 1986. It is used to measure selective attention.In the 1880’s Wundt conducted experiments and studies on perception, sensation, reaction, attention, feeling and association, many of these kind of experiments had not been performed before. In 1935, Stroop discovered the stroop effect, which is a test in which there is a colour written in a different coloured ink, you must name the colour in which it is written and ignore the word. You would be shown more words like this and it gradually speeds up making it harder. This test is used to measure a person’s selective attention and information processing speed. SummaryTo summarise, attention is controlled by two different areas of the brain, the prefrontal cortex and the parietal lobe, depending on whether it is wilful or instinctive. It can be affected by a number of mental illnesses and can be measured in a variety of different ways using different tests and experiments. It is limited, however different people have different attention limits, and it is also selective, meaning you can’t pay attention to all of your sensory input at once. Further investigation could help improve your attention and help people with illnesses associated with it.MemoryMemory is the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information (Oxford dictionaries). There are many different types of memory and ways to assess it. Memory can be split up into short-term and long-term (Left). Short-term memory, or working memory, is a way of temporarily remembering information that is currently being processed. This information will soon be forgotten unless we make a conscious effort to retain it. It would then be moved into long-term memory. Long-term memory is an unlimited resource. There is debate over whether or not you can actually forget anything, or whether it just gets more difficult to access certain memories (The Human Memory). Long-term memory is split into two different categories explicit, and implicit. Explicit memory, also known as declarative, refers to memories that can be consciously recalled, this section can be divided further into episodic and semantic memory. Episodic memory is recollection of experiences and events, including times, places, associated emotions and contextual knowledge. For some unknown reason, when recalling this type of memory, we tend to see ourselves as actors, rather than seeing it from our own perspective. Semantic memory is a more structured record of facts and knowledge which we have acquired, without the emotional context (e.g. Vocabulary, understanding of maths, capital cities, dates, etc.). These explicit memories can be consciously recollected when needed. Implicit memories are separated into two different sections, procedural memories are unconscious thoughts and memories of skills and actions, for example, riding a bike or walking. These memories are acquired through repeated practice of the skill and are so deeply embedded that we are no longer conscious of those thoughts. We then automatically carry out the task without thinking twice. Priming is the other section of implicit memory. Priming is a non-conscious form of memory concerned with identifying objects and words before carrying out an action. All these memories are made in stages.Stages of memoryThe first stage of memory is attention, which is paying attention to and concentrating on a stimulus. The second stage is encoding, which is when the brain cells connect and become strengthened so that the connection is remembered. This could be in four ways, visual (image), acoustic (sound), tactile (touch), or semantic (meaning or context). The next stage is storage, memories are remembered better if they’re associated with similar memories or information. They’re stored in the relevant section. The fourth and last stage of memory is retrieval, memories are stored in the brain as unique patterns of nerve cell activation. Related memories will have partially similar or overlapping patterns. The more familiar you are with the information, the easier it is to retrieve what you are looking for. DiseasesThere are some diseases that can affect memory. These include amnesia and dementia. Amnesia is a general term that describes memory loss, this can be temporary or permanent, but amnesia usually refers to the temporary variety (Better Health channel). Memory loss can be a natural part of getting older or can be caused by brain injuries, drugs or alcohol, traumatic events, or illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that can include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language (Alzheimer’s society). It is a physical disease that affects the brain and can cause loss of connections between nerve cells and eventually the death of a nerve cell. This disease is gradual, as it progresses it becomes more severe, damaging more of the brain. Currently there is no cure for this disease, however, there are drug treatments that can temporarily slow and alleviate progression of symptoms. With diseases so severe, it’s important that there are ways to test memory.TestsTests for memory include N-back, delayed free recall, and eyewitness recall. N-back is an exercise designed to test working memory. In the exercise, the person is presented with a number of visual stimuli, a number or a letter for example, the task involves them signifying when they think that the current stimulus is the same as the one n steps earlier. This test was designed by Wayne Kirchner in 1958. The delayed free recall test requires participants to study a list of a certain number of items and then recall them after a certain amount of time. These two variables can change depending on the difficulty levels of the test. The participant would be asked to perform a distraction task before recalling them, for example counting backwards from 100. After this task is done they must list as many items as they can in the correct order. Eyewitness recall is used to get an account of an event, the person would be asked to describe an event, or specific facts about this event. This is a very unreliable test as memory isn’t always 100% correct, it can be influenced by others. It’s impossible to remember every single detail for every second of the day. Brain regionsThe brain regions associated with memory are the Amygdala and the Hippocampus. The Amygdala is responsible for the response and memory of emotions, in particular fear. It is also involved in memory consolidation, which is the process of transferring memories into long term memory. Anxiety and PTSD, and phobias all involve abnormal amygdala functioning. Experiments associated with this brain region involve removing it from rats, this has been found to lead to lack of fear around potential predators such as cats. The Hippocampus helps to form new memories. It can only store memories temporarily, and if it’s damaged, you would be unable to form new memories. It helps to encode explicit memories along with the entorhinal cortex, and perirhinal cortex. The Hippocampus is one of the first areas to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease and is located in the temporal lobe. The Cerebellum, Putamen, Caudate nucleus and motor cortex are areas of the brain associated with procedural memory and involved in motor control. SummaryTo summarise, there are many different types of memory, all of which store different types of information. The four stages of memory are attention, encoding, storage and retrieval, this is how memories are made. There are many tests to see how good someone’s memory is, however it is impossible to remember everything that happens all the time. The main brain regions associated with memory are the amygdala and the hippocampus, if these are damaged you could have severe illness such as Alzheimer’s disease which is a form of dementia. Conclusion These two areas of cognition which I have covered are also linked in a number of ways, one being the fact that you must first be paying attention to the stimulus to remember it. Another example of where attention and memory are linked is if you were going somewhere, you would need to pay attention to where you were as well as remembering where to go next. These two areas of cognition are extremely important for scientists to understand as they can be the cause of many mental and physical illnesses. Research into them could help change lives.