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J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2008 Sep;14(5):673-90. doi: 10.1017/S1355617708080983.

Puppets, robots, critics, and actors within a taxonomy of attention for developmental disorders.

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Program in Neurosciences and Mental Health, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada.


This review proposes a new taxonomy of automatic and controlled attention. The taxonomy distinguishes among the role of the attendee (puppet and robot, critic and actor), the attention process (stimulus orienting vs. response control), and the attention operation (activation vs. inhibition vs. adjustment), and identifies cognitive phenotypes by which attention is overtly expressed. We apply the taxonomy to four childhood attention disorders: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, spina bifida meningomyelocele, traumatic brain injury, and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Variations in attention are related to specific brain regions that support normal attention processes when intact, and produce disordered attention when impaired. The taxonomy explains group differences in behavioral inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness, as well as medication response. We also discuss issues relevant to theories of the cognitive and neural architecture of attention: functional dissociations within and between automatic and controlled attention; the relative importance of type of brain damage and developmental timing to attention profile; cognitive-energetic models of attention and white matter damage; temporal processing deficits, attention deficits and cerebellar damage; and the issue of cognitive phenotypes as candidate endophenotypes.

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