Posts Tagged ‘interesting’

“ADD” and your reticular activating system (RAS)


Deep dissection of brain-stem. Ventral view. (Reticular formation labeled near the bottom, just above the “olive,” next to the blue fibers.) This image is from Gray’s Anatomy, whose copyright has expired, so it is okay to copy this image.


Numerous school students have been labeled “ADD” (“Attention Deficit Disorder”). A group of “ADD” students in Canada have re-interpreted this acronym for themselves to mean “Attention Dimension Deluxe.” Why? Because they have a greater ability to pay attention and focus than “average” people do. Of which, more later.

In general, most students who have been labeled “ADD” have obtained the label because they are not paying attention to what someone else wants them to, at specific moments in time.

“S/he lack focus and attention,” someone in the school system may say to parents, as an explanation for poor academic¬† performance.

“How can they say my son has ADD?” a Mom asked. “He sat on his ‘haunches’ the other day for more than an hour by the sidewalk, intensely focused on the activities of an ant colony.”

So what makes the difference? Your reticular activating system (RAS), a network of “loosely organized” neurons centered deep in your brain stem, and including the reticular formation illustrated.

If you are interested in something, or it is meaningful to you in some way, your RAS “fires up” and you pay attention to whatever it is. If it has no interest or meaning to you, the RAS remains “unfired.”

So who or what has the problem? The child who seeks interest or meaning before s/he engages, or a school curriculum that may be intrinsically boring?

You decide.

When I teach students how to overcome their learning problems at school, I teach them that if what is “out there” is boring, they can’t do much to change that, usually. They claim they have no interest, or that it has no meaning for them. If they stop there, they are simply “victims” of their circumstances or environments, and this goes nowhere good or useful.
So I teach students how to work with themselves, such that they can “fire up” their own RAS, by using their brain (their imagination, their creative selves, or even their “mischievous” selves) to add color and humor and interest and even goofiness to what they are seeing, hearing or feeling.

With a little practice they can transform what is “dull and gray out there” into an internal perception (or mental movie) that is “bright and colorful in here” (inside their heads).

With their RAS fired up by their own involved actions, the material is made interesting and learn-able.


No more “victim.”

No more “ADD” label.

Doc Meek, May 1, 2010

Sherwood Park, Alberta, CANADA

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