Visual Attention and Inattentive ADD

Inattentive ADD and visual processing problems go hand and hand. A new study published in the Journal of Clinic Child and Adolescent Psychology found that people with ADHD-PI had an attenuated or slower attentional blink when they were compared with controls or Combined type ADHD participants.

Attentional blink is a phenomenon that describes what you can see in a fast changing visual environment. If objects are presented visually one right after the other, you may see the first and miss the second because of the phenomena known as attentional blink. Attentional blink, to a certain extent, is just a measure of how quickly your visual processing recovers after being presented with a stimulus. What the recent study found was not surprise. People with Inattentive ADHD recover more slowly.

Attentional blink and another visual phenomenon known as subitizing (a term that describes the number of objects that you can visually perceive without counting them) are good measures of the capacity of a person’s visual attention or visual processing abilities.

Two researchers, Shawn Green and Daphne Bavelier, at the University of Rochester, New York, have found that your visual processing abilities are not fixed and can be improved dramatically using video action games. They have been able to produce dramatic improvements in both attentional blink times and subitizing. These results were only seen with action, fast moving video games and were not seen when participants played other video games such as Tetris.

According to Green and Bavelier, participants who played the game, 'Medal of Honor: Allied Assault' for an hour each day for 10 days were able to subitize to a higher number and recovered from the attentional blink faster. The researchers concluded that both visual processing and the capacity for visual attention could be significantly improved by playing fast action video games.

I have included a video of the attentional blink phenomena. See if you can see the letter 'C' that follows the letter 'R'. It is an interesting experiment. I saw both the 'R' and the 'C' the first time I did this and the second time only saw the letter 'C' (the phenomena of seeing the second but not the first letter is known as backward masking and is also probably improved by playing video games).

I posted earlier on Visual Processing, Inattentive ADHD and video games in this post.

If you would like to improve your visual attention and inattentive adhd (ADHD-PI), try playing a fast action video game.  The Rochester researchers used 'shooter' games but this fast action 'Steal the Gem' video game would probably help as well.  You will need to move  your 'up' and 'down' cursor as fast as possible to get to the gem.  I am terrible at this game and I am still trying to get off of the 2nd level but my kids are much better at it! The link to this game is here.

J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2010 Nov;39(6):726-40.
Cognitive control and attentional selection in adolescents with ADHD versus ADD.
Carr L, Henderson J, Nigg JT.


  1. So would you say that there's a link between adhd and non-verbal learning disability?

  2. Good question and the answer is... sometimes.

    ADHD can cause learning disorders that are unrelated to verbal learning. Many kids and adults with ADHD have high verbal IQ scores but lower scores on tests related to working memory, information processing and fluid intelligence.

    ADHD is frequently seen with Information processing difficulties. These sensory problems can be visual, spacial, tactile, proprioceptive and well as auditory. Often times there is more than one sensory problem.

    In people with ADHD and auditory processing problems, there is a verbal component to their learning disability and they do not process verbal information accurately or efficiently.

    Adults and kids with auditory processing issues do have a verbal component to their ADHD disability so they cannot be classified as being in the camp of non-verbal disabilites.

    My inattentive son has high verbal IQ scores. His Inattentive ADHD could be classified as a non-verbal disability. My Combined type son has auditory processing difficulties and he could NOT be classified as having a non-verbal disability.

    Thanks for your great comment!!

  3. Is that typical for an inattentive to have high verbal scores? My son does as well. He also has high scores in math reasoning, but less impressive score in computation (I'm assuming because he makes errors due to inattentiveness). I find in fascinating how the boundaries of ADHD, AS, and nld are very blurry and given to interpretation. I have a friend with a child who was diagnosed with RAD, and I'm amazed by the overlap of even that seemingly unrelated diagnosis.

  4. I am not sure but it seems that people with Inattentive ADHD are reflective and intuitive and it would make sense to me that they would do well in things that required a more global, abstract and less detailed style of comprehension. I do not know if verbal comprehension and vocabulary requires a more abstract approach for mastery but it seems as though they may.

    My son does really well in math concepts and reasoning and really poorly in computation as well. We saw his Iowa test scores this year and were really surprised at how poorly he did in computation considering how really well he did in the concepts and reasonings sections. His teachers said that his computation scores were greatly improved from last year. He had gotten a 52% last year and had a 74% this year in computation.

    His abstract reasoning and understanding concepts scores in math were high enough to get him placed him in the advanced math class but he struggles with the details which is where the devil is in the Inattentive type of ADHD.

    His reading comprehension and vocab scores are high but his grammar scores are lower. Probably for the same reason as the low math computation scores. Grammar involves remembering the details.

    Interestingly, my other son (the son with combined type ADHD) does really, really well in grammar, spelling and computation and much less well in reading comprehension, abstract reasoning, and math concepts.

    I wish I knew the answer to this question. It is an interesting one. Thanks for your comment and question!

  5. I was diagnosed with adhd and a non-verbal disability but I'm not sure if I'm the inattentive type. I'm also and realism artist and I create knitting charts as well. Even though I have great difficulties doing it, I still get it done.

    I have reason to believe my non-verbal diagnosis is out of wack. Its not me at all(well at least I dont think so).

  6. If you do not think the diagnosis fits, it probably is not correct. Let me know if there is any way that I can help. Tess

  7. Thank you for your quick response and yes I wouldn't mind your help at all. Can I email you a few questions concerning my diagnosis. I don't want to put out my info on your blog so I'd prefer to email or Skype my questions and concerns. Thanks!

  8. My email is I am happy to help if I can.


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