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Attention & concentration problems after a brain injury

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Brain injury effects

Attention & concentration problems after a brain injury

A brain injury can affect our attention or concentration abilities, leading to problems with work, study and everyday living.

The injured person may not immediately recognize that their ability to concentrate is any different, and there may be no physical  signs to suggest a problem exists. People often mistake problems with attention as a lack of intelligence or motivation e.g. children with a brain injury are seen as an uninterested or lazy student by the school teacher.


People who have sustained a traumatic brain injury or other type of brain disorder may:

  • Become easily distracted
  • Have trouble keeping track of what is being said or done
  • Have difficulty doing more than one task at a time
  • Experience information overload
  • Be slower at taking in and making sense of information.


Causes of lack of concentration

A lack of concentration can be caused by many factors, including:

  • Hunger, fatigue and tiredness
  • Illness or pain (especially headaches)
  • Dietary inadequacy, particularly B-group vitamins and iron
  • Alcohol and other drugs 
  • Mental health conditions, particularly depression and mania
  • Extremes of mood, including fear.

A region of the brain called the lateral intraparietal cortex controls attention by filtering out what is and is not important at any given time. This region then stimulates the medial temporal area which influences the processing of visual information, determining what visual information is attended to. If damaged, the ability to maintain visual attention is affected. 


There is also evidence that the cerebellum, at the back at the brain, has an influence upon attention and concentration as its core role of coordinating muscle activity. 


Strategies to improve attention & concentration

 The following strategies may be helpful:

  • 'Put blinkers on' by reduce all possible distractions in the environment
  • Take regular rest breaks, have a nap or a walk
  • Meditation, deep breathing and other strategies for relaxation
  • Plan tasks with a simple step-by-step approach
  • Break significant tasks down into small and achievable steps
  • Write information down using notes and keep them in specific places
  • Use a white board to help organize, plan and store information
  • Use 'association' techniques e.g. medication on table with every meal
  • Get into a structured regular daily routine 
  • Schedule tasks when levels of energy and alertness are greatest
  • Eat a healthy diet and sleep well.



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