As humans, we choose where to look 3-4 times every second. Each choice entails an evaluation of the visual scene, the decision to shift attention to an area of interest, a plan to move the eye the appropriate amount and direction, and the execution of a fast orienting eye movement called a saccade.
Since saccades are the culmination of so much processing, they require a lot of neural resources. That is why we use them as a sensitive, non-invasive measure of attention and motor planning. Eye movements can be observed and are easy to measure. Attention cannot be observed directly and we can measure attention only by observing the way it affects our information processing, learning, and memory.
It is generally the case that attention and eyes move together so that gaze and attention are in the same location — and they share much of the same brain circuitry. There is evidence from animal research that shifts of attention precede gaze shifts and mark the location for an eye movement. It is possible, of course, to separate attention and gaze—think of a cat looking away but attending closely the entrance to a mouse hole in the wall.
Our understanding of how eye movement and attention work together allows us to use eye movement to train attention. The games we have developed gradually shape behavior using visual and auditory feedback provided in real-time. They are designed to improve the speed, accuracy, and control of eye movement and in doing so they improve the speed, accuracy, and control of attention.
A major challenge in training attention and motor skills such as eye movement is the amount of time required and the necessity for frequent practice. It is difficult, if not impossible, to administer frequent and lengthy training in a laboratory or clinic where eye movements and behavior can be accurately monitored. Our games are designed for use at home or in school which makes frequent training flexible and easy.