Is Alertness A Useful Concept

It is both possible and useful to make a distinction between alertness and processes such as arousal, attention, and vigilance. Traditionally, arousal was the term used to encompass all forms of activation, be it the cognitively and spatially specific arousal achieved by covert orienting of attention or the general and nonspecific sympathetic arousal resulting from the perception of imminent danger. Identifying the specific functions of the multiple transmitter systems, arising in the brain stem to innervate the forebrain, requires a fractionation of the concept of arousal into its components. It is not possible to determine a single neurochemical system that is responsible for alertness: It is likely that alertness is the product of the synergistic activation of multiple transmitter systems. Nevertheless, alertness is a useful concept because it represents another dimension along which cognitive processing varies and further fractionates and refines the traditional concept of arousal.

See Also the Following Articles

AROUSAL • ATTENTION • DEPRESSION • DOPAMINE • ELECTROENCEPHALOGRAPHY (EEG) • INFORMATION PROCESSING • NOREPINEPHRINE • THALAMUS AND THALAMIC DAMAGE • VIGILANCE

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