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Information on the neural circuits underpinning adult attention has been heavily informed by the impact of distinct brain lesions on attentional processes. In a similar fashion, the genetics, molecular, and systems neuroscience of attention can be informed by the impact of developmental disorders of known genetic origin on attentional processes. Here, we focus on three developmental disorders of known genetic origin (Williams syndrome, Down syndrome, and fragile X syndrome) to appraise key findings to date, new developments, and their implications for the neurocognitive development of attention. This growing body of knowledge suggests that attention should be understood as a multicomponential construct whose component processes follow distinct but dynamically interacting developmental trajectories. Further, attentional processes act as critical gateways to further processing, memory, and learning, and they are by converse influenced by other developing skills. In turn, these interactions at the cognitive level emphasize the need to study developing neural circuits involved in attentional control in terms of how their coordinated operations may be modified over time by neural disorders, rather than construing them as isolated cortical or subcortical "modules for attention."

Original publication




Journal article


Prog Brain Res

Publication Date





285 - 301


Attention, Brain, Cognition, Down Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, Humans, Learning, Syndrome, Williams Syndrome