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Cognitive scientists often view vigilance as a form of alertness – i.e., the ability to attain and maintained attentional focus while accomplishment a task. Here, we explore the ubiquitous influence of alertness on task performance, and demonstrate how these heightened states of attention are core modulators for a wide-range of perceptual, cognitive and ideomotor brain processes. Moreover, we will show how current views on alertness may inform the fields of altered states of consciousness and contemplative practices. In this effort, our approach will draw from a prevailing theory that construes alertness as a main component of attention. We will explain how this framework differentiates the abilities required to attain heightened levels of attention from those needed to regulate and maintain that state of alertness. While the former corresponds to the phasic profile of alertness, mainly reflecting transient arousal and response preparation, the latter denotes a tonic profile characterized by the necessity to regulate and reactivate mental sets. We will describe some of the behavioural and neural patterns related to both profiles, and emphasize points of intersections between the alerting system, the process of hypnosis and the practice of meditation. Our essay shall therefore highlight how this overarching synthesis of human vigilance opens novel research avenues for these domains of research.
Pour citer cet article :Landry Mathieu, Raz Amir (2016/2). Heightened states of attention: From mental performance to altered states of consciousness and contemplative practices. In Depraz Natalie (Eds), Phenomenology of vigilance and attention. Philosophy, sciences and technics, Intellectica, 66, (pp.139-160), DOI: 10.3406/intel.2016.1822.