Disorders of cognitive function are a real challenge – to understand and treat. But they also present a great opportunity to test emerging theories in experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Here I will focus on some new findings on attention, working memory and motivation in healthy people that can help us to understand and treat cognitive disorders. Inattention is pervasive. It affects you and me several times a day. More notably, it impacts severely on a range of neurological and psychiatric conditions, from focal lesions to neurodegenerative and developmental disorders. In people with these diagnoses, inattention rarely occurs in isolation but is often associated with other cognitive deficits: of working memory as well as motivation. Indeed, there is now considerable evidence to suggest that deficits in short-term memory might even contribute to the seemingly inattentive state. I’ll discuss studies on attention, working memory and decision-making in healthy people and neurological patients, including new means to measure the precision of recall [1, 2] and how motivated people are to act . I’ll attempt to show how findings from such investigations, in concert with imaging data, allow us to build hypotheses regarding the contribution of brain regions to attention, working memory and behavioural control. In addition, I hope to demonstrate how it is possible to modulate inattention and apathy with neuromodulators.