Concept: Working memory
Laughter is an ancient signal of social communication among humans and non-human primates. Laughter types with complex social functions (e.g., taunt and joy) presumably evolved from the unequivocal and reflex-like social bonding signal of tickling laughter already present in non-human primates. Here, we investigated the modulations of cerebral connectivity associated with different laughter types as well as the effects of attention shifts between implicit and explicit processing of social information conveyed by laughter using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Complex social laughter types and tickling laughter were found to modulate connectivity in two distinguishable but partially overlapping parts of the laughter perception network irrespective of task instructions. Connectivity changes, presumably related to the higher acoustic complexity of tickling laughter, occurred between areas in the prefrontal cortex and the auditory association cortex, potentially reflecting higher demands on acoustic analysis associated with increased information load on auditory attention, working memory, evaluation and response selection processes. In contrast, the higher degree of socio-relational information in complex social laughter types was linked to increases of connectivity between auditory association cortices, the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and brain areas associated with mentalizing as well as areas in the visual associative cortex. These modulations might reflect automatic analysis of acoustic features, attention direction to informative aspects of the laughter signal and the retention of those in working memory during evaluation processes. These processes may be associated with visual imagery supporting the formation of inferences on the intentions of our social counterparts. Here, the right dorsolateral precentral cortex appears as a network node potentially linking the functions of auditory and visual associative sensory cortices with those of the mentalizing-associated anterior mediofrontal cortex during the decoding of social information in laughter.
Evidence suggests that pathological eating behaviours in bulimia nervosa (BN) are underpinned by alterations in reward processing and self-regulatory control, and by functional changes in neurocircuitry encompassing the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Manipulation of this region with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) may therefore alleviate symptoms of the disorder.
Do brain training games work? The beneficial effects of brain training games are expected to transfer to other cognitive functions. Yet in all honesty, beneficial transfer effects of the commercial brain training games in young adults have little scientific basis. Here we investigated the impact of the brain training game (Brain Age) on a wide range of cognitive functions in young adults.
There is evidence to suggest that successful lying necessitates cognitive effort. We tested this hypothesis by instructing participants to lie or tell the truth under conditions of high and low working memory (WM) load. The task required participants to register a response on 80 trials of identical structure within a 2 (WM Load: high, low) × 2 (Instruction: truth or lie) repeated-measures design. Participants were less accurate and responded more slowly when WM load was high, and also when they lied. High WM load activated the fronto-parietal WM network including dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC), middle frontal gyrus, precuneus, and intraparietal cortex. Lying activated areas previously shown to underlie deception, including middle and superior frontal gyrus and precuneus. Critically, successful lying in the high vs. low WM load condition was associated with longer response latency, and it activated the right inferior frontal gyrus-a key brain region regulating inhibition. The same pattern of activation in the inferior frontal gyrus was absent when participants told the truth. These findings demonstrate that lying under high cognitive load places a burden on inhibition, and that the right inferior frontal gyrus may provide a neural marker for successful lying.
We have been investigating an ecologically valid strategy-training approach to enable adults with executive dysfunction to attain everyday life goals. Here, we report the protocol of a randomized controlled trial of the effects of this training compared to conventional therapy in a sample of community-dwelling adults with acquired brain injury and/or stroke.Methods/design: We will recruit 100 community-dwelling survivors at least six months post-acquired brain injury or stroke who report executive dysfunction during a telephone interview, confirmed in pre-training testing. Following pre-training testing, participants will be randomized to the ecologically valid strategy training or conventional therapy and receive two one-hour sessions for eight weeks (maximum of 15 hours of therapy). Post-testing will occur immediately following the training and three months later. The primary outcome is self-reported change in performance on everyday life activities measured using the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure, a standardized, semi-structured interview. Secondary outcomes are objective measurement of performance change from videotapes of treatment session, Performance Quality Rating Scale; executive dysfunction symptoms, Behavioural Rating Inventory of Executive Function – Adult; participation in everyday life, Mayo-Portland Adaptability Inventory Participation Index; and ability to solve novel problems, Instrumental Activities of Daily Living Profile.
Standing Up for Learning: A Pilot Investigation on the Neurocognitive Benefits of Stand-Biased School Desks
- International journal of environmental research and public health
- Published about 5 years ago
Standing desks have proven to be effective and viable solutions to combat sedentary behavior among children during the school day in studies around the world. However, little is known regarding the potential of such interventions on cognitive outcomes in children over time. The purpose of this pilot study was to determine the neurocognitive benefits, i.e., improvements in executive functioning and working memory, of stand-biased desks and explore any associated changes in frontal brain function. 34 freshman high school students were recruited for neurocognitive testing at two time points during the school year: (1) in the fall semester and (2) in the spring semester (after 27.57 (1.63) weeks of continued exposure). Executive function and working memory was evaluated using a computerized neurocognitive test battery, and brain activation patterns of the prefrontal cortex were obtained using functional near infrared spectroscopy. Continued utilization of the stand-biased desks was associated with significant improvements in executive function and working memory capabilities. Changes in corresponding brain activation patterns were also observed. These findings provide the first preliminary evidence on the neurocognitive benefits of standing desks, which to date have focused largely on energy expenditure. Findings obtained here can drive future research with larger samples and multiple schools, with comparison groups that may in turn implicate the importance of stand-biased desks, as simple environmental changes in classrooms, on enhancing children’s cognitive functioning that drive their cognitive development and impact educational outcomes.
Exercise-induced cognitive improvements have traditionally been observed following aerobic exercise interventions; that is, sustained sessions of moderate intensity. Here, we tested the effect of a 6 week high-intensity training (HIT) regimen on measures of cognitive control and working memory in a multicenter, randomized (1:1 allocation), placebo-controlled trial.
Behavioral regulation is an important school readiness skill that has been linked to early executive function (EF) and later success in learning and school achievement. Although poverty and related risks, as well as negative parenting, have been associated with poorer EF and behavioral regulation, chaotic home environments may also play a role in understanding both early EF and later behavioral regulation at school age. To explore these relationships, a unique longitudinal and representative sample was used of 1,292 children born to mothers who lived in low-wealth rural America who were followed from birth into early elementary school. This study examined whether household chaos, which was measured across the first 3 years of life, predicted behavioral regulation in kindergarten above and beyond poverty-related variables. In addition, this study tested whether parent responsivity and acceptance behaviors, measured during the first 3 years of life, as well as EF skills, which were measured when children were 3 to 5 years of age, mediated the relationship between early household chaos and kindergarten behavioral regulation. Results suggested that household chaos disorganization indirectly predicted kindergarten behavioral regulation through intermediate impacts on parenting behaviors and children’s early EF skills. These findings suggest the importance of early household chaos disorganization, the parenting environment, and early EF skills in understanding behavioral regulation above and beyond poverty-related risks. (PsycINFO Database Record
Video gaming is a highly pervasive activity, providing a multitude of complex cognitive and motor demands. Gaming can be seen as an intense training of several skills. Associated cerebral structural plasticity induced has not been investigated so far. Comparing a control with a video gaming training group that was trained for 2 months for at least 30 min per day with a platformer game, we found significant gray matter (GM) increase in right hippocampal formation (HC), right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and bilateral cerebellum in the training group. The HC increase correlated with changes from egocentric to allocentric navigation strategy. GM increases in HC and DLPFC correlated with participants' desire for video gaming, evidence suggesting a predictive role of desire in volume change. Video game training augments GM in brain areas crucial for spatial navigation, strategic planning, working memory and motor performance going along with evidence for behavioral changes of navigation strategy. The presented video game training could therefore be used to counteract known risk factors for mental disease such as smaller hippocampus and prefrontal cortex volume in, for example, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and neurodegenerative disease.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 29 October 2013; doi:10.1038/mp.2013.120.
Executive functions (EF) are cognitive capacities that allow for planned, controlled behavior and strongly correlate with academic abilities. Several extracurricular activities have been shown to improve EF, however, the relationship between musical training and EF remains unclear due to methodological limitations in previous studies. To explore this further, two experiments were performed; one with 30 adults with and without musical training and one with 27 musically trained and untrained children (matched for general cognitive abilities and socioeconomic variables) with a standardized EF battery. Furthermore, the neural correlates of EF skills in musically trained and untrained children were investigated using fMRI. Adult musicians compared to non-musicians showed enhanced performance on measures of cognitive flexibility, working memory, and verbal fluency. Musically trained children showed enhanced performance on measures of verbal fluency and processing speed, and significantly greater activation in pre-SMA/SMA and right VLPFC during rule representation and task-switching compared to musically untrained children. Overall, musicians show enhanced performance on several constructs of EF, and musically trained children further show heightened brain activation in traditional EF regions during task-switching. These results support the working hypothesis that musical training may promote the development and maintenance of certain EF skills, which could mediate the previously reported links between musical training and enhanced cognitive skills and academic achievement.