Blog Archives

Lifespan aging and belief reasoning: Influences of executive function and social cue decoding

Older adults often perform poorly on Theory of Mind (ToM) tests that require understanding of others’ beliefs and intentions. The course and specificity of age changes in belief reasoning across the adult lifespan is unclear, as is the cause of the age effects. Cognitive and neuropsychological models predict that two types of processing might influence age differences in belief reasoning: executive functioning and social cue detection. In the current study we assessed 129 adults aged between 18 and 86 on novel measures of ToM (video clips and verbal vignettes), which manipulated whether true or false belief reasoning was required. On both video and verbal tasks, older adults (aged 65–88) had specific impairments in false belief reasoning, but showed no such problem in performing true belief tasks. Middle-aged adults (aged 40–64) generally performed as well as the younger adults (aged 18–39). Difficulties in updating information in working memory (but not inhibitory problems) partially mediated the age differences in false belief reasoning. Also, the ability to decode biological motion, indexing social cue detection, partially mediated age-related variance in the ability to interpret false beliefs. These results indicate that age differences in decoding social cues and updating information in memory may be important influences on the specific problems encountered when reasoning about false beliefs in old age.

from Cognition


The influence of working memory load on response inhibition in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or reading disorder

The aim of the present study was to examine the relationship between response inhibition and working memory in 8-12-year-old children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; n = 19), reading disorder (RD; n = 17), ADHD + RD (n = 21), and control children (n = 19). For the first time a within-task methodology was used to study the combined effect of both executive functions on a common measure of task performance in two often comorbid childhood disorders, ADHD and RD. We found evidence of an interaction between both domains, suggesting that they rely on a common pool of resources. In addition, we found that children with ADHD or RD were not more seriously affected by the combined load of both executive functions than children without ADHD or RD.

from the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology

Executive and Memory Function in Adolescents Born Very Preterm

CONCLUSIONS Even after exclusion of preterm subjects with significant disabilities, adolescents born preterm in the early 1990s were at increased risk of deficits in executive function and memory.

from Pediatrics

Patients with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Show Decreased Cognitive Control: Evidence from Dichotic Listening

The influence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on cognitive control and auditory attention modulation was examined with the use of a dichotic-listening (DL) task. The participants were 45 war-exposed refugees. The PTSD group comprised 22 participants meeting the DSM-IV criteria for PTSD, and the Control group comprised 23 war-exposed participants without PTSD. Both groups were tested with a consonant–vowel syllables DL task under three different attentional instructions. The two groups did not differ in the non-forced and forced-right conditions and showed, as expected, right-ear advantages. The Control group showed, as expected, a left-ear advantage in the forced-left (FL) condition. However, the PTSD group continued to show a right-ear advantage – and only minor modulation of the performance during the FL condition. This finding suggests that PTSD is associated with a reduced capacity for top-down attentional control of a bottom-up or stimulus-driven effect. The result shows that participants with PTSD have impaired cognitive control functions when tested on information processing of neutral stimuli. (JINS, 2011, 17, 344–353)

from the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society

The relationship of story grammar and executive function following TBI

Conclusions: Results indicated that the participants with TBI demonstrated significantly poorer performance on measures of story grammar abilities, lending support to earlier reports of story grammar impairments resulting from closed head injury (CHI). The present study also found significant correlations for measures of story grammar and the Sorting Test. Cognitive skills such as mental flexibility, required for successful performance on this card sorting task are likely the same as those required for episode generation. These findings have clinical implications for the management of cognitive-communication disorders in individuals with TBI. First, story grammar warrants inclusion in analyses of discourse. Second, discourse deficits following brain injury do not resolve spontaneously and persist as social barriers.

from Aphasiology

Working memory influences processing speed and reading fluency in ADHD

Processing-speed deficits affect reading efficiency, even among individuals who recognize and decode words accurately. Children with ADHD who decode words accurately can still have inefficient reading fluency, leading to a bottleneck in other cognitive processes. This “slowing” in ADHD is associated with deficits in fundamental components of executive function underlying processing speed, including response selection. The purpose of the present study was to deconstruct processing speed in order to determine which components of executive control best explain the “processing” speed deficits related to reading fluency in ADHD. Participants (41 ADHD, 21 controls), ages 9-14 years, screened for language disorders, word reading deficits, and psychiatric disorders, were administered measures of copying speed, processing speed, reading fluency, working memory, reaction time, inhibition, and auditory attention span. Compared to controls, children with ADHD showed reduced oral and silent reading fluency and reduced processing speed—driven primarily by deficits on WISC-IV Coding. In contrast, groups did not differ on copying speed. After controlling for copying speed, sex, severity of ADHD-related symptomatology, and GAI, slowed “processing” speed (i.e., Coding) was significantly associated with verbal span and measures of working memory but not with measures of response control/inhibition, lexical retrieval speed, reaction time, or intrasubject variability. Further, “processing” speed (i.e., Coding, residualized for copying speed) and working memory were significant predictors of oral reading fluency. Abnormalities in working memory and response selection (which are frontally mediated and enter into the output side of processing speed) may play an important role in deficits in reading fluency in ADHD, potentially more than posteriorally mediated problems with orienting of attention or perceiving the stimulus.

from Child Neuropsychology

Broca’s Area: Rethinking Classical Concepts From a Neuroscience Perspective

Just about one and one-half centuries ago, Paul Broca identified the posterior third left frontal convolution of the human brain as a critical area for speech production. Although years of cerebrovascular accident localization studies partially confirmed Broca’s claim, recent years have seen a clarification and expansion of the role Broca’s area plays in serial processing of language and speech as well as a probable role in nonlinguistic processing. This article will review some of the more recent anatomical and physiological research, including lesion studies, imaging research, and interoperative electrocortical stimulation studies. The article will summarize the research on the role of the human inferior frontal gyrus in lexical, phonologic, and grammatical production, the so-called “mirror mechanism” and other aspects of cognitive processing and motor execution.

from Topics in Stroke Rehabilitation

Improving digit span assessment of short-term verbal memory

We measured digit span (DS) in two experiments that used computerized presentation of randomized auditory digits with performance-adapted list length adjustment. A new mean span (MS) metric of DS was developed that showed reduced variance, improved test-retest reliability, and higher correlations with the results of other neuropsychological test results when compared to traditional DS measures. The MS metric also enhanced the sensitivity of forward versus backward span comparisons, enabled the development of normative performance criteria with subdigit precision, and elucidated changes in DS performance with age and education level. Computerized stimulus delivery and improved scoring metrics significantly enhance the precision of DS assessments of short-term verbal memory.

from the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology

Executive Function Mechanisms of Theory of Mind

This study examined the relationship between Executive Function (EF) and Theory of Mind (ToM) using the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS) and three tests of ToM (Reading the Mind in the Eyes test (RMET), Strange Stories test, and Faux Pas test). Separate regression analyses were conducted, and EF predictors varied by ToM test. No EF domains accounted for significant variance in RMET scores; only estimated IQ scores were significant predictors of RMET performance. Verbal fluency and deductive reasoning were significant predictors of performance on the Strange Stories test, while verbal fluency, problem solving, and gender accounted for a significant variance in the Faux Pas test. Results suggest that the ToM tests each utilized differing cognitive mechanisms.

from the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Neurocognitive dysfunction and psychosocial outcome in patients with bipolar I disorder at 15-year follow-up

Processing speed is robustly associated with social and global functioning in bipolar disorder. Poor work functioning is significantly related to subsyndromal depression, course of illness, and verbal learning deficits. Cognitive and mood symptoms warrant consideration as independent determinants of functioning in patients with bipolar disorder many years after an index manic episode.

from Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica

Neural differences in the processing of semantic relationships across cultures

The current study employed functional MRI to investigate the contribution of domain-general (e.g. executive functions) and domain-specific (e.g. semantic knowledge) processes to differences in semantic judgments across cultures. Previous behavioral experiments have identified cross-cultural differences in categorization, with East Asians preferring strategies involving thematic or functional relationships (e.g. cow-grass) and Americans preferring categorical relationships (e.g. cow-chicken). East Asians and American participants underwent functional imaging while alternating between categorical or thematic strategies to sort triads of words, as well as matching words on control trials. Many similarities were observed. However, across both category and relationship trials compared to match (control) trials, East Asians activated a frontal-parietal network implicated in controlled executive processes, whereas Americans engaged regions of the temporal lobes and the cingulate, possibly in response to conflict in the semantic content of information. The results suggest that cultures differ in the strategies employed to resolve conflict between competing semantic judgments.

from Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience

Gray matter correlates of set-shifting among neurodegenerative disease, mild cognitive impairment, and healthy older adults

There is increasing recognition that set-shifting, a form of cognitive control, is mediated by different neural structures. However, these regions have not yet been carefully identified as many studies do not account for the influence of component processes (e.g., motor speed). We investigated gray matter correlates of set-shifting while controlling for component processes. Using the Design Fluency (DF), Trail Making Test (TMT), and Color Word Interference (CWI) subtests from the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS), we investigated the correlation between set-shifting performance and gray matter volume in 160 subjects with neurodegenerative disease, mild cognitive impairment, and healthy older adults using voxel-based morphometry. All three set-shifting tasks correlated with multiple, widespread gray matter regions. After controlling for the component processes, set-shifting performance correlated with focal regions in prefrontal and posterior parietal cortices. We also identified bilateral prefrontal cortex and the right posterior parietal lobe as common sites for set-shifting across the three tasks. There was a high degree of multicollinearity between the set-shifting conditions and the component processes of TMT and CWI, suggesting DF may better isolate set-shifting regions. Overall, these findings highlight the neuroanatomical correlates of set-shifting and the importance of controlling for component processes when investigating complex cognitive tasks. (JINS, 2010, 16, 640–650.)

from the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society

The contributions of cerebro-cerebellar circuitry to executive verbal working memory

Contributions of cerebro-cerebellar function to executive verbal working memory were examined using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while 16 subjects completed two versions of the Sternberg task. In both versions subjects were presented with two or six target letters during the encoding phase, which were held in memory during the maintenance phase. A single probe letter was presented during the retrieval phase. In the “match condition”, subjects decided whether the probe matched the target letters. In the “executive condition”, subjects created a new probe by counting two alphabetical letters forward (e.g., f→h) and decided whether the new probe matched the target letters. Neural activity during the match and executive conditions was compared during each phase of the task. There were four main findings. First, cerebro-cerebellar activity increased as a function of executive load. Second, the dorsal cerebellar dentate co-activated with the supplementary motor area (SMA) during encoding. This likely represented the formation of an articulatory (motor) trajectory. Third, the ventral cerebellar dentate co-activated with anterior prefrontal regions Brodmann Area (BA) 9/46 and the pre-SMA during retrieval. This likely represented the manipulation of information and formation of a response. A functional dissociation between the dorsal “motor” dentate and “cognitive” ventral dentate agrees with neuroanatomical tract tracing studies that have demonstrated separate neural pathways involving each region of the dentate: the dorsal dentate projects to frontal motor areas (including the SMA), and the ventral dentate projects to frontal cognitive areas (including BA 9/46 and the pre-SMA). Finally, activity during the maintenance phase in BA 9, anterior insula, pre-SMA and ventral dentate predicted subsequent accuracy of response to the probe during the retrieval phase. This finding underscored the significant contribution of the pre-SMA/ventral dentate pathway – observed several seconds prior to any motor response to the probe – to executive verbal working memory.

from Cortex

Relation of Executive Functioning to Pragmatic Outcome Following Severe Traumatic Brain Injury

Conclusions: The study demonstrates evidence of a significant association between executive impairment and the pragmatic communication difficulties experienced by individuals with TBI.

from the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research

Working memory, response inhibition, and within-subject variability in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or reading disorder

This study compared children with ADHD (n = 19), reading disorder (RD; n = 17), ADHD+RD (n = 21), and control children (n = 19) on linguistic and executive function measures. We found no evidence of response inhibition problems in ADHD or RD when a baseline measure of functioning was taken into account. General working memory problems were only found in children with RD or ADHD+RD. Both children with ADHD and RD showed a highly inaccurate (more commission errors) and variable (higher within-subject standard deviation of reaction time) response style. The comorbid group made most errors, suggesting that different factors underlie the high error rate in both disorders.

from the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neurophysiology