Blog Archives

One language, two number-word systems and many problems: Numerical cognition in the Czech language

We conclude that the development of numerical cognition does not only depend on cultural or educational differences, but is indeed related to the structure and transparency of a given number-word system.

from Research in Developmental Disabilities

Volumes of Lateral Temporal and Parietal Structures Distinguish Between Healthy Aging, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and Alzheimer’s Disease

Distinguishing amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI) from Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and healthy aging depends mainly on clinical evaluation, and, ultimately, on investigator’s judgment. Clinical evaluation in vivo is based primarily on cognitive assessments. The present study explores the potential of volumetric magnetic resonance imaging of parietal and lateral temporal brain structures to support the diagnosis of AD and to distinguish AD patients from patients with MCI and healthy control subjects (HCS). 52 age-matched HCS, 18 patients with MCI, and 59 patients with probable late onset AD were investigated. Using computational, neuromorphometric procedures gray matter (GM) was automatically parcellated into 28 local regions of interest, the volumes of which were computed. The left hippocampus (sensitivity/specificity: 80.8–90.4%/55.6–86.4%) and the right hippocampus (73.1–90.4%/66.7–84.7%) provided highest diagnostic accuracy in separating all three diagnostic groups. Promising diagnostic values for distinguishing MCI from HCS were found for the left superior parietal gyrus (61.5%/55.6%) and left supramarginal gyrus (65.4%/66.7%), and for distinguishing subjects with MCI from AD patients for the right middle temporal gyrus (77.8%/79.7%), left inferior temporal gyrus (83.3%/72.9%), and right superior temporal gyrus (77.8%/71.2%). The left superior temporal pole (92.3%/84.7%), left parahippocampal gyrus (86.5%/81.4%), left Heschl’s gyrus (86.5%/79.7%), and the right superior temporal pole (82.7%/78.0%) revealed most promising diagnostic values for distinguishing AD patients from HCS. Data revealed that lateral temporal and parietal GM volumes distinguish between HCS, MCI, and AD as accurate as hippocampal volumes do; hence, these volumes can be used in the diagnostic procedure. Results also suggest that cognitive functions associated with these brain regions, e.g., language and visuospatial abilities, may be tested more extensively to obtain additional information that might enhance the diagnostic accuracy further.

from the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease

Effects of Age, Speed of Processing, and Working Memory on Comprehension of Sentences With Relative Clauses

Two hundred participants, 50 in each of four age ranges (19–29, 30–49, 50–69, 70–90) were tested for working memory, speed of processing, and the processing of sentences with relative clauses. In Experiment 1, participants read four sentence types (cleft subject, cleft object, subject-subject, subject-object) in a word-by-word, non-cumulative, self-paced reading task and made speeded plausibility judgments about them. In Experiment 2, participants read two types of sentences, one of which contained a doubly center embedded relative clause. Older participants’ comprehension was less accurate and there was age-related slowing of online processing times in all but the simplest sentences, which increased in syntactically complex sentences in Experiment 1. This pattern suggests an age-related decrease in the efficiency of parsing and interpretation. Slower speed of processing and lower working memory were associated with longer online processing times only in Experiment 2, suggesting that task-related operations are related to general speed of processing and working memory. Lower working memory was not associated with longer reading times in more complex sentences, consistent with the view that general working memory is not critically involved in online syntactic processing. Longer online processing at the most demanding point in the most demanding sentence was associated with better comprehension, indicating that it reflects effective processing under some certain circumstances. However, the poorer comprehension performance of older individuals indicates that their slower online processing reflects inefficient processing even at these points.

from Psychology and Aging

Short-term and working memory impairments in aphasia

The aim of the present study is to investigate short-term memory and working memory deficits in aphasics in relation to the severity of their language impairment. Fifty-eight aphasic patients participated in this study. Based on language assessment, an aphasia score was calculated for each patient. Memory was assessed in two modalities, verbal and spatial. Mean scores for all memory tasks were lower than normal. Aphasia score was significantly correlated with performance on all memory tasks. Correlation coefficients for short-term memory and working memory were approximately of the same magnitude. According to our findings, severity of aphasia is related with both verbal and spatial memory deficits. Moreover, while aphasia score corrrelated with lower scores in both short-term memory and working memory tasks, the lack of substantial difference between corresponding correlation coefficients suggests a possible primary deficit in information retention rather than impairment in working memory.

from Neuropsychologia

Working memory influences on cross-language activation during bilingual lexical disambiguation

This study investigated the role of verbal working memory on bilingual lexical disambiguation. Spanish–English bilinguals read sentences that ended in either a cognate or noncognate homonym or a control word. Participants decided whether follow-up target words were related in meaning to the sentences. On critical trials, sentences biased the subordinate meaning of a homonym and were followed by targets related to the dominant meaning. Bilinguals with high span were faster at rejecting unrelated targets when the sentences ended in a homonym, whereas bilinguals with low span were slower. Furthermore, error rates for bilinguals with low span showed cognate inhibition, while bilinguals with high span showed no effects of cross-language activation. Results demonstrated that bilinguals with high span benefit from shared lexical codes whether these converge on to a single semantic representation (cognates) or not (homonyms). Conversely, bilinguals with low span showed inhibition from the competing lexical codes, even when they converge onto a single semantic representation.

from Bilingualism: Language and Cognition

Brain imaging correlates of verbal working memory in children following traumatic brain injury

Neural correlates of working memory (WM) based on the Sternberg Item Recognition Task (SIRT) were assessed in 40 children with moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) compared to 41 demographically-comparable children with orthopedic injury (OI). Multiple magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods assessed structural and functional brain correlates of WM, including volumetric and cortical thickness measures on all children; functional MRI (fMRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) were performed on a subset of children. Confirming previous findings, children with TBI had decreased cortical thickness and volume as compared to the OI group. Although the findings did not confirm the predicted relation of decreased frontal lobe cortical thickness and volume to SIRT performance, left parietal volume was negatively related to reaction time (RT). In contrast, cortical thickness was positively related to SIRT accuracy and RT in the OI group, particularly in aspects of the frontal and parietal lobes, but these relationships were less robust in the TBI group. We attribute these findings to disrupted fronto-parietal functioning in attention and WM. fMRI results from a subsample demonstrated fronto-temporal activation in the OI group, and parietal activation in the TBI group, and DTI findings reflected multiple differences in white matter tracts that engage fronto-parietal networks. Diminished white matter integrity of the frontal lobes and cingulum bundle as measured by DTI was associated with longer RT on the SIRT. Across modalities, the cingulate emerged as a common structure related to performance after TBI. These results are discussed in terms of how different imaging modalities tap different types of pathologic correlates of brain injury and their relationship with WM.

from the International Journal of Psychophysiology

Working Memory Supports Listening in Noise for Persons with Hearing Impairment


Working memory is a crucial factor in speech understanding in noise for persons with hearing impairment, irrespective of whether hearing is aided or unaided. Working memory supports speech understanding in noise under conditions of both “high degradation” and “low degradation.” A subcomponent view of working memory may contribute to our understanding of these phenomena. The effect of cognition on speech understanding in modulated noise with fast-acting compression may only pertain after a period of 4-9 wk of familiarization and that prior to such a period, persons with lower cognitive capacity may benefit more from slow-acting compression.

from the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology

Assessment and Treatment of Working Memory Deficits in School-Age Children: The Role of the Speech-Language Pathologist

Conclusion: Research to date has documented that children with language impairments frequently have poor WM skills. SLPs can support poor WM skills by considering both modifications to the environment and child-enacted knowledge and skills, which may serve to reduce the impact of poor WM skills on learning and academic success.

from Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools

Impact of Sensory Acuity on Auditory Working Memory Span in Young and Older Adults

The impact of sensory acuity, processing speed, and working memory capacity on auditory working memory span (L-span) performance at 5 presentation levels was examined in 80 young adults (18–30 years of age) and 26 older adults (60–82 years of age). Lowering the presentation level of the L-span task had a greater detrimental effect on the older adults than on the younger ones. Furthermore, the relationship between sensory acuity and L-span performance varied as a function of age and presentation level. These results suggest that declining acuity plays an important explanatory role in age-related declines in cognitive abilities.

from Psychology and Aging

The Structure of Working Memory Abilities Across the Adult Life Span

The present study addresses three questions regarding age differences in working memory: (1) whether performance on complex span tasks decreases as a function of age at a faster rate than performance on simple span tasks; (2) whether spatial working memory decreases at a faster rate than verbal working memory; and (3) whether the structure of working memory abilities is different for different age groups. Adults, ages 20–89 (n = 388), performed three simple and three complex verbal span tasks and three simple and three complex spatial memory tasks. Performance on the spatial tasks decreased at faster rates as a function of age than performance on the verbal tasks, but within each domain, performance on complex and simple span tasks decreased at the same rates. Confirmatory factor analyses revealed that domain-differentiated models yielded better fits than models involving domain-general constructs, providing further evidence of the need to distinguish verbal and spatial working memory abilities. Regardless of which domain-differentiated model was examined, and despite the faster rates of decrease in the spatial domain, age group comparisons revealed that the factor structure of working memory abilities was highly similar in younger and older adults and showed no evidence of age-related dedifferentiation.

from Psychology and Aging

Short-term memory stages in sign vs. speech: The source of the serial span discrepancy

Speakers generally outperform signers when asked to recall a list of unrelated verbal items. This phenomenon is well established, but its source has remained unclear. In this study, we evaluate the relative contribution of the three main processing stages of short-term memory – perception, encoding, and recall – in this effect. The present study factorially manipulates whether American Sign Language (ASL) or English is used for perception, memory encoding, and recall in hearing ASL-English bilinguals. Results indicate that using ASL during both perception and encoding contributes to the serial span discrepancy. Interestingly, performing recall in ASL slightly increased span, ruling out the view that signing is in general a poor choice for short-term memory. These results suggest that despite the general equivalence of sign and speech in other memory domains, speech-based representations are better suited for the specific task of perception and memory encoding of a series of unrelated verbal items in serial order through the phonological loop. This work suggests that interpretation of performance on serial recall tasks in English may not translate straightforwardly to serial tasks in sign language.

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

Component analysis of verbal versus spatial working memory training in adolescents with ADHD: A randomized, controlled trial

Adaptive training of working memory (WM) using the Cogmed-RM intervention has recently shown some efficacy as an alternative treatment for ADHD, but this intervention may not be optimally designed. A recent component analysis of WM has suggested that maintenance in primary memory (PM) appears to be largely intact whereas recall from secondary memory (SM) appears to be deficient in ADHD relative to age-matched controls. However, extrapolating from basic research, there is reason to believe that Cogmed-RM may target the PM component more than the SM component; though training with spatial exercises may target the SM component more than training with verbal exercises. To investigate, participants diagnosed with ADHD were randomly assigned to either a verbal training condition (n = 24) or a spatial training condition (n = 23) using a randomized, controlled design, and both groups were instructed to complete at least 20 days of training. The PM and SM components of WM were assessed immediately before and after training using both verbal and spatial free recall tasks. The main findings showed that both versions of the intervention enhanced the maintenance of information in PM regardless of test modality, but not the recall of information from SM. Therefore, the component of WM that is improved by Cogmed-RM is not the same component of WM that is deficient in ADHD.

from Child Neuropsychology

Cognitive and Emotional Factors in Children with Mathematical Learning Disabilities

Emotional and cognitive factors were examined in 18 children with mathematical learning disabilities (MLD), compared with 18 normally achieving children, matched for chronological age, school level, gender and verbal IQ. Working memory, short-term memory, inhibitory processes, speed of processing and level of anxiety in mathematics were assessed in the two groups. The results corroborated the hypothesis that children with MLD are impaired in working memory capacity, inhibitory ability, and speed of processing. However, no impairment was found in short-term memory tasks requiring passive storage of verbal and numerical information. Moreover, while the children with MLD showed higher levels of anxiety in mathematics, their anxiety levels in other school subjects were similar to those of normal achievers. Implications for identifying underlying emotional and cognitive deficits in children with MLD are discussed, along with possible approaches to treatment.

from the International Journal of Disability, Development and Education

Understanding of auditory discourse in older adults: The effects of syntax and working memory

Conclusions: Older adults may be less efficient in forming syntactically complex representations and this may be influenced by limitations in working memory.

from Aphasiology