Concept: Cognitive neuroscience
After psychological trauma, recurrent intrusive visual memories may be distressing and disruptive. Preventive interventions post trauma are lacking. Here we test a behavioural intervention after real-life trauma derived from cognitive neuroscience. We hypothesized that intrusive memories would be significantly reduced in number by an intervention involving a computer game with high visuospatial demands (Tetris), via disrupting consolidation of sensory elements of trauma memory. The Tetris-based intervention (trauma memory reminder cue plus c. 20 min game play) vs attention-placebo control (written activity log for same duration) were both delivered in an emergency department within 6 h of a motor vehicle accident. The randomized controlled trial compared the impact on the number of intrusive trauma memories in the subsequent week (primary outcome). Results vindicated the efficacy of the Tetris-based intervention compared with the control condition: there were fewer intrusive memories overall, and time-series analyses showed that intrusion incidence declined more quickly. There were convergent findings on a measure of clinical post-trauma intrusion symptoms at 1 week, but not on other symptom clusters or at 1 month. Results of this proof-of-concept study suggest that a larger trial, powered to detect differences at 1 month, is warranted. Participants found the intervention easy, helpful and minimally distressing. By translating emerging neuroscientific insights and experimental research into the real world, we offer a promising new low-intensity psychiatric intervention that could prevent debilitating intrusive memories following trauma.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 28 March 2017; doi:10.1038/mp.2017.23.
Observational studies in humans have found associations between overstimulation in infancy via excessive television viewing and subsequent deficits in cognition and attention. We developed and tested a mouse model of overstimulation whereby p10 mice were subjected to audio (70 db) and visual stimulation (flashing lights) for six hours per day for a total of 42 days. 10 days later cognition and behavior were tested using the following tests: Light Dark Latency, Elevated Plus Maze, Novel Object Recognition, and Barnes Maze. In all tests, overstimulated mice performed significantly worse compared to controls suggesting increased activity and risk taking, diminished short term memory, and decreased cognitive function. These findings suggest that excessive non-normative stimulation during critical periods of brain development can have demonstrable untoward effects on subsequent neurocognitive function.
Making new breakthroughs in understanding the processes underlying human cognition may depend on the availability of very large datasets that have not historically existed in psychology and neuroscience. Lumosity is a web-based cognitive training platform that has grown to include over 600 million cognitive training task results from over 35 million individuals, comprising the largest existing dataset of human cognitive performance. As part of the Human Cognition Project, Lumosity’s collaborative research program to understand the human mind, Lumos Labs researchers and external research collaborators have begun to explore this dataset in order uncover novel insights about the correlates of cognitive performance. This paper presents two preliminary demonstrations of some of the kinds of questions that can be examined with the dataset. The first example focuses on replicating known findings relating lifestyle factors to baseline cognitive performance in a demographically diverse, healthy population at a much larger scale than has previously been available. The second example examines a question that would likely be very difficult to study in laboratory-based and existing online experimental research approaches at a large scale: specifically, how learning ability for different types of cognitive tasks changes with age. We hope that these examples will provoke the imagination of researchers who are interested in collaborating to answer fundamental questions about human cognitive performance.
A systematic review to examine the efficacy of computer-based cognitive interventions for cognitively healthy older adults was conducted. Studies were included if they met the following criteria: average sample age of at least 55 years at time of training; participants did not have Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment; and the study measured cognitive outcomes as a result of training. Theoretical articles, review articles, and book chapters that did not include original data were excluded. We identified 151 studies published between 1984 and 2011, of which 38 met inclusion criteria and were further classified into three groups by the type of computerized program used: classic cognitive training tasks, neuropsychological software, and video games. Reported pre-post training effect sizes for intervention groups ranged from 0.06 to 6.32 for classic cognitive training interventions, 0.19 to 7.14 for neuropsychological software interventions, and 0.09 to 1.70 for video game interventions. Most studies reported older adults did not need to be technologically savvy in order to successfully complete or benefit from training. Overall, findings are comparable or better than those from reviews of more traditional, paper-and-pencil cognitive training approaches suggesting that computerized training is an effective, less labor intensive alternative.
Cognitive training (CT) is effective at improving cognitive outcomes in children with and without clinical impairment as well as older individuals. Yet whether CT is of any preventative health benefit to working age adults is controversial. Our objective was therefore to investigate the real-world efficacy of CT in the workplace, involving employees from across the working-age spectrum and addressing many of the design issues that have limited trials to date.
Recent clinical studies revealed emotional and cognitive impairments associated with absence epilepsy. Preclinical research with genetic models of absence epilepsy however have primarily focused on dysfunctional emotional processes and paid relatively less attention to cognitive impairment. In order to bridge this gap, we investigated age-dependent changes in learning and memory performance, anxiety-like behavior, and locomotor activity of WAG/Rij rats (a valid model of generalized absence epilepsy) using passive avoidance, Morris water maze, elevated plus maze, and locomotor activity cage. We tested 5 month-old and 13 month-old WAG/Rij rats and compared their performance to age-matched Wistar rats. Results revealed a decline in emotional and spatial memory of WAG/Rij rats compared to age-matched Wistar rats only at 13 months of age. Importantly, there were no significant differences between WAG/Rij and Wistar rats in terms of anxiety-like behavior and locomotor activity at either age. Results pointed at age-dependent learning and memory deficits in the WAG/Rij rat model of absence epilepsy.
Mindfulness training is increasingly being introduced in schools, yet studies examining its impact on the developing brain have been scarce. A neurodevelopmental perspective on mindfulness has been advocated as a powerful tool to enhance our understanding of underlying neurocognitive changes that have implications for developmental well-being research and the implementation of mindfulness in education. To stimulate more research in the developmental cognitive neuroscience of mindfulness, this article outlines possible indexes of mindfulness-based change in adolescence, with a focus on event-related brain potential (ERP) markers. We provide methodological recommendations for future studies and offer examples of research paradigms. We also discuss how mindfulness practice could impact on the development of prefrontal brain structures and enhance attention control and emotion regulation skills in adolescents, impacting in turn on their self-regulation and coping skills. We highlight advantages of the ERP methodology in neurodevelopmental research of mindfulness. It is proposed that research using established experimental tasks targeting ERP components such as the contingent negative variability, N200, error-related negativity and error positivity, P300, and late positive potential could elucidate developmentally salient shifts in the neural plasticity of the adolescent brain induced by mindfulness practice.
Human sensory and motor systems provide the natural means for the exchange of information between individuals, and, hence, the basis for human civilization. The recent development of brain-computer interfaces (BCI) has provided an important element for the creation of brain-to-brain communication systems, and precise brain stimulation techniques are now available for the realization of non-invasive computer-brain interfaces (CBI). These technologies, BCI and CBI, can be combined to realize the vision of non-invasive, computer-mediated brain-to-brain (B2B) communication between subjects (hyperinteraction). Here we demonstrate the conscious transmission of information between human brains through the intact scalp and without intervention of motor or peripheral sensory systems. Pseudo-random binary streams encoding words were transmitted between the minds of emitter and receiver subjects separated by great distances, representing the realization of the first human brain-to-brain interface. In a series of experiments, we established internet-mediated B2B communication by combining a BCI based on voluntary motor imagery-controlled electroencephalographic (EEG) changes with a CBI inducing the conscious perception of phosphenes (light flashes) through neuronavigated, robotized transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), with special care taken to block sensory (tactile, visual or auditory) cues. Our results provide a critical proof-of-principle demonstration for the development of conscious B2B communication technologies. More fully developed, related implementations will open new research venues in cognitive, social and clinical neuroscience and the scientific study of consciousness. We envision that hyperinteraction technologies will eventually have a profound impact on the social structure of our civilization and raise important ethical issues.
Physical exercise in combination with cognitive training is known to enhance synaptic plasticity, learning, and memory and lower the risk for various complex diseases including Alzheimer’s disease. Here, we show that exposure of adult male mice to an environmental enrichment paradigm leads to enhancement of synaptic plasticity and cognition also in the next generation. We show that this effect is mediated through sperm RNA and especially miRs 212/132. In conclusion, our study reports intergenerational inheritance of an acquired cognitive benefit and points to specific miRs as candidates mechanistically involved in this type of transmission.
A variety of studies have demonstrated gains in cognitive ability following cognitive training interventions. However, other studies have not shown such gains, and questions remain regarding the efficacy of specific cognitive training interventions. Cognitive training research often involves programs made up of just one or a few exercises, targeting limited and specific cognitive endpoints. In addition, cognitive training studies typically involve small samples that may be insufficient for reliable measurement of change. Other studies have utilized training periods that were too short to generate reliable gains in cognitive performance.