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Concept: Neuropsychology


Recent reports show that fewer adolescents believe that regular cannabis use is harmful to health. Concomitantly, adolescents are initiating cannabis use at younger ages, and more adolescents are using cannabis on a daily basis. The purpose of the present study was to test the association between persistent cannabis use and neuropsychological decline and determine whether decline is concentrated among adolescent-onset cannabis users. Participants were members of the Dunedin Study, a prospective study of a birth cohort of 1,037 individuals followed from birth (1972/1973) to age 38 y. Cannabis use was ascertained in interviews at ages 18, 21, 26, 32, and 38 y. Neuropsychological testing was conducted at age 13 y, before initiation of cannabis use, and again at age 38 y, after a pattern of persistent cannabis use had developed. Persistent cannabis use was associated with neuropsychological decline broadly across domains of functioning, even after controlling for years of education. Informants also reported noticing more cognitive problems for persistent cannabis users. Impairment was concentrated among adolescent-onset cannabis users, with more persistent use associated with greater decline. Further, cessation of cannabis use did not fully restore neuropsychological functioning among adolescent-onset cannabis users. Findings are suggestive of a neurotoxic effect of cannabis on the adolescent brain and highlight the importance of prevention and policy efforts targeting adolescents.

Concepts: Cohort study, Age, Neurocognitive, Adolescence, Initiation, Neuropsychology, The Adolescents, Neuropsychological test


Self-control problems commonly manifest as temper outbursts and repetitive/rigid/impulsive behaviors, in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), which often contributes to learning difficulties and caregiver burden. The present study aims to compare the effect of a traditional Chinese Chan-based mind-body exercise, Nei Yang Gong, with that of the conventional Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) technique in enhancing the self-control of children with ASD. Forty-six age- and IQ-matched ASD children were randomly assigned to receive group training in Nei Yang Gong (experimental group) or PMR (control group) twice per week for four weeks. The participants' self-control was measured by three neuropsychological tests and parental rating on standardized questionnaires, and the underlying neural mechanism was assessed by the participants' brain EEG activity during an inhibitory-control task before and after intervention. The results show that the experimental group demonstrated significantly greater improvement in self-control than the control group, which concurs with the parental reports of reduced autistic symptoms and increased control of temper and behaviors. In addition, the experimental group showed enhanced EEG activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region that mediates self-control, whereas the PMR group did not. The present findings support the potential application of Chinese Chan-based mind-body exercises as a form of neuropsychological rehabilitation for patients with self-control problems. Chinese Clinical Trial Registry; Registration No.: ChiCTR-TRC-12002561; URL:

Concepts: Psychology, Experimental design, Autism, Neuropsychology, Autism spectrum, Brodmann area 24, Anterior cingulate cortex, Cingulate cortex


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.

Concepts: Randomized controlled trial, Measurement, Traumatic brain injury, Neuropsychology, Working memory, Executive functions, Stroop effect, Canadian model of occupational performance


Anorexia nervosa (AN) is associated with morbid fear of fatness, extreme food restriction and altered self-regulation. Neuroimaging data implicate fronto-striatal circuitry, including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC).

Concepts: Cerebrum, Attention versus memory in prefrontal cortex, Neuropsychology, Transcranial magnetic stimulation, Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex


In conjunction with BBC Lab UK, the present study developed 12 brief psychological skill interventions for online delivery. A protocol was designed that captured data via self-report measures, used video recordings to deliver interventions, involved a competitive concentration task against an individually matched computer opponent, and provided feedback on the effects of the interventions. Three psychological skills were used; imagery, self-talk, and if-then planning, with each skill directed to one of four different foci: outcome goal, process goal, instruction, or arousal-control. This resulted in 12 different intervention participant groups (randomly assigned) with a 13th group acting as a control. Participants (n = 44,742) completed a competitive task four times-practice, baseline, following an intervention, and again after repeating the intervention. Results revealed performance improved following practice with incremental effects for imagery-outcome, imagery-process, and self-talk-outcome and self-talk-process over the control group, with the same interventions increasing the intensity of effort invested, arousal and pleasant emotion. Arousal-control interventions associated with pleasant emotions, low arousal, and low effort invested in performance. Instructional interventions were not effective. Results offer support for the utility of online interventions in teaching psychological skills and suggest brief interventions that focus on increasing motivation, increased arousal, effort invested, and pleasant emotions were the most effective.

Concepts: Psychology, Participation, Skill, Learning, Neuropsychology, Emotion, BBC


The potential impact of brain training methods for enhancing human cognition in healthy and clinical populations has motivated increasing public interest and scientific scrutiny. At issue is the merits of intervention modalities, such as computer-based cognitive training, physical exercise training, and non-invasive brain stimulation, and whether such interventions synergistically enhance cognition. To investigate this issue, we conducted a comprehensive 4-month randomized controlled trial in which 318 healthy, young adults were enrolled in one of five interventions: (1) Computer-based cognitive training on six adaptive tests of executive function; (2) Cognitive and physical exercise training; (3) Cognitive training combined with non-invasive brain stimulation and physical exercise training; (4) Active control training in adaptive visual search and change detection tasks; and (5) Passive control. Our findings demonstrate that multimodal training significantly enhanced learning (relative to computer-based cognitive training alone) and provided an effective method to promote skill learning across multiple cognitive domains, spanning executive functions, working memory, and planning and problem solving. These results help to establish the beneficial effects of multimodal intervention and identify key areas for future research in the continued effort to improve human cognition.

Concepts: Psychology, Exercise, Cognition, Cognitive science, Cognitive neuroscience, Neuropsychology, Working memory, Executive functions


Increased preference for immediate over delayed and for risky over certain rewards has been associated with unhealthy behavioral choices. Motivated by evidence that enhanced cognitive control can shift choice behavior away from immediate and risky rewards, we tested whether training executive cognitive function could influence choice behavior and brain responses. In this randomized controlled trial, 128 young adults (71 male, 57 female) participated in 10 weeks of training with either a commercial web-based cognitive training program or web-based video games that do not specifically target executive function or adapt the level of difficulty throughout training. Pre- and post-training, participants completed cognitive assessments and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during performance of validated decision-making tasks: delay discounting (choices between smaller rewards now vs. larger rewards in the future) and risk sensitivity (choices between larger riskier rewards vs. smaller certain rewards). Contrary to our hypothesis, we found no evidence that cognitive training influences neural activity during decision-making, nor did we find effects of cognitive training on measures of delay discounting or risk sensitivity. Participants in the commercial training condition improved with practice on the specific tasks they performed during training, but participants in both conditions showed similar improvement on standardized cognitive measures over time. Moreover, the degree of improvement was comparable to that observed in individuals who were reassessed without any training whatsoever. Commercial adaptive cognitive training appears to have no benefits in healthy young adults above those of standard video games for measures of brain activity, choice behavior, or cognitive performance.Registry: NCT01252966, www.clinicaltrials.govSIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTEngagement of neural regions and circuits important in executive cognitive function can bias behavioral choices away from immediate rewards. Activity in these regions may be enhanced through adaptive cognitive training. Commercial brain training programs claim to improve a broad range of mental processes; however, evidence for transfer beyond trained tasks is mixed. We undertook the first randomized controlled trial of the effects of commercial adaptive cognitive training (Lumosity®) on neural activity and decision-making in young adults (N = 128), compared to an active control (playing online video games). We found no evidence for relative benefits of cognitive training with respect to changes in decision-making behavior or brain response, or for cognitive task performance beyond those specifically trained.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Randomized controlled trial, Magnetic resonance imaging, Cognition, Cognitive science, Thought, Neuropsychology


BACKGROUND: Head trauma in adolescents has been linked with deficits in attention and executive function that can compromise the performance of everyday tasks. Although previous research has examined this issue using computerized neuropsychological testing, little work has been done using laboratory-based measurements of attention and executive function in this population. A longitudinal analysis of recovery patterns of these measures among adolescents is central to understanding the effects of concussions across the age spectrum. PURPOSE: This study prospectively and longitudinally examined laboratory-based measures of attention and executive function in concussed adolescents sequentially over a 2-month period following injury. METHODS: Two measures of attention and executive function: the Attentional Network Test (ANT) and Task-Switching Test (TST) were administered to 20 concussed adolescents within 72 hours post injury as well as at one week, two weeks, one month, and two months post injury. Twenty healthy, matched control subjects were similarly assessed at the same time intervals. Data were analyzed by two-way, mixed effects analyses of variance to determine the effect of group and time on the dependent variables. RESULTS: Compared with control subjects, the concussed group exhibited a significantly greater switch cost on the TST (p = .038, mean difference value = 38 ms) and a significantly greater reaction time for the ANT conflict effect component (p = .015, mean difference value = 34 ms) for up to two months after injury. CONCLUSIONS: Concussed adolescents have difficulty recovering executive function after injury and may require extended recuperation time before full recovery is achieved. Evaluations focusing on attention and executive function can be useful additions in the assessment and follow-up after head injury.

Concepts: Cognitive science, Neuropsychology, Working memory, Diffuse axonal injury, Concussion, Neuropsychological assessment, Head injury, Head injury criterion


Mindfulness meditation training interventions have been shown to improve markers of health, but the underlying neurobiological mechanisms are not known. Building on initial cross-sectional research showing that mindfulness meditation may increase default mode network (DMN) resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) with regions important in top-down executive control (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex [dlPFC]), here we test whether mindfulness meditation training increases DMN-dlPFC rsFC and whether these rsFC alterations prospectively explain improvements in interleukin (IL)-6 in a randomized controlled trial.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Randomized controlled trial, Cerebrum, Attention versus memory in prefrontal cortex, Neuropsychology, Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, Brodmann area, Working memory


Cognitive enhancement is a popular topic, attracting attention both from the general public and the scientific research community. Higher cognitive functions are involved in various aspects of everyday life and have been associated with manifest behavioral and psychiatric mental impairments when deteriorated. The improvement of these so-called executive functions (EFs) is of high individual, social, and economic relevance. This review provides a synopsis of two lines of research, investigating the enhancement of capabilities in executive functioning: a) computerized behavioral trainings, and b) approaches for direct neuromodulation (neurofeedback and transcranial electrostimulation). Task switching, memory updating, response inhibition, and dual task performance are addressed in terms of cognitive functions. It has been shown that behavioral cognitive training leads to enhanced performance in task switching, memory updating, and dual tasks. Similarly, direct neurocognitive modulation of brain regions that are crucially involved in specific EFs also leads to behavioral benefits in response inhibition, task switching, and memory updating. Response inhibition performance has been shown to be improved by neurostimulation of the right inferior frontal cortex, whereas neurostimulation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex exerts effects on task switching and memory updating. Due to a lack of consistency in experimental methods and findings, a comparison of different training approaches concerning their effectiveness is not yet possible. So far, current data suggest that training gains may indeed generalize to untrained tasks aiming at the same cognitive process, as well as across cognitive domains within executive control.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Brain, Cognition, Cerebrum, Neuropsychology, Frontal lobe, Working memory