individual differences

Career choice may determine where frontotemporal dementia begins

October, 2010
  • An international review of patients with frontotemporal dementia has revealed that the area of the brain first affected tends to be the hemisphere least used in the individual’s occupation.

A review of brain imaging and occupation data from 588 patients diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia has found that among the dementias affecting those 65 years and younger, FTD is as common as Alzheimer's disease. The study also found that the side of the brain first attacked (unlike Alzheimer’s, FTD typically begins with tissue loss in one hemisphere) is influenced by the person’s occupation.

Using occupation scores that reflect the type of skills emphasized, they found that patients with professions rated highly for verbal skills, such as school principals, had greater tissue loss on the right side of the brain, whereas those rated low for verbal skills, such as flight engineers, had greater tissue loss on the left side of the brain. This effect was expressed most clearly in the temporal lobes of the brain. In other words, the side of the brain least used in the patient's professional life was apparently the first attacked.

These findings are in keeping with the theory of cognitive reserve, but may be due to some asymmetry in the brain that both inclines them to a particular occupational path and renders the relatively deficient hemisphere more vulnerable in later life.

Reference: 

Source: 

Topics: 

tags: 

tags development: 

tags memworks: 

tags problems: 

tags strategies: 

Cultural differences & developmental changes in working memory

January, 2010

A comparison of Ugandan and Senegalese children has found differences in which working memory system is dominant. This may be a product of literacy training.

‘Working memory’ is thought to consist of three components: one concerned with auditory-verbal processing, one with visual-spatial processing, and a central executive that controls both. It has been hypothesized that the relationships between the components changes as children develop. Very young children are more reliant on visuospatial processing, but later the auditory-verbal module becomes more dominant. It has also been found that the two sensory modules are not strongly associated in younger (5-8) American children, but are strongly associated in older children (9-12). The same study found that this pattern was also found in Laotian children, but not in children from the Congo, none of whom showed a strong association between visual and auditory working memory. Now a new study has found that Ugandan children showed greater dominance of the auditory-verbal module, particularly among the older children (8 ½ +); however, the visuospatial module was dominant among Senegalese children, both younger and older. It is hypothesized that the cultural differences are a product of literacy training — school enrolment was much less consistent among the Senegalese. But there may also be a link to nutritional status.

Reference: 

Source: 

Topics: 

tags: 

tags development: 

tags memworks: 

tags strategies: 

Face recognition ability inherited separately from IQ

January, 2010

Providing support for a modular concept of the brain, a twin study has found that face recognition is heritable, and that it is inherited separately from IQ.

No surprise to me (I’m hopeless at faces), but a twin study has found that face recognition is heritable, and that it is inherited separately from IQ. The findings provide support for a modular concept of the brain, suggesting that some cognitive abilities, like face recognition, are shaped by specialist genes rather than generalist genes. The study used 102 pairs of identical twins and 71 pairs of fraternal twins aged 7 to 19 from Beijing schools to calculate that 39% of the variance between individuals on a face recognition task is attributable to genetic effects. In an independent sample of 321 students, the researchers found that face recognition ability was not correlated with IQ.

Reference: 

Zhu, Q. et al. 2010. Heritability of the specific cognitive ability of face perception. Current Biology, 20 (2), 137-142.

Source: 

Topics: 

tags memworks: 

Those less motivated to achieve will excel on tasks seen as fun

January, 2010

Telling students to strive for excellence may not always be the best strategy.

You may think that telling students to strive for excellence is always a good strategy, but it turns out that it is not quite as simple as that. A series of four experiments looking at how students' attitudes toward achievement influenced their performance on various tasks has found that while those with high achievement motivation did better on a task when they also were exposed to subconscious "priming" that related to winning, mastery or excellence, those with low achievement motivation did worse. Similarly, when given a choice, those with high achievement motivation were more likely to resume an interrupted task which they were told tested their verbal reasoning ability. However, those with high achievement motivation did worse on a word-search puzzle when they were told the exercise was fun. The findings point to the fact that people have different goals (e.g., achievement vs enjoyment), and that effective motivation requires this to be taken account of.

Reference: 

[730] Hart, W., & Albarracín D.
(2009).  The effects of chronic achievement motivation and achievement primes on the activation of achievement and fun goals..
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 97(6), 1129 - 1141.

Source: 

Topics: 

tags: 

tags memworks: 

tags strategies: 

The age you feel is more important for cognition than the age you are

February, 2010

More data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States has revealed that cognitive abilities reflect to a greater extent how old you feel, not how old you actually are.

More data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States has revealed that cognitive abilities reflect to a greater extent how old you feel, not how old you actually are. Of course that may be because cognitive ability contributes to a person’s wellness and energy. But it also may reflect benefits of trying to maintain a sense of youthfulness by keeping up with new trends and activities that feel invigorating.

Reference: 

[171] Schafer, M. H., & Shippee T. P.
(2009).  Age Identity, Gender, and Perceptions of Decline: Does Feeling Older Lead to Pessimistic Dispositions About Cognitive Aging?.
The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. 65B(1), 91 - 96.

Source: 

Topics: 

tags: 

tags lifestyle: 

tags memworks: 

tags problems: 

Factors predicting conversion of mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s identified

March, 2010

New analysis reveals the most important factors for predicting whether amnestic-MCI would develop into Alzheimer’s within 2 years were hyperglycemia, female gender and having the Alzheimer's gene.

An analysis technique using artificial neural networks has revealed that the most important factors for predicting whether amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI-A) would develop into Alzheimer’s within 2 years were hyperglycemia, female gender and having the APOE4 gene (in that order). These were followed by the scores on attentional and short memory tests.

Reference: 

Tabaton, M. et al. 2010. Artificial Neural Networks Identify the Predictive Values of Risk Factors on the Conversion of Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 19 (3), 1035-1040.

Source: 

Topics: 

tags development: 

tags lifestyle: 

tags memworks: 

tags problems: 

Experiencing different cultures enhances creativity

July, 2010

Being reminded of multicultural experiences helps you become more creative in solving problems.

Three experiments involving students who had lived abroad and those who hadn't found that those who had experienced a different culture demonstrated greater creativity — but only when they first recalled a multicultural learning experience from their life abroad. Specifically, doing so (a) improved idea flexibility (e.g., the ability to solve problems in multiple ways), (b) increased awareness of underlying connections and associations, and (c) helped overcome functional fixedness. The study also demonstrated that it was learning about the underlying meaning or function of behaviors in the multicultural context that was particularly important for facilitating creativity.

Reference: 

[1622] Maddux, W. W., Adam H., & Galinsky A. D.
(2010).  When in Rome ... Learn Why the Romans Do What They Do: How Multicultural Learning Experiences Facilitate Creativity.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 731 - 741.

Full text is available free for a limited time at http://psp.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/36/6/731

Source: 

Topics: 

tags: 

tags memworks: 

tags strategies: 

Face coding varies by gender, sexual orientation, & handedness

July, 2010

Why are women better at recognizing faces? Apparently it has to do with using both sides of your brain, and homosexual men tend to do it too.

Why do women tend to be better than men at recognizing faces? Two recent studies give a clue, and also explain inconsistencies in previous research, some of which has found that face recognition mainly happens in the right hemisphere part of the face fusiform area, and some that face recognition occurs bilaterally. One study found that, while men tended to process face recognition in the right hemisphere only, women tended to process the information in both hemispheres. Another study found that both women and gay men tended to use both sides of the brain to process faces (making them faster at retrieving faces), while heterosexual men tended to use only the right. It also found that homosexual males have better face recognition memory than heterosexual males and homosexual women, and that women have better face processing than men. Additionally, left-handed heterosexual participants had better face recognition abilities than left-handed homosexuals, and also tended to be better than right-handed heterosexuals. In other words, bilaterality (using both sides of your brain) seems to make you faster and more accurate at recognizing people, and bilaterality is less likely in right-handers and heterosexual males (and perhaps homosexual women). Previous research has shown that homosexual individuals are 39% more likely to be left-handed.

Reference: 

Proverbio AM, Riva F, Martin E, Zani A (2010) Face Coding Is Bilateral in the Female Brain. PLoS ONE 5(6): e11242. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0011242

[1611] Brewster, P. W. H., Mullin C. R., Dobrin R. A., & Steeves J. K. E.
(2010).  Sex differences in face processing are mediated by handedness and sexual orientation.
Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition.

Source: 

Topics: 

tags: 

tags memworks: 

Is practice sufficient for expertise?

July, 2010

A study of sight-reading ability in pianists confirms the importance of many hours of practice, but also suggests that working memory capacity makes a difference.

A new study challenges the popular theory that expertise is simply a product of tens of thousands of hours of deliberate practice. Not that anyone is claiming that this practice isn’t necessary — but it may not be sufficient. A study looking at pianists’ ability to sight-read music reveals working memory capacity helps sight-reading regardless of how much someone has practiced.

The study involved 57 volunteers who had played piano for an average of 18.6 years (range from one to 57 years). Their estimated hours of overall practice ranged from 260 to 31,096 (average: 5806), and hours of sight-reading practice ranged from zero to 9,048 (average: 1487 hours). Statistical analysis revealed that although hours of practice was the most important factor, nevertheless, working memory capacity did, independently, account for a small but significant amount of the variance between individuals.

It is interesting that not only did WMC have an effect independent of hours of practice, but hours of practice apparently had no effect on WMC — although the study was too small to tell whether a lot of practice at an early age might have affected WMC (previous research has indicated that music training can increase IQ in children).

The study is also too small to properly judge the effects of the 10,000 hours deliberate practice claimed necessary for expertise: the researchers did not advise the number of participants that were at that level, but the numbers suggest it was low.

It should also be noted that an earlier study involving 52 accomplished pianists found no effect of WMC on sight-reading ability (but did find a related effect: the ability to tap two fingers rapidly in alternation and to press a computer key quickly in response to visual and acoustic cues was unrelated to practice but correlated positively with good sight-readers).

Nevertheless, the findings are interesting, and do agree with what I imagine is the ‘commonsense’ view: yes, becoming an expert is all about the hours of effective practice you put in, but there are intellectual qualities that also matter. The question is: do they matter once you’ve put in the requisite hours of good practice?

Reference: 

Source: 

Topics: 

tags memworks: 

tags strategies: 

tags study: 

Gender gap persists at highest levels of math and science testing

July, 2010

SAT and ACT results demonstrate a dramatic drop in gender ratio on math and science tests from 1981 to 1995, but little change since then.

Analysis of 30 years of SAT and ACT tests administered to the top 5% of U.S. 7th graders has found that the ratio of 7th graders scoring 700 or above on the SAT-math has dropped from about 13 boys to 1 girl to about 4 boys to 1 girl. The ratio dropped dramatically between 1981 and 1995, and has remained relatively stable since then. The top scores on scientific reasoning, a relatively new section of the ACT that was not included in the original study, show a similar ratio of boys to girls.

Reference: 

Source: 

Topics: 

tags development: 

tags memworks: 

tags strategies: 

tags study: 

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - individual differences