Latest news from mempowered

A small study shows that stress makes it more likely for learning to use more complicated and subconscious processes that involve brain regions involved in habit and procedural learning.

We know that stress has a complicated relationship with learning, but in general its effect is negative, and part of that is due to stress producing anxious thoughts that clog up working memory. A new study adds another perspective to that. The brain scanning study involved 60 young adults, of whom half were put under stress by having a hand immersed in ice-cold water for three minutes under the...
October, 2012

A small study shows that those with MCI perform poorly on a visual discrimination task under high interference conditions, suggesting that reducing interference may improve cognitive performance.

Memory problems in those with mild cognitive impairment may begin with problems in visual discrimination and vulnerability to interference — a hopeful discovery in that interventions to improve discriminability and reduce interference may have a flow-on effect to cognition. The study compared the performance on a complex object discrimination task of 7 patients diagnosed with amnestic MCI,...
October, 2012

A small study with older adults provides support for the idea that learning is helped if you follow it with a few minutes ‘wakeful rest’.

Back in 2010, I briefly reported on a study suggesting that a few minutes of ‘quiet time’ could help you consolidate new information. A new study provides more support for this idea. In the first experiment, 14 older adults (aged 61-81) were told a short story, with instructions to remember as many details as possible. Immediately afterward, they were asked to describe what happened...
October, 2012

A pilot study suggests declines in temporal processing are an important part of age-related cognitive decline, and shows how temporal training can significantly improve some cognitive abilities.

Here’s an exciting little study, implying as it does that one particular aspect of information processing underlies much of the cognitive decline in older adults, and that this can be improved through training. No, it’s not our usual suspect, working memory, it’s something far less obvious: temporal processing. In the study, 30 older adults (aged 65-75) were randomly assigned to...
October, 2012

A new understanding of why dementia sometimes occurs with HIV, even when treated, may also suggest a new approach to other neurological disorders, including age-related cognitive decline.

HIV-associated dementia occurs in around 30% of untreated HIV-positive patients. Surprisingly, it also is occasionally found in some patients (2-3%) who are being successfully treated for HIV (and show no signs of AIDS). A new study may have the answer for this mystery, and suggest a solution. Moreover, the answer may have general implications for those experiencing cognitive decline in old age....
October, 2012

A review has concluded that spatial training produces significant improvement, particularly for poorer performers, and that such training could significantly increase STEM achievement.

Spatial abilities have been shown to be important for achievement in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, math), but many people have felt that spatial skills are something you’re either born with or not. In a comprehensive review of 217 research studies on educational interventions to improve spatial thinking, researchers concluded that you can indeed improve spatial skills,...
October, 2012

Multitasking is significantly worse if your tasks use the same modality. Instant messaging while doing another visual-motor task reduces performance more than talking on the phone.

I’ve reported, often, on the evidence that multitasking is a problem, something we’re not really designed to do well (with the exception of a few fortunate individuals), and that the problem is rooted in our extremely limited working memory capacity. I’ve also talked about how ‘working memory’ is a bit of a misnomer, given that we probably have several ‘working...
October, 2012

Brain imaging points to the importance of cognitive control, mediated by the connectivity of one particular brain region, for fluid intelligence.

What underlies differences in fluid intelligence? How are smart brains different from those that are merely ‘average’? Brain imaging studies have pointed to several aspects. One is brain size. Although the history of simplistic comparisons of brain size has been turbulent (you cannot, for example, directly compare brain size without taking into account the size of the body it’s...
October, 2012

Two recent conference presentations add to the evidence for the benefits of ‘brain training’, and of mental stimulation, for holding back age-related cognitive decline.

My recent reports on brain training for older adults (see, e.g., Review of working memory training programs finds no broader benefit; Cognitive training shown to help healthy older adults; Video game training benefits cognition in some older adults) converge on the idea that cognitive training can indeed be beneficial for older adults’ cognition, but there’s little wider transfer...
September, 2012

Two recent studies comparing gene expression in the brains of human and other animals reveal a key protein for brain size and others for connectivity and regulation.

Genetic comparisons have pinpointed a specific protein as crucial for brain size, both between and within species. Another shows how genetic regulation in the frontal lobes distinguishes the human brain from that of closely related species, and points to two genes in particular as critical. The protein determining brain size Comparison of genome sequences from humans and other animals has...
September, 2012
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Recent posts at Mynd

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