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Response inhibition is essential for navigating everyday life. Its derailment is considered integral to numerous neurological and psychiatric disorders, and more generally, to a wide range of behavioral and health problems. Response-inhibition efficiency furthermore correlates with treatment outcome in some of these conditions. The stop-signal task is an essential tool to determine how quickly response inhibition is implemented. Despite its apparent simplicity, there are many features (ranging from task design to data analysis) that vary across studies in ways that can easily compromise the validity of the obtained results. Our goal is to facilitate a more accurate use of the stop-signal task. To this end, we provide 12 easy-to-implement consensus recommendations and point out the problems that can arise when they are not followed. Furthermore, we provide user-friendly open-source resources intended to inform statistical-power considerations, facilitate the correct implementation of the task, and assist in proper data analysis.
© 2019, Verbruggen et al.
Impairments in cognitive control-the ability to exert control over thoughts and actions and respond flexibly to the environment-are well-documented in schizophrenia. However, the degree to which experimental task performance reflects true cognitive control impairments or more general alterations in effort, arousal and/or task preparedness is unclear. Pupillary responses can provide insight into these latter factors, as the pupil dilates with degree of cognitive effort and response preparation. In the current study, 16 medicated outpatients with schizophrenia (SZP) and 18 healthy controls performed a task that measures the ability to reactively inhibit and modify a planned action-the double-step task. In this task, participants were required to make a saccade to a visual target. Infrequently, the target jumped to a new location and participants were instructed to rapidly inhibit and change their eye movement plan. Applying a race model of performance, we have previously shown that SZP require more time to inhibit a planned action. In the current analysis, we measured pupil dilation associated with task preparation and found that SZP had a shallower increase in pupil size prior to the onset of the trial. Additionally, reduced magnitude of the pupil response was associated with negative symptom severity in patients. Based on primate neurophysiology and cognitive neuroscience work, we suggest that this blunted pupillary response may reflect abnormalities in a general orienting response or reduced motivational significance of a cue signifying the onset of a preparatory period and that these abnormalities might share an autonomic basis with negative symptoms.
Copyright © 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
A primary challenge facing the development of interventions for dyslexia is identifying effective predictors of intervention response. While behavioral literature has identified core cognitive characteristics of response, the distinction of reading versus executive cognitive contributions to response profiles remains unclear, due in part to the difficulty of segregating these constructs using behavioral outputs. In the current study we used functional neuroimaging to piece apart the mechanisms of how/whether executive and reading network relationships are predictive of intervention response. We found that readers who are responsive to intervention have more typical pre-intervention functional interactions between executive and reading systems compared to nonresponsive readers. These findings suggest that intervention response in dyslexia is influenced not only by domain-specific reading regions, but also by contributions from intervening domain-general networks. Our results make a significant gain in identifying predictive bio-markers of outcomes in dyslexia, and have important implications for the development of personalized clinical interventions.
Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
BACKGROUND - Working memory (WM) is often assessed with serial order tests such as repeating digits backward. In prior dementia research using the Backward Digit Span Test (BDT), only aggregate test performance was examined.
OBJECTIVE - The current research tallied primacy/recency effects, out-of-sequence transposition errors, perseverations, and omissions to assess WM deficits in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
METHODS - Memory clinic patients (n = 66) were classified into three groups: single domain amnestic MCI (aMCI), combined mixed domain/dysexecutive MCI (mixed/dys MCI), and non-MCI where patients did not meet criteria for MCI. Serial order/WM ability was assessed by asking participants to repeat 7 trials of five digits backwards. Serial order position accuracy, transposition errors, perseverations, and omission errors were tallied.
RESULTS - A 3 (group)×5 (serial position) repeated measures ANOVA yielded a significant group×trial interaction. Follow-up analyses found attenuation of the recency effect for mixed/dys MCI patients. Mixed/dys MCI patients scored lower than non-MCI patients for serial position 3 (p < 0.003) serial position 4 (p < 0.002); and lower than both group for serial position 5 (recency; p < 0.002). Mixed/dys MCI patients also produced more transposition errors than both groups (p < 0.010); and more omissions (p < 0.020), and perseverations errors (p < 0.018) than non-MCI patients.
CONCLUSIONS - The attenuation of a recency effect using serial order parameters obtained from the BDT may provide a useful operational definition as well as additional diagnostic information regarding working memory deficits in MCI.
BACKGROUND - Executive cognitive functions, including working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibition, are impaired in schizophrenia. Executive functions rely on coordinated information processing between the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and thalamus, particularly the mediodorsal nucleus. This raises the possibility that anatomical connectivity between the PFC and mediodorsal thalamus may be 1) reduced in schizophrenia and 2) related to deficits in executive function. The current investigation tested these hypotheses.
METHODS - Forty-five healthy subjects and 62 patients with a schizophrenia spectrum disorder completed a battery of tests of executive function and underwent diffusion-weighted imaging. Probabilistic tractography was used to quantify anatomical connectivity between six cortical regions, including PFC, and the thalamus. Thalamocortical anatomical connectivity was compared between healthy subjects and patients with schizophrenia using region-of-interest and voxelwise approaches, and the association between PFC-thalamic anatomical connectivity and severity of executive function impairment was examined in patients.
RESULTS - Anatomical connectivity between the thalamus and PFC was reduced in schizophrenia. Voxelwise analysis localized the reduction to areas of the mediodorsal thalamus connected to lateral PFC. Reduced PFC-thalamic connectivity in schizophrenia correlated with impaired working memory but not cognitive flexibility and inhibition. In contrast to reduced PFC-thalamic connectivity, thalamic connectivity with somatosensory and occipital cortices was increased in schizophrenia.
CONCLUSIONS - The results are consistent with models implicating disrupted PFC-thalamic connectivity in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and mechanisms of cognitive impairment. PFC-thalamic anatomical connectivity may be an important target for procognitive interventions. Further work is needed to determine the implications of increased thalamic connectivity with sensory cortex.
Copyright © 2017 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Age-related changes in cognition are partially mediated by the presence of neuropathology and neurodegeneration. This manuscript evaluates the degree to which biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease, (AD) neuropathology and longitudinal changes in brain structure, account for age-related differences in cognition. Data from the AD Neuroimaging Initiative (n = 1012) were analyzed, including individuals with normal cognition and mild cognitive impairment. Parallel process mixed effects regression models characterized longitudinal trajectories of cognitive variables and time-varying changes in brain volumes. Baseline age was associated with both memory and executive function at baseline (p's < 0.001) and change in memory and executive function performances over time (p's < 0.05). After adjusting for clinical diagnosis, baseline, and longitudinal changes in brain volume, and baseline levels of cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers, age effects on change in episodic memory and executive function were fully attenuated, age effects on baseline memory were substantially attenuated, but an association remained between age and baseline executive function. Results support previous studies that show that age effects on cognitive decline are fully mediated by disease and neurodegeneration variables but also show domain-specific age effects on baseline cognition, specifically an age pathway to executive function that is independent of brain and disease pathways.
Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
OBJECTIVE - Late-life depression is associated with cognitive deficits and increased risk for cognitive decline. The purpose of the study was to determine whether clinical characteristics could serve as phenotypes informative of subsequent cognitive decline. Age at depression onset and antidepressant remission at 3 months (acute response) and 12 months (chronic response) were examined.
METHODS - In a longitudinal study of late-life depression in an academic center, 273 depressed and 164 never-depressed community-dwelling elders aged 60 years or older were followed on average for over 5 years. Participants completed annual neuropsychological testing. Neuropsychological measures were converted to z-scores derived from the baseline performance of all participants. Cognitive domain scores at each time were then created by averaging z-scores across tests, grouped into domains of episodic memory, attention-working memory, verbal fluency, and executive function.
RESULTS - Depressed participants exhibited poorer performance at baseline and greater subsequent decline in all domains. Early-onset depressed individuals exhibited a greater decline in all domains than late-onset or nondepressed groups. For remission, remitters and nonremitters at both 3 and 12 month exhibited greater decline in episodic memory and attention-working memory than nondepressed subjects. Three-month remitters also exhibited a greater decline in verbal fluency and executive function, whereas 12-month nonremitters exhibited greater decline in executive function than other groups.
CONCLUSION - Consistent with past studies, depressed elders exhibit greater cognitive decline than nondepressed subjects, particularly individuals with early depression onset, supporting the theory that repeated depressive episodes may contribute to decline. Clinical remission is not associated with less cognitive decline.
Published by Elsevier Inc.
Objective - Impairments in executive function (EF) skills have been observed in youth with type 1 diabetes (T1D), and these skills are critical for following the complex treatment regimen. This study examines parent reports of EF in relation to measures of adherence, glycemic control (A1c), and psychosocial outcomes (depression and quality of life) in adolescents with T1D. A total of 120 adolescents (aged 13-17 years, 52.5% female, 87.5% White) with T1D and their parents completed questionnaires. Glucometers were downloaded and A1c was obtained during clinical visits at the time of enrollment. The prevalence of clinically significant elevated scores on specific EF skills ranged from 11 to 18.6%. In multivariate analyses, parent-reported EF deficits were associated with poorer adherence and lower quality of life, explaining 13 and 12% of the variance, respectively. Adolescents with T1D exhibit specific EF deficits that may negatively impact their quality of life and their ability to engage in self-management activities.
© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society of Pediatric Psychology. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
BACKGROUND - Childhood early life stress (ELS) increases risk of adulthood major depressive disorder (MDD) and is associated with altered brain structure and function. It is unclear whether specific ELSs affect depression risk, cognitive function and brain structure.
METHOD - This cross-sectional study included 64 antidepressant-free depressed and 65 never-depressed individuals. Both groups reported a range of ELSs on the Early Life Stress Questionnaire, completed neuropsychological testing and 3T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Neuropsychological testing assessed domains of episodic memory, working memory, processing speed and executive function. MRI measures included cortical thickness and regional gray matter volumes, with a priori focus on the cingulate cortex, orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), amygdala, caudate and hippocampus.
RESULTS - Of 19 ELSs, only emotional abuse, sexual abuse and severe family conflict independently predicted adulthood MDD diagnosis. The effect of total ELS score differed between groups. Greater ELS exposure was associated with slower processing speed and smaller OFC volumes in depressed subjects, but faster speed and larger volumes in non-depressed subjects. In contrast, exposure to ELSs predictive of depression had similar effects in both diagnostic groups. Individuals reporting predictive ELSs exhibited poorer processing speed and working memory performance, smaller volumes of the lateral OFC and caudate, and decreased cortical thickness in multiple areas including the insula bilaterally. Predictive ELS exposure was also associated with smaller left hippocampal volume in depressed subjects.
CONCLUSIONS - Findings suggest an association between childhood trauma exposure and adulthood cognitive function and brain structure. These relationships appear to differ between individuals who do and do not develop depression.
An estimated 25-60% of adults with sickle cell disease (SCD) are unemployed. Factors contributing to the high unemployment rate in this population are not well studied. With the known risk of cognitive deficits associated with SCD, we tested the hypothesis that unemployment is related to decrements in intellectual functioning. We conducted a retrospective chart review of 50 adults with sickle cell anemia who completed cognitive testing, including the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-IV, as part of standard care. Employment status was recorded at the time of testing. Medical variables examined as possible risk factors for unemployment included disease phenotype, cerebral infarction, and pain frequency. The mean age of the sample was 30.7 years (range = 19-59); 56% were women. Almost half of the cohort (44%) were unemployed. In a multivariate logistic regression model, lower IQ scores (odds ratio = 0.88; p = .002, 95% confidence interval, CI [0.82, 0.96]) and lower educational attainment (odds ratio = 0.13; p = .012, 95% CI [0.03, 0.65]) were associated with increasing odds of unemployment. The results suggest that cognitive impairment in adults with sickle cell anemia may contribute to the risk of unemployment. Helping these individuals access vocational rehabilitation services may be an important component of multidisciplinary care.