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Aptitude and language experience (i.e., multilingualism) are two individual differences that have attracted increasing interest in the field of second language acquisition. This chapter looks at the role that aptitude and multilingualism play on language learning under different pedagogical conditions, and specifically with different forms of feedback. Questions that we try to answer are: Do learners with high cognitive aptitudes and language experience benefit more from corrective feedback than those with low cognitive aptitudes and language experience? What cognitive aptitudes benefit learning when receiving implicit vs. explicit feedback? What type of feedback is effective regardless of learners’ cognitive aptitudes and language experience? Results from laboratory and classroom research with adult learners suggest that the effects of feedback on language development are constrained by a number of cognitive aptitudes such as linguistic analytic ability and rote memory. Multilingualism seems to provide young adults with an advantage under conditions that do not include metalinguistic information during provision of feedback. For learners over 65, however, learning appears to be negatively affected by what they perceive as an excess of information during practice, i.e., when feedback includes information about how the language works, but not when that information is presented prior to practice.
Cognitive impairments, which contribute to the profound functional deficits observed in psychotic disorders, have found to be associated with abnormalities in trial-level cognitive control. However, neural tasks operate within the context of sustained cognitive states, which can be assessed with ‘background connectivity’ following the removal of task effects. To date, little is known about the integrity of brain processes supporting the maintenance of a cognitive state in individuals with psychotic disorders. Thus, here we examine background connectivity during executive processing in a cohort of participants with first-episode psychosis (FEP).
The following fMRI study examined background connectivity of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), during working memory engagement in a group of 43 patients with FEP, relative to 35 healthy controls (HC). Findings were also examined in relation to measures of executive function.
The FEP group relative to HC showed significantly lower background DLPFC connectivity with bilateral superior parietal lobule (SPL) and left inferior parietal lobule. Background connectivity between DLPFC and SPL was also positively associated with overall cognition across all subjects and in our FEP group. In comparison, resting-state frontoparietal connectivity did not differ between groups and was not significantly associated with overall cognition, suggesting that psychosis-related alterations in executive networks only emerged during states of goal-oriented behavior.
These results provide novel evidence indicating while frontoparietal connectivity at rest appears intact in psychosis, when engaged during a cognitive state, it is impaired possibly undermining cognitive control capacities in FEP.
Reading difficulties are one of the most significant challenges for children with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). The aims of this study were to identify and categorize the types of reading impairments experienced by children with NF1 and to establish predictors of poor reading in this population.
Children aged 7–12 years with NF1 (n = 60) were compared with typically developing children (n = 36). Poor word readers with NF1 were classified according to impairment type (i.e., phonological, surface, mixed), and their reading subskills were compared. A hierarchical multiple regression was conducted to identify predictors of word reading.
Compared to controls, children with NF1 demonstrated significantly poorer literacy abilities. Of the 49 children with NF1 classified as poor readers, 20 (41%) were classified with phonological dyslexia, 24 (49%) with mixed dyslexia, and 5 (10%) fell outside classification categories. Children with mixed dyslexia displayed the most severe reading impairments. Stronger working memory, better receptive language, and fewer inattentive behaviors predicted better word reading skills.
The majority of children with NF1 experience deficits in key reading skills which are essential for them to become successful readers. Weaknesses in working memory, receptive language, and attention are associated with reading difficulties in children with NF1.
To allow identification of stimuli, sensory input is initially held briefly in sensory memory. It is then held in a short-term store (STS), where it can receive the additional processing required to form a permanent memory. The existence of separate short- and long-term stores is supported by research on amnesia, demonstrating that brain damage can affect one but not the other. Forgetting in STS may be caused by decay, and by interference from other memories. STS can hold information retrieved from long-term memory when required for activities such as reading; to reflect this, it is now called working memory. Baddeley proposed that working memory has 3 components: the phonological loop, visuo-spatial sketch pad, and central executive. Consolidation theory suggests that the formation of a permanent memory requires time for the strengthening of synaptic connections; there also appears to be a consolidation process that can occur over years. We cannot attend to all the stimuli that seek entry into working memory; change blindness provides a striking example. Some theories suggest that selection occurs early in processing, others that attention can be allocated flexibly after stimuli have been identified. With practice, processing can become automatic, so that stimuli no longer require attention.
Working memory and perceptual attention are related functions, engaging many similar mechanisms and brain regions. As a consequence, behavioral and neural measures often reveal competition between working memory and attention demands. Yet there remains widespread debate about how working memory operates, and whether it truly shares processes and representations with attention. This Element will examine local-level representational properties to illuminate the storage format of working memory content, as well as systems-level and brain network communication properties to illuminate the attentional processes that control working memory. The Element will integrate both cognitive and neuroscientific accounts, describing shared substrates for working memory and perceptual attention, in a multi-level network architecture that provides robustness to disruptions and allows flexible attentional control in line with goals.
Although bilinguals benefit from semantic context while perceiving speech-in-noise in their native language (L1), the extent to which bilinguals benefit from semantic context in their second language (L2) is unclear. Here, 57 highly proficient English–French/French–English bilinguals, who varied in L2 age of acquisition, performed a speech-perception-in-noise task in both languages while event-related brain potentials were recorded. Participants listened to and repeated the final word of sentences high or low in semantic constraint, in quiet and with a multi-talker babble mask. Overall, our findings indicate that bilinguals do benefit from semantic context while perceiving speech-in-noise in both their languages. Simultaneous bilinguals showed evidence of processing semantic context similarly to monolinguals. Early sequential bilinguals recruited additional neural resources, suggesting more effective use of semantic context in L2, compared to late bilinguals. Semantic context use was not associated with bilingual language experience or working memory.
Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are child-onset neurodevelopmental disorders frequently accompanied by cognitive difficulties. In the current study, we aim to examine the genetic overlap between ADHD and ASD and cognitive measures of working memory (WM) and attention performance among schoolchildren using a polygenic risk approach.
A total of 1667 children from a population-based cohort aged 7–11 years with data available on genetics and cognition were included in the analyses. Polygenic risk scores (PRS) were calculated for ADHD and ASD using results from the largest GWAS to date (N = 55 374 and N = 46 351, respectively). The cognitive outcomes included verbal and numerical WM and the standard error of hit reaction time (HRTSE) as a measure of attention performance. These outcomes were repeatedly assessed over 1-year period using computerized version of the Attention Network Test and n-back task. Associations were estimated using linear mixed-effects models.
Higher polygenic risk for ADHD was associated with lower WM performance at baseline time but not over time. These findings remained significant after adjusting by multiple testing and excluding individuals with an ADHD diagnosis but were limited to boys. PRS for ASD was only nominally associated with an increased improvement on verbal WM over time, although this association did not survive multiple testing correction. No associations were observed for HRTSE.
Common genetic variants related to ADHD may contribute to worse WM performance among schoolchildren from the general population but not to the subsequent cognitive-developmental trajectory assessed over 1-year period.
This study investigates how working memory (WM) abilities are implicated in second language (L2) learners’ (a) morphosyntactic achievement and (b) perceptions of required mental effort and task difficulty under oral versus written task modality conditions. Beginning-level learners of L2 Spanish completed two computerized focused tasks in which they produced output and received feedback in oral form (Speaking group) or written form (Writing group). Two grammatical structures varying in their relative level of salience were targeted. After each task, participants rated their perceptions of mental effort required and task difficulty. Production and written and aural acceptability judgment tasks were employed to measure immediate and sustained L2 morphosyntactic achievement. Executive, phonological, and visuospatial WM abilities were gauged using automated operation span, nonword recognition, and forward Corsi block-tapping tasks, respectively. Regression analyses revealed that WM capacity was predictive of L2 morphosyntactic outcomes and task perception ratings in the Speaking group only. Specifically, phonological and visuospatial WM were associated with production and acceptability judgment performance accuracy, whereas executive WM was related to learners’ ratings of perceived mental effort. Differences were also observed based on the target structure.
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is associated with cognitive deficits but little is known to what degree this is caused by genetically influenced traits, i.e. endophenotypes, present before the onset of the disorder. The aim of the current study was to investigate to what degree family history (FH) of AUD is associated with cognitive functions.
Case-control cross-sectional study at an outpatient addiction research clinic. Treatment-seeking AUD patients (n = 106) were compared to healthy controls (HC; n = 90), matched for age and sex. The HC group was further subdivided into AUD FH positive (FH+; n = 47) or negative (FH−; n = 39) based on the Family Tree Questionnaire. Participants underwent psychiatric and substance use assessments, completed the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale and performed a comprehensive battery of neuropsychological tests assessing response inhibition, decision making, attention, working memory, and emotional recognition.
Compared to HC, AUD patients exhibited elevated self-rated impulsivity (p < 0.001; d = 0.62), as well as significantly poorer response inhibition (p = 0.001; d = 0.51), attention (p = 0.021; d = 0.38) and information gathering in decision making (p = 0.073; d = 0.34). Similar to AUD patients, FH+ individuals exhibited elevated self-rated impulsivity (p = 0.096; d = 0.46), and in addition significantly worse future planning capacity (p < 0.001; d = 0.76) and prolonged emotional recognition response time (p = 0.010; d = 0.60) compared to FH−, while no other significant differences were found between FH+ and FH−.
Elevated impulsivity, poor performance in future planning and emotional processing speed may be potential cognitive endophenotypes in AUD. These cognitive domains represent putative targets for prevention strategies and treatment of AUD.
Executive function (EF) difficulties are commonly found in youth with intellectual disability (ID). Given mixed results from studies using performance-based EF measures, the EF profile has not been well characterized for this population. No published work has examined the clinical utility of the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function, Second Edition (BRIEF2) in distinguishing EF in ID. We hypothesized that the BRIEF2 would show greater elevations in youth with ID compared to the Average IQ comparison group.
Participants included a large sample of 504 youth (157 in ID group; aged 8–18 years) referred for (neuro)psychological evaluation (2015–2019) and identified as meeting criteria for either ID or Average IQ comparison group.
Significant elevations were found across BRIEF2 indices and scales. Only mild elevations were noted in selective cognitive regulation scales within the Average IQ group. Groups differed significantly across all EF dimensions, with greater differences observed in behavioral regulation (Self-Monitoring, Inhibition), Shift, and Working Memory. An elevated but less variable pattern of index scores was noted in ID, while the overall pattern of scaled scores appeared similar between groups.
The less variable and consistently elevated profile may suggest fewer EF dimensions in individuals with ID than the model proposed in the test manual. Similar profiles between groups may reflect differences in severity, rather than differences in constructs measured by the EF factors, per se. Additional examination is needed to confirm potential structural differences in EF for youth with ID as measured by BRIEF2, with a clinical implication for greater efficiency of EF assessment in this population.
Despite the increasing attention paid to the role of working memory in reading, findings and measurement of working memory have been inconsistent. The current meta-analysis aims to provide a quantitative description of the overall relationship between second language (L2) reading comprehension and working memory measured through reading span task and identify methodological features that moderate this relationship. Following a comprehensive search, 25 primary studies (23 peer-reviewed studies and 2 dissertations) were included comprising 37 unique samples (N = 2,682), all of which were coded for substantive and methodological features. The results showed that (a) there is a moderate relationship between L2 reading comprehension and working memory (r = .30), (b) reading span task features such as the scoring procedure, task language, and final word recall order moderate this relationship, and (c) the degree to which working memory’s involvement in L2 reading comprehension may vary depending on the type of reading tasks at hand. Implications are discussed in terms of conceptualization and measurement of working memory. Future directions are also offered in relation to measurement practices to encourage consistency and to improve our understanding of the link between working memory and L2 reading comprehension.
This applied experimental research tested the effectiveness of a universal, student-focused intervention (‘Memory Mates’), specifically focused on supporting students to use attention and working memory strategies within academic contexts, unlike computer-based programs. Memory Mates is presented in the form of icons and explanations, with the strategies embedded within the classroom. Analyses compared the impact of the intervention over 8 months in three schools with three control schools, comprising 13 Year 4 primary school classes. The intervention group students showed a significant improvement in mathematics and spelling; however, there was no differential effect on reading comprehension or academic engagement. Based on the present results, it is contended that implementing Memory Mates within classroom contexts demonstrated promising potential as a new approach to supporting academic progress.
Inhibitory theory proposes three major functions that are required to control overactivation in response to cues in the environment and thought. Evidence suggests that each function, Access, Deletion, and Restraint, is reduced in efficiency in healthy older adults. These reductions can together account for slowing, reduced working memory capacity, and increased susceptibility to interference at retrieval – all memory phenomena associated with aging. These reductions also result in greater knowledge of the context in which events occur as well as in greater usage of that information. Opportunities for positive interventions tied to these inefficiencies are also noted.
The majority of the world’s population is believed to speak more than one language. Moreover, given current demographic trends, older adults make up a significant portion of our population. In this chapter, we review what is known about the intersection between cognitive aging and language processing in one’s first and second language. We review current research findings concerning speech and language processing in older bilinguals at the level of words, sentences, and discourse. We review the implications of being bilingual for nonlinguistic cognitive functions and cognitive reserve. We close by highlighting the need for models of auditory and visual language processing to accommodate age-related changes in sensation, perception and cognition, and to account for important individual differences in language history and use.
Much of the extant work in the cognitive neurosciences of aging has focused on identifying the neural correlates of age-related declines in episodic memory and working memory. This chapter reviews evidence from human studies that speaks to the hypothesis that age-related dysfunctions in specific neurotransmitter systems play a critical role in cognitive decline. Based in large part on results from functional neuroimaging studies including positron emission tomography (PET) and pharmacological functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we conclude that there is emerging evidence that dysfunctions in the dopamine, noradrenaline, and cholinergic systems play a critical role in age-related cognitive decline of working memory and episodic memory. These conclusions are important and encourage further study in order to tailor interventions that preserve cognitive functions in older age via augmentation of neurotransmitter functions.
Cognitive functions are highly heritable and polygenic, determined by many different genes. This chapter summarizes current knowledge regarding the genetic basis of cognitive abilities based on evidence from twin studies and behavioral genetic studies, focusing on single genes or polygenic scores. Given the focus of this book on aging, we also highlight differences of genetic influences on cognition across the adult life span, which contribute to the large interindividual differences in the decline of cognition in old age. In addition, we discuss the complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors in influencing cognition in adulthood and aging. Here, we focus on gene-environment interactions, gene-environment correlations, and epigenetic mechanisms, which likely account for some of the differential patterns in cognitive aging trajectories.
Executive dysfunction is one of the main cognitive theories of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Despite evidence of deficits in executive functions in individuals with ASD, little is known about executive dysfunctions as candidate cognitive endophenotypes for ASD. In this study, we investigated executive functions in youths with ASD, their unaffected siblings and typically developing controls (TDC).
We recruited 240 youths with a clinical diagnosis of ASD (aged 6–18 years), 147 unaffected siblings of ASD youths, and 240 TDC youths. TDC youths were recruited based on the age and sex distribution of the ASD youths. Participants were assessed using the verbal Digit Span test and four executive function tasks from the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery, including Intra-dimensional/Extra-dimensional Shift (I/ED), Spatial Span (SSP), Spatial Working Memory (SWM), and Stocking of Cambridge (SoC).
ASD youths, relative to TDC, performed significantly worse in executive function tasks assessing verbal working memory (forward and backward digit span), set-shifting (I/ED), visuospatial working memory (SSP, SWM), and planning/problem solving (SoC). Furthermore, unaffected siblings, relative to TDC, performed worse in forward and backward digit recalls and made more errors in SWM. These results were independent of the effects of age, sex, IQ, and symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Our findings support impaired executive functions in youths with ASD. However, unaffected siblings were mostly unimpaired except in the areas of verbal and spatial working memory, which may be potential cognitive endophenotypes for ASD.
Chapter 10 outlines affective, cognitive, and social dimensions of individual differences in language learning and discusses language teachers’ insufficient expertise to match instruction to these differences. This outline is followed by a report on the findings from a small-scale study that explored teachers’ perceptions and use of individual learner differences in their classes.
Right cerebellar-left frontal (RC-LF) white matter integrity (WMI) has been associated with working memory. However, prior studies have employed measures of working memory that include processing speed and attention. We examined the relationships between the RC-LF WMI and processing speed, attention, and working memory to clarify the relationship of RC-LF WMI with a specific cognitive function. Right superior longitudinal fasciculus II (SLF II) WMI and visual attention were included as a negative control tract and task to demonstrate a double dissociation.
Adult survivors of childhood brain tumors [n = 29, age: M = 22 years (SD = 5), 45% female] and demographically matched controls were recruited (n = 29). Tests of auditory attention span, working memory, and visual attention served as cognitive measures. Participants completed a 3-T MRI diffusion-weighted imaging scan. Fractional anisotropy (FA) and radial diffusivity (RD) served as WMI measures. Partial correlations between WMI and cognitive scores included controlling for type of treatment.
A correlational double dissociation was found. RC-LF WMI was associated with auditory attention (FA: r = .42, p = .03; RD: r = −.50, p = .01) and was not associated with visual attention (FA: r = −.11, p = .59; RD: r = −.11, p = .57). SLF II FA WMI was associated with visual attention (FA: r = .44, p = .02; RD: r = −.17, p = .40) and was not associated with auditory attention (FA: r = .24, p = .22; RD: r = −.10, p = .62).
The results show that RC-LF WMI is associated with auditory attention span rather than working memory per se and provides evidence for a specificity based on the correlational double dissociation.
I suggest that the phenomenon of conceptual metaphor is simultaneously offline and online. In the course of using conceptual metaphors offline conceptual structures in long-term memory (image schemas, domains, and frames) are put to cognitive work online in mental spaces in working memory. This view enables us to take into account a variety of metaphor-related mental activities that speakers engage in at this level. These include getting primed to use particular metaphors by context, giving metaphorical expressions specific socio-pragmatic functions, creating novel metaphors, using metaphors deliberately, mixing metaphors, and blending.