Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Developmental Neuropsychology

Brain development of very preterm and very low-birthweight children in childhood and adolescence: A meta-analysis
Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology. 2012 Jan 28;
de Kieviet JF, Zoetebier L, van Elburg RM, Vermeulen RJ, Oosterlaan J


Aim  The aim of this article was to clarify the impact and consequences of very preterm birth (born <32wks of gestation) and/or very low birthweight ([VLBW], weighing <1500g) on brain volume development throughout childhood and adolescence. Method  The computerized databases PubMed, Web of Knowledge, and EMBASE were searched for studies that reported volumetric outcomes during childhood or adolescence using magnetic resonance imaging and included a term-born comparison group. Fifteen studies were identified, encompassing 818 very preterm/VLBW children and 450 term-born peers. Average reductions in the total brain volume, white matter volume, grey matter volume, and in the size of the cerebellum, hippocampus, and corpus callosum were investigated using meta-analytic methods. Results  Very preterm/VLBW children were found to have a significantly smaller total brain volume than the comparison group (d=-0.58; 95% confidence interval [CI] -0.43 to -0.73; p<0.001), smaller white matter volume (d=-0.53; CI -0.40 to -0.67; p<0.001), smaller grey matter volume (d=-0.62; CI -0.48 to -0.76; p<0.001), smaller cerebellum (d=-0.74; CI -0.56 to -0.92; p<0.001), smaller hippocampus (d=-0.47; CI -0.26 to -0.69; p<0.001), and smaller corpus callosum (d=-0.71; CI -0.34 to -1.07; p<0.001). Reductions have been associated with decreased general cognitive functioning, and no relations with age at assessment were found. Interpretation  Very preterm/VLBW birth is associated with an overall reduction in brain volume, which becomes evident in equally sized reductions in white and grey matter volumes, as well as in volumes of diverse brain structures throughout childhood and adolescence.

PMID: 22283622 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Monday, January 30, 2012

Continuing-Education Program About Memory Functioning

I begin work this week drafting the structure of a multi-hour continuing-education (CE) program that I will be teaching several months from now on the topic of memory functioning for clinicians and clinical researchers.

I will be presenting an overview to current clinical and research findings about normal memory, memory problems in certain clinical conditions, the neurodegenerative diseases, and an overview to efforts to assess the effectiveness of trying to enhance memory and trying to prevent or slow memory decline.

If you were to attend a program like this, what would you like to hear about?

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Parkinson's and Anosmia

Odor identification deficits identify Parkinson's disease patients with poor cognitive performance
Movement Disorders. 2011 Sep;26(11):2045-50
Damholdt MF, Borghammer P, Larsen L, Ostergaard K


Olfactory dysfunction is a prodromal and prevalent nonmotor symptom of Parkinson's disease. Unlike olfactory dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease, it is believed to be unrelated to cognitive impairment. However, recent research has implicated cholinergic denervation in Parkinson's disease hyposmia and linked it to verbal memory. This research hypothesized that severe odor identification deficits may identify patients with Parkinson's disease at risk for cognitive impairment. The current study tested this hypothesis by comparing 24 functionally anosmic, nondemented patients with Parkinson's disease and 39 nonanosmic, nondemented patients with Parkinson's disease with 29 healthy control participants on composite scores of memory, processing speed, executive function, and language. The functionally anosmic group had significantly poorer visual and verbal memory than the nonanosmic group, which was indistinguishable from the control group. Furthermore, the functionally anosmic group had reduced processing speed compared with the nonanosmic patients with Parkinson's disease, who, in turn, were outperformed by the control group. On the composite language score, the score of the functionally anosmic group was significantly reduced compared with that of the control group, whereas the nonanosmic group scored in the medium range. The 2 patient groups did not differ on executive functioning. These findings demonstrate co-occurrence between reduced cognitive function and olfactory deficits in functionally anosmic patients with Parkinson's disease and support the notion of more severe cognitive deficits in this group.

PMID: 21638326 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


From The Independent:

Switzerland's 'Dementiaville' designed to mirror the past
Plan to build 1950s-style village for Alzheimer's sufferers divides geriatric-care experts

"Its detractors may end up dubbing it "Dementiaville", but Switzerland is brushing aside a debate raging among geriatric-care experts with plans to build a mock-1950s village catering exclusively for elderly sufferers of Alzheimer's and other debilitating mental illnesses."

Read the full article

The Game Brain: "Anti-Aging" Games

From The New Yorker:

by John Seabrook
30 January 2012 issue

Read the full piece

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Brain Awareness Week (BAW, #BrainWeek)

From the Dana Foundation Blog:

Gearing Up for Brain Awareness Week
20 January 2012

"Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is less than two months away (March 12–18) and here at the Dana Foundation we are excited...Remember, the Dana Foundation and the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (DABI) are here to help. If you register your organization with DABI and become a BAW partner at, you’ll get access to free BAW materials. Each year hundreds of BAW partners from Texas to Morocco register events with DABI and receive fun and valuable materials and resources for free."

Read the full blog entry

Hashtag it at #BrainWeek

FDA: progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) and Tysabri (natalizumab)

From the FDA:

FDA permits marketing of first test for risk of rare brain infection in some people treated with Tysabri
For Immediate Release: January 20, 2012

"Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed marketing of the first test to help determine the risk for a rare brain infection called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) in people using the drug Tysabri (natalizumab) to treat multiple sclerosis (MS) or Crohn’s disease (CD).

"The Stratify JCV Antibody ELISA test, when used with other clinical data from the patient, can help health care providers determine the risk for developing PML in MS and CD patients."
Read the full press release

Alzheimer's: A Caregiver's Classic, Updated

This blog post from the New York Times discusses "The 36-hour Day":

The Caregivers’ Bookshelf: An Alzheimer’s Classic
The New Old Age Blog
The New York Times
by Paula Span
January 20, 2012, 2:27 PM

Read the full blog entry

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Preventing Cognitive Decline

Exergaming and older adult cognition a cluster randomized clinical trial
Am J Prev Med. 2012 Feb;42(2):109-19
Anderson-Hanley C, Arciero PJ, Brickman AM, Nimon JP, Okuma N, Westen SC, Merz ME, Pence BD, Woods JA, Kramer AF, Zimmerman EA


BACKGROUND: Dementia cases may reach 100 million by 2050. Interventions are sought to curb or prevent cognitive decline. Exercise yields cognitive benefits, but few older adults exercise. Virtual reality-enhanced exercise or "exergames" may elicit greater participation.

PURPOSE: To test the following hypotheses: (1) stationary cycling with virtual reality tours ("cybercycle") will enhance executive function and clinical status more than traditional exercise; (2) exercise effort will explain improvement; and (3) brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor (BDNF) will increase.

DESIGN: Multi-site cluster randomized clinical trial (RCT) of the impact of 3 months of cybercycling versus traditional exercise, on cognitive function in older adults. Data were collected in 2008-2010; analyses were conducted in 2010-2011.

SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: 102 older adults from eight retirement communities enrolled; 79 were randomized and 63 completed.

INTERVENTIONS: A recumbent stationary ergometer was utilized; virtual reality tours and competitors were enabled on the cybercycle.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Executive function (Color Trails Difference, Stroop C, Digits Backward); clinical status (mild cognitive impairment; MCI); exercise effort/fitness; and plasma BDNF.

RESULTS: Intent-to-treat analyses, controlling for age, education, and cluster randomization, revealed a significant group X time interaction for composite executive function (p=0.002). Cybercycling yielded a medium effect over traditional exercise (d=0.50). Cybercyclists had a 23% relative risk reduction in clinical progression to MCI. Exercise effort and fitness were comparable, suggesting another underlying mechanism. A significant group X time interaction for BDNF (p=0.05) indicated enhanced neuroplasticity among cybercyclists.

CONCLUSIONS: Cybercycling older adults achieved better cognitive function than traditional exercisers, for the same effort, suggesting that simultaneous cognitive and physical exercise has greater potential for preventing cognitive decline.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: This study is registered at Clinicaltrials.govNCT01167400.

PMID: 22261206 [PubMed - in process]

Friday, January 20, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Cognitive Rehabilitation

Errorless learning in cognitive rehabilitation: A critical review
Neuropsychological Rehabilatation. 2012 Jan 16;
Middleton EL, Schwartz MF


Cognitive rehabilitation research is increasingly exploring errorless learning interventions, which prioritise the avoidance of errors during treatment. The errorless learning approach was originally developed for patients with severe anterograde amnesia, who were deemed to be at particular risk for error learning. Errorless learning has since been investigated in other memory-impaired populations (e.g., Alzheimer's disease) and acquired aphasia. In typical errorless training, target information is presented to the participant for study or immediate reproduction, a method that prevents participants from attempting to retrieve target information from long-term memory (i.e., retrieval practice). However, assuring error elimination by preventing difficult (and error-permitting) retrieval practice is a potential major drawback of the errorless approach. This review begins with discussion of research in the psychology of learning and memory that demonstrates the importance of difficult (and potentially errorful) retrieval practice for robust learning and prolonged performance gains. We then review treatment research comparing errorless and errorful methods in amnesia and aphasia, where only the latter provides (difficult) retrieval practice opportunities. In each clinical domain we find the advantage of the errorless approach is limited and may be offset by the therapeutic potential of retrieval practice. Gaps in current knowledge are identified that preclude strong conclusions regarding a preference for errorless treatments over methods that prioritise difficult retrieval practice. We offer recommendations for future research aimed at a strong test of errorless learning treatments, which involves direct comparison with methods where retrieval practice effects are maximised for long-term gains.

PMID: 22247957 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Assessment

This looks like a great contribution. I am looking forward to reading it.

Age group and sex differences in performance on a computerized neurocognitive battery in children age 8-21
Neuropsychology. 2012 Jan 16;
Gur RC, Richard J, Calkins ME, Chiavacci R, Hansen JA, Bilker WB, Loughead J, Connolly JJ, Qiu H, Mentch FD, Abou-Sleiman PM, Hakonarson H, Gur RE


Objective: Examine age group effects and sex differences by applying a comprehensive computerized battery of identical behavioral measures linked to brain systems in youths that were already genotyped. Such information is needed to incorporate behavioral data as neuropsychological "biomarkers" in large-scale genomic studies. Method: We developed and applied a brief computerized neurocognitive battery that provides measures of performance accuracy and response time for executive-control, episodic memory, complex cognition, social cognition, and sensorimotor speed domains. We tested a population-based sample of 3,500 genotyped youths ages 8-21 years. Results: Substantial improvement with age occurred for both accuracy and speed, but the rates varied by domain. The most pronounced improvement was noted in executive control functions, specifically attention, and in motor speed, with some effect sizes exceeding 1.8 standard deviation units. The least pronounced age group effect was in memory, where only face memory showed a large effect size on improved accuracy. Sex differences had much smaller effect sizes but were evident, with females outperforming males on attention, word and face memory, reasoning speed, and all social cognition tests and males outperforming females in spatial processing and sensorimotor and motor speed. These sex differences in most domains were seen already at the youngest age groups, and age group × sex interactions indicated divergence at the oldest groups with females becoming faster but less accurate than males. Conclusions: The results indicate that cognitive performance improves substantially in this age span, with large effect sizes that differ by domain. The more pronounced improvement for executive and reasoning domains than for memory suggests that memory capacities have reached their apex before age 8. Performance was sexually modulated and most sex differences were apparent by early adolescence. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).

PMID: 22251308 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Concussion in Sport

From the CBC:

Concussion prevention effort features mobile app
Four sports organizations partner with government on new education programs
CBC News
Posted: Jan 19, 2012 11:27 AM ET Last Updated: Jan 19, 2012 3:19 PM ET

Four sports organizations will receive $1.5 million in federal funding for new education programs designed to reduce concussions and other brain injuries in children and youth who play team sports.

The Public Health Agency of Canada's "Active and Safe" program is supporting a joint project of ThinkFirst Canada, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, the Coaching Association of Canada, and Hockey Canada to help coachers, trainers, parents, and athletes recognize and prevent serious brain injuries.

In announcing the funding in Ottawa Thursday, Minister of State for Amateur Sport Bal Gosal noted that an estimated 90 per cent of severe brain injuries were preventable if parents, coaches and the kids themselves knew more about the risks.

"We can't eliminate all injuries," Gosal said, "but we want to help parents and coaches predict the predictable and prevent what is preventable."
Read full article

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Assessment

N-backer: An auditory n-back task with automatic scoring of spoken responses
Behav Res Methods. 2011 Sep;43(3):888-96
Monk AF, Jackson D, Nielsen D, Jefferies E, Olivier P


The n-back task is commonly used to load working memory (WM) in dual-task and neuroimaging experiments. However, it typically involves visual presentation and buttonpress responses, making it unsuitable for combination with primary tasks that involve vision and action, such as sequential object use and other tasks of daily living. The N-backer software presented here will automatically present and score auditory-verbal n-back sequences utilising the standard speech synthesis and recognition facilities that come with Microsoft Windows. Data are presented from an experiment in which 12 student participants carried out three tasks from the Naturalistic Action Test (NAT) while their attention was divided between the primary task and a continuous auditory-verbal 2-back secondary task. The participants' 2-back performance was scored in two ways: by hand, from video recordings, and automatically, using the software, allowing us to evaluate the accuracy of N-backer. There was an extremely high correlation between these scores (.933). The videos were also used to obtain a comprehensive error score for the NAT. Significantly more errors were made in the more complex NAT tasks when participants were 2-backing, as compared with when they were not, showing that the auditory-verbal n-back task can be used to disrupt sequential object use. This dual-task method may simulate the attentional deficits of patients with brain injury, providing insights into the difficulties they face in tasks of daily living.

PMID: 21424186 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Learning Disabilities

A press release from the NIH:

NIH announces funding for new learning disabilities research centers
Centers in Boulder, Houston, Tallahassee, and Seattle
17 January 2012

"Funding for four centers to conduct research on the causes and treatment of learning disabilities in children and adolescents has been provided by the National Institutes of Health."

Read the full press release

Call for "Neurology Tsar"

From the Guardian:

NHS warned of 'neurology timebomb'
Call for 'neurology tsar' as growing numbers are diagnosed with Parkinson's, motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis
The Guardian
Tuesday 17 January 2012

Read full article

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Just Trial and Error" Art and Neuroscience Take on Consciousness

Brainwave 2012

Thank you Dana Foundation Blog for posting about this series at the Rubin Museum of Art, the homepage for which follows:

Brainwave 2012

From the homepage:

"Now in its fifth year, Brainwave brings people from diverse walks of life together to engage with neuroscientists in one-on-one conversations in order to better understand the workings of our minds. Starting February 2012 we will focus on how memory is processed in the brain."

The Rubin is located in Chelsea (NYC). Information about the schedule and the museum are available on the homepage.

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Route Navigation and Route Knowledge

Landmark sequencing and route knowledge: An fMRI study
Cortex. 2011 Dec 16;
Nemmi F, Piras F, PĂ©ran P, Incoccia C, Sabatini U, Guariglia C


INTRODUCTION: The ability to navigate in a familiar environment mainly relies on route knowledge, that is, a mental representation of relevant locations along a way, sequenced according to a navigational goal. Despite the clear ecological validity of this issue, route navigation and route knowledge have been scarcely investigated and little is known about the neural and cognitive bases of this navigational strategy. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) we tested the validity of the predictions based on the main cognitive models of spatial knowledge acquisition about route-based navigation. METHODS: An order judgment task was used with two conditions (route and activity). Subjects were required to detect potential mismatches between a current sensory input and expectations deriving from route and activity knowledge. RESULTS: A medial occipto-temporal (e.g., lingual gyrus, calcarine cortex, fusiform gyrus, parahippocampal cortex) network was found activated during the route task, whereas a temporo-parietal (temporo-parietal junction) and frontal (e.g., Broca's area) network was related to the activity task. CONCLUSIONS: Functional data are congruent with cognitive models of route-based navigation. The route task activated areas related to both landmark identity and landmark order. Data are discussed in view of route-based navigation models.

PMID: 22225882 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Traumatic Brain Injury

From the Mind Hacks blog:

A Relationship Through Brain Injury

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Guardian/Observer Memory Week

The Guardian/Observer Memory Week
Read the article

"The free 'Making the Most of your Memory' 24-page booklets, are available with the Guardian this Saturday 14 January and the Observer on Sunday 15 January."

Friday, January 06, 2012

It's a Free Download: Today's News About Cognitive Decline

An open-access free download of the research paper upon which today's news in based:

Archana Singh-Manoux, Mika Kivimaki, M Maria Glymour, Alexis Elbaz, Claudine Berr, Klaus P Ebmeier, Jane E Ferrie, &
Aline Dugravot (2012). Timing of onset of cognitive decline: results from Whitehall II prospective cohort study. British Medical Journal.


Cognitive Decline

A report from the BBC:

Brain function can start declining 'as early as age 45'
5 January 2012
Last updated at 20:08 ET


"The brain's ability to function can start to deteriorate as early as 45, suggests a study in the British Medical Journal.

"University College London researchers found a 3.6% decline in mental reasoning in women and men aged 45-49.

"They assessed the memory, vocabulary and comprehension skills of 7,000 men and women aged 45 to 70 over 10 years."


Read the full article

Related report from the CBC:

Brain may start decline at age 45
Cognitive function may begin deteriorating earlier than previously believed
CBC News
Posted: Jan 5, 2012 6:45 PM ET Last Updated: Jan 6, 2012 7:14 AM ET


"Memory, reasoning and comprehension skills can start to decline at age 45, research published Thursday suggests.

"The findings go against previous research that had found cognitive decline starts after age 60 — and highlight the importance of a healthy lifestyle in protecting the brain from dementia, researchers say."


Read full article

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Aphasia and Communication

Rehabilitation targeted at everyday communication: can we change the talk of people with aphasia and their significant others within conversation?
Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilation. 2012 Jan;93(1 Suppl):S70-6
Wilkinson R, Wielaert S


OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether aphasia therapy can change the talk of speakers with aphasia and/or their significant others within conversation.

DESIGN: Small number of intervention studies targeting conversations involving speakers with aphasia are reviewed. All are single case studies.

SETTING: Key assessment in the studies was an audio or video recording of 1 or more conversations between the dyad, usually made in the home setting. Intervention in these studies took place in the participants' home or another setting, such as a therapy room.

PARTICIPANTS: In all of the studies reviewed, the participants consisted of a person with aphasia (PWA) and a significant other, usually the PWA's spouse.

INTERVENTIONS: In all studies, therapy took the form of a behavioral intervention involving the provision of feedback to the significant other and/or PWA on their conversational behaviors uncovered by a conversation analysis assessment. Handouts, transcripts, discussion, and video feedback were used. Suggestions to permit participants to cope better with the effects of aphasia within conversation were given, and opportunities for practicing these strategies within conversation were provided.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Postintervention, 1 or more conversations involving the PWA and significant other were recorded in the same manner as the preintervention. Conversations were analyzed in relation to changes in the behaviors targeted in intervention, such as those involved in topic initiation or repair of linguistic errors.

RESULTS: Each of the studies reviewed presented evidence that the talk of people with aphasia and/or their significant others can be changed in conversation. In some studies the evidence is primarily qualitative, in the form of observed changes to conversational behaviors postintervention. Some studies produce stronger evidence by combining qualitative and quantitative analyses of change.

CONCLUSIONS: There is evidence that intervention targeting conversations involving an aphasic speaker can achieve change. Future studies should move beyond single case designs, include more robust, quantifiable evidence of change, and provide evidence of maintenance of change.

PMID: 22202194 [PubMed - in process]

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Congratulations Dr. Trevor Robbins!

Cambridge University figures in New Year Honours list
The Cambridge Student Online
31 December 2011


"A CBE is awarded to another medical man, Professor Trevor Robbins, "for services to Medical Research". Professor Robbins is Head of the Department of Experimental Psychology, and Director of Cambridge University's Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute. His research interests focus on the brain systems relevant to neurological disorders such as Parkinson's and Huntington's disease. Professor Robbins is a Fellow of Downing College, and of the Royal Society."


Read full article