Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain science Unit

Cambridge, United Kingdom

Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain science Unit

Cambridge, United Kingdom

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Schweizer S.,Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain science Unit | Hampshire A.,University of Western Ontario | Dalgleish T.,Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain science Unit
PLoS ONE | Year: 2011

So-called 'brain-training' programs are a huge commercial success. However, empirical evidence regarding their effectiveness and generalizability remains equivocal. This study investigated whether brain-training (working memory [WM] training) improves cognitive functions beyond the training task (transfer effects), especially regarding the control of emotional material since it constitutes much of the information we process daily. Forty-five participants received WM training using either emotional or neutral material, or an undemanding control task. WM training, regardless of training material, led to transfer gains on another WM task and in fluid intelligence. However, only brain-training with emotional material yielded transferable gains to improved control over affective information on an emotional Stroop task. The data support the reality of transferable benefits of demanding WM training and suggest that transferable gains across to affective contexts require training with material congruent to those contexts. These findings constitute preliminary evidence that intensive cognitively demanding brain-training can improve not only our abstract problem-solving capacity, but also ameliorate cognitive control processes (e.g. decision-making) in our daily emotive environments. © 2011 Schweizer et al.


Kriegeskorte N.,Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain science Unit | Diedrichsen J.,University of Western Ontario
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2016

High-resolution functional imaging is providing increasingly rich measurements of brain activity in animals and humans.A major challenge is to leverage such data to gain insight into the brain’s computational mechanisms.The first step is to define candidate brain-computational models (BCMs) that can perform the behavioural task in question.We would then like to infer which of the candidate BCMs best accounts for measured brain-activity data.Here we describe a method that complements each BCM by a measurement model (MM), which simulates the way the brain-activity measurements reflect neuronal activity (e.g.local averaging in functionalmagnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) voxels or sparse sampling in array recordings).The resulting generative model (BCM-MM) produces simulated measurements.To avoid having to fit the MM to predict each individual measurement channel of the brain-activity data,we compare themeasured and predicted data at the level of summary statistics.We describe a novel particular implementation of this approach, called probabilistic representational similarity analysis (pRSA) with MMs, which uses representational dissimilarity matrices (RDMs) as the summary statistics.We validate this method by simulations of fMRI measurements (locally averaging voxels) based on a deep convolutional neural network for visual object recognition.Results indicate that theway the measurements sample the activity patterns strongly affects the apparent representational dissimilarities.However, modelling of the measurement process can account for these effects, and different BCMs remain distinguishable even under substantial noise.The pRSA method enables us to perform Bayesian inference on the set of BCMs and to recognize the data-generating model in each case. © 2016 The Author(s).


Wass S.V.,Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain science Unit | Forssman L.,University of Tampere | Leppanen J.,University of Tampere
Infancy | Year: 2014

In recent years, eye-tracking has become a popular method for drawing conclusions about infant cognition. Relatively little attention has been paid, however, to methodological issues associated with infant eye-tracking. Here, we consider the possibility that systematic differences in the quality of raw eye-tracking data obtained from different populations and individuals might create the impression of differences in gaze behavior, without this actually being the case. First, we show that lower quality eye-tracking data are obtained from populations who are younger and populations who are more fidgety and that data quality declines during the testing session. Second, we assess how these differences in data quality might influence key dependent variables in eye-tracking analyses. We show that lower precision data can appear to suggest a reduced likelihood to look at the eyes in a face relative to the mouth. We also show that less robust tracking may manifest as slower reaction time latencies (e.g., time to first fixation). Finally, we show that less robust data can manifest as shorter first look/visit duration. We argue that data quality should be reported in all analyses of infant eye-tracking data and/or that steps should be taken to control for data quality before performing final analyses. © 2014 The Authors.


Monti M.M.,Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain science Unit | Vanhaudenhuyse A.,University of Liège | Coleman M.R.,University of Cambridge | Boly M.,University of Liège | And 4 more authors.
New England Journal of Medicine | Year: 2010

Background: The differential diagnosis of disorders of consciousness is challenging. The rate of misdiagnosis is approximately 40%, and new methods are required to complement bedside testing, particularly if the patient's capacity to show behavioral signs of awareness is diminished. Methods: At two major referral centers in Cambridge, United Kingdom, and Liege, Belgium, we performed a study involving 54 patients with disorders of consciousness. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess each patient's ability to generate willful, neuroanatomically specific, blood-oxygenation-level-dependent responses during two established mental-imagery tasks. A technique was then developed to determine whether such tasks could be used to communicate yes-or-no answers to simple questions. Results: Of the 54 patients enrolled in the study, 5 were able to willfully modulate their brain activity. In three of these patients, additional bedside testing revealed some sign of awareness, but in the other two patients, no voluntary behavior could be detected by means of clinical assessment. One patient was able to use our technique to answer yes or no to questions during functional MRI; however, it remained impossible to establish any form of communication at the bedside. Conclusions: These results show that a small proportion of patients in a vegetative or minimally conscious state have brain activation reflecting some awareness and cognition. Careful clinical examination will result in reclassification of the state of consciousness in some of these patients. This technique may be useful in establishing basic communication with patients who appear to be unresponsive. Copyright © 2010 Massachusetts Medical Society.


Wass S.V.,Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain science Unit | Porayska-Pomsta K.,Institute of Education
Autism | Year: 2014

In this review, we focus on research that has used technology to provide cognitive training - i.e. to improve performance on some measurable aspect of behaviour - in individuals with autism spectrum disorders. We review technology-enhanced interventions that target three different cognitive domains: (a) emotion and face recognition, (b) language and literacy, and (c) social skills. The interventions reviewed allow for interaction through different modes, including point-and-click and eye-gaze contingent software, and are delivered through diverse implementations, including virtual reality and robotics. In each case, we examine the evidence of the degree of post-training improvement observed following the intervention, including evidence of transfer to altered behaviour in ecologically valid contexts. We conclude that a number of technological interventions have found that observed improvements within the computerised training paradigm fail to generalise to altered behaviour in more naturalistic settings, which may result from problems that people with autism spectrum disorders experience in generalising and extrapolating knowledge. However, we also point to several promising findings in this area. We discuss possible directions for future work. © The Author(s) 2013.


Wass S.V.,Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain science Unit
Child Neuropsychology | Year: 2015

Developmental psychopathology is increasingly recognizing the importance of distinguishing causal processes (i.e., the mechanisms that cause a disease) from developmental outcomes (i.e., the symptoms of the disorder as it is eventually diagnosed). Targeting causal processes early in disordered development may be more effective than waiting until outcomes are established and then trying to reverse the pathogenic process. In this review, I evaluate evidence suggesting that neural and behavioral plasticity may be greatest at very early stages of development. I also describe correlational evidence suggesting that, across a number of conditions, early emerging individual differences in attentional control and working memory may play a role in mediating later-developing differences in academic and other forms of learning. I review the currently small number of studies that applied direct and indirect cognitive training targeted at young individuals and discuss methodological challenges associated with targeting this age group. I also discuss a number of ways in which early, targeted cognitive training may be used to help us understand the developmental mechanisms subserving typical and atypical cognitive development. © 2014 The Author(s). Published by Taylor & Francis.


Schweizer S.,Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain science Unit | Dalgleish T.,Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain science Unit
Behaviour Research and Therapy | Year: 2011

Participants with a lifetime history of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and trauma-exposed controls with no PTSD history completed an emotional working memory capacity (eWMC) task. The task required them to remember lists of neutral words over short intervals while simultaneously processing sentences describing dysfunctional trauma-related thoughts (relative to neutral control sentences). The task was designed to operationalise an everyday cognitive challenge for those with mental health problems such as PTSD; namely, the ability to carry out simple, routine tasks with emotionally benign material, while at the same time tackling emotional laden intrusive thoughts and feelings. eWMC performance, indexed as the ability to remember the word lists in the context of trauma sentences, relative to neutral sentences, was poorer overall in the PTSD group compared with controls, suggestive of a particular difficulty employing working memory in emotion-related contexts in those with a history of PTSD. The possible implications for developing affective working memory training as an adjunctive treatment for PTSD are explored. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.


Huddleston E.,Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain science Unit | Anderson M.C.,Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain science Unit
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition | Year: 2012

Inhibitory processes have been proposed to play an important role in resolving interference during retrieval (M. C. Anderson, 2003; M. C. Anderson & Spellman, 1995). Supporting this view, retrieval induces a negative aftereffect on competing items known as retrieval-induced forgetting (M. C. Anderson, Bjork, & Bjork, 1994). Retrieval-induced forgetting often generalizes to novel cues used to test the forgotten items, and this cue independence is considered diagnostic of inhibition. This interpretation of cue independence assumes, however, that these novel cues (i.e., independent probes) are truly independent of the original cues. Challenging this assumption, Camp, Pecher, Schmidt, and Zeelenberg (2009) reported that extralist cuing test performance can be influenced by increasing the accessibility of other nonpresented cues. Here we consider this evidence for nonindependence and the conditions under which it occurs. We present two experiments demonstrating that this cue enhancement effect arises exclusively whenever independent probes have uncontrolled semantic relationships to the study cues of the sort that are specifically proscribed by the method-relationships not at all detected by association norms. When such relationships are controlled, as they are in many studies of inhibition, cue enhancement effects disappear. These findings highlight the importance of carefully controlling probe-cue relatedness in research on cue-independent forgetting and suggest that cue independence is diagnostic of inhibition. © 2012 American Psychological Association.


Dalgleish T.,Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain science Unit | Werner-Seidler A.,Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain science Unit
Trends in Cognitive Sciences | Year: 2014

Depression is characterized by distinct profiles of disturbance in ways autobiographical memories are represented, recalled, and maintained. We review four core domains of difficulty: systematic biases in favor of negative material; impoverished access and responses to positive memories; reduced access to the specific details of the personal past; and dysfunctional processes of rumination and avoidance around personal autobiographical material. These difficulties drive the onset and maintenance of depression; consequently, interventions targeted at these maladaptive processes have clinical potential. Memory therapeutics is the development of novel clinical techniques, translated from basic research, that target memory difficulties in those with emotional disorders. We discuss prototypical examples from this clinical domain including MEmory Specificity Training, positive memory elaboration, memory rescripting, and the method-of-loci (MoL). © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


Wass S.V.,Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain science Unit
Infant Behavior and Development | Year: 2014

Convergent research points to the importance of studying the ontogenesis of sustained attention during the early years of life, but little research hitherto has compared and contrasted different techniques available for measuring sustained attention. Here, we compare methods that have been used to assess one parameter of sustained attention, namely infants' peak look duration to novel stimuli. Our focus was to assess whether individual differences in peak look duration are stable across different measurement techniques. In a single cohort of 42 typically developing 11-month-old infants we assessed peak look duration using six different measurement paradigms (four screen-based, two naturalistic). Zero-order correlations suggested that individual differences in peak look duration were stable across all four screen-based paradigms, but no correlations were found between peak look durations observed on the screen-based and the naturalistic paradigms. A factor analysis conducted on the dependent variable of peak look duration identified two factors. All four screen-based tasks loaded onto the first factor, but the two naturalistic tasks did not relate, and mapped onto a different factor. Our results question how individual differences observed on screen-based tasks manifest in more ecologically valid contexts. © 2014 The Authors.

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