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The Cognitive Psychology Revolution
I learned a great deal about cognitive psychology from watching The Cognitive Revolution video and reading the Remembering the Father of Cognitive Psychology article. I never really realized how much behaviorism and cognitive Psychology had clashed; Ulric Neisser always claimed “cognitive Psychology as an assault on behaviorism” (Remembering the Father of Cognitive Psychology). I found this important because I was under the impression that the different branches of psychology had always peacefully coexisted with each other. I knew that various branches studied psychology differently; I just thought that the different branches had a sort of agree to disagree agreement. Knowing that cognitive psychology and behaviorism oppose each other in their views has changed how I look at psychology in general. I am now of the belief that the different branches of psychology exist and have grown due to competition that exists between the branches.
While not as important to the beginnings of cognitive psychology as the competition between behaviorism and cognitive psychology, I did find the information from the article on selective looking or, as it is now called, inattentional blindness interesting. I found Neisser and Robert Becklen’s results from the experiments fascinating with how people counting basketball passes by players could miss a lady with an umbrella walking right through the scene. I found this study to be influential to the beginnings of cognitive psychology because it showed the type of research that could be accomplished in the field of cognitive psychology.
After reviewing the imaging techniques covered in Scanning the Brain, describe how these methods have advanced our knowledge of how cognitive processes are “displayed” through brain function.
The Scanning the Brain website taught me about the many different types of imaging techniques and how these methods have furthered our knowledge of the ways cognitive processes are displayed through brain functions. Before reading Scanning the Brain I had heard of some of the different types of brain scans, but I did not know what each scan was for. I learned that electroencephalograph or EGG is a type of scan that uses electrodes that pick up electrical impulses from the brain to observe changes; this scan is often used to detect if a person is asleep, awake, and/or anaesthetized. An EGG can also be used to calculate how long it takes the brain to process various stimuli. The Computerized Axial Tomography also known as a CT or CAT scan; this scan combines numerous 2-dimensional x-ray images in order to create cross-sections or 3-dimensional images of the brain, internal organs, and body structures. CAT scans are often used to identify brain damage as well as local changes in cerebral blood flow when a person performs a task. A CAT scan can also be used to assess the brain for tumors, other lesions, injuries, intracranial bleeding, structural anomalies such as hydrocephalus, infections, and brain function (Johns Hopkins University, 2014). The Positron Emission Tomography or the PET scan allows one to observe blood flow or metabolism in any part of the brain (PBS, 2002). The patient is injected with a small dose of radioactive glucose in order to allow the doctor or researcher to observe the absorption data and see the levels of activity as a color-coded brain map. This scan shows deep brain structures and allows the doctor or researcher to map normal brain functions, evaluate tumors, memory disorders, seizures and other central nervous system disorders (Radiology Info, 2013). The Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan, also known as an MRI, uses a magnetic field that runs through the machine along the line of the patient's head, the field realigns the hydrogen atoms in the head (PBS, 2002). The computer connected to the MRI then processes the signals and generates a series of images, each of which shows a thin slice of the brain; these images can then be studied to examine the anatomy of the brain, determine which part of the brain is handling critical functions, monitor the growth and function of brain tumors, and assess the effects of stroke, trauma or degenerative disease on brain function (Radiology Info, 2014). Magnetoencephalography also known as a MEG scan “is an imaging technique that identifies brain activity and measures small magnetic fields produced in the brain”(Benioff Children’s Hospital, 2014). The MEG provides the most precise resolution of the timing of nerve cell activity, as such it is used for pinpointing the areas of brain activity that indicate epilepsy, mapping functional areas of the brain, and locate the seizure focus for a patient experiencing seizures.
These scans have greatly helped to advance our knowledge of how cognitive processes are “displayed” through brain function. In order for us to truly understand the brain we need to be able to see how the brain works and be able to map out its functions. These scans have all given insight into how the brain works which has allowed us to advance our understanding of cognitive processes. For instance the EGG has shown us how the brain changes based on what state a person is in, the CAT scan has shown us how different parts of the brain react depending on what task a person is performing, the MRI scan has given us critical information for understanding how the brain is laid out, and the MEG scan has given us insight into the functional areas of the brain.
Brain Imaging, functional (fMRI). (n.d.). Radiology Info. Retrieved August 25, 2014, from http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=fmribrain#part_five
Computed Tomography (CT or CAT) Scan of the Brain. (n.d.). Johns Hopkins Medicine, based in Baltimore, Maryland. Retrieved August 25, 2014, from http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/neurological/computed_tomography_ct_or_cat_scan_of_the_brain_92,P07650/
Magnetoencephalography (MEG scan). (n.d.). UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital. Retrieved August 25, 2014, from http://www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org/education/magnetoencephalography_meg_scan/
PET/CT (Positron Emission Tomography - Computed Tomography ). (n.d.). Radiology Info. Retrieved August 25, 2014, from http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=pet
The Secret Life of the Brain. (n.d.). PBS. Retrieved August 25, 2014, from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/brain/index.html
The Application of Functional Neuroimaging Techniques to Study Dyslexia: Guinevere Eden
The Application of Functional Neuroimaging Techniques to Study Dyslexia: Guinevere Eden
"1. How did you become interested in psychology?
>> So, I became involved--I studied physiology as an undergraduate degree and then I went on to do a PhD in Physiology and I was interested in how the brain works, how the body works, but particularly the brain. And the classes in the UK when I was a student were very small so there were eight of us who were undergraduates. And we then had to go and find a mentor to do our PhD with. That wasn't the formal class structure, the way there is now or the way there is in America. And so, I picked a dissertation project that had clinical applications, understanding why there are some children struggle to learn to read. And I was in a lab that was made up of physiologists and psychologists and some of the work that was ongoing in the lab was actually looking at animal models of an array of different tasks. And the other part of the lab was interested in reading and reading disabilities. So, it's a nice environment to understand how the human and the primate brain works and to get some experience in how you can translate that knowledge into something that has meaning for kids who have some cognitive disabilities.
2. What is your current area of research?
>> So I work in an area that is of interest to a range of different people. So even though I have a background as a physiologist, this is a field that is often studied by psychologists, clinical psychologists, child psychiatrists, neurologists, pediatricians, and it makes it for a very interesting area of study but also you can see the fact that it's drawn so many different disciplines tells something about complexites of this condition.
3. How would you define developmental dyslexia?
>> This is a condition that is very common. It occurs in about 10 percent of the population, and it's children who struggle to acquire reading skills. So while most of us go to school and even prior to school begin to show some abilities and understanding how we signed our print. A small percent of the population struggles with understanding how it is that you derive meaning from text and how you pronounce the words that you see in front of you. And these children tend to have that problem in isolation. It's not because they're stupid. It's not because they struggle with a range of skills. It really is a very distinct disorder and trying to understand how to learn to read. And so the area that I work in is trying to understand what is the etiology of this reading problem, what is the brain basis of this reading problem, and what can we do to help those children and adults who have developmental dyslexia, what are the kinds of interventions that are successful, and can we use brain imaging technology to understand what the brain carlets [Phonetic] of a successful reading intervention are so that we can use that information to perhaps fine-tune and make more effective reading interventions in the future.
4. Can you give some details on the studies you have done with children?
>> The first one was a study that I did with my graduate student and a PhD student, and there we asked the question, "What is the brain's signature for reading in children and how does it change as they become more skilled readers?" So we started with a cross-sectional study because we only had a limited time, and we included children from age 6 onwards up until young adults, 23-year-olds, and we asked the question, "What areas are engaged in their brain when they process words?" So we asked about 42 individuals to participate in the study. FRMI is a non-invasive technique, so we don't have concerns about exposing our participants to any radiation or anything that may be harmful to them, and they came in, and they participated in this word processing task, and then we were able to use that data to ask two questions. What happens in terms of developmental trajectory? What are the areas that our youngest readers engage in, and what are the areas that our oldest readers engage in, and what happens in between? How do these areas change with the acquisition of reading skills? And then the second question we asked is, what is the relationship between those areas that we engage in the brain when we're reading and the kinds of skills that we know are important predictors of reading acquisition, the kinds of skills that are measured in the classroom or in the special education setting that we know are highly predictive of later reading outcome, and so that provides a way of linking the brain data with the kinds of behavioral measures that we acquire in the classroom, and what we learn from that is that there is a, an increase of areas in the front of the brain as people become more accomplished readers, and this all happens in the left hemisphere. So there seems to be early engagement of left posterior brain areas in our youngest readers, particularly areas that we know that are involved in mapping sound and vision together, and then we start engaging frontal areas, and so there's a developmental trajectory in the left hemisphere that goes from the back of the brain to the front of the brain, pretty much following what we know about brain development.
5. What about your study involving adults with dyslexia? How were their reading skills reflected in brain activity?
>> Then the other study that I'm going to talk about is the study on adults with dyslexia, and we know a fair amount about areas that differ between adults with and without dyslexia. There's been a large body of work in that direction, and so we first of all replicated that kind of work by asking our dyslexics to do a paradigm inside the scanner that we know is a paradigm that often is a cardinal marker of dyslexia because they have trouble with it, and it's the kind of task where you have to strip sounds of words. So if I say, if I hear the word rat, I would have to say it back without the first sound. So the answer would be at. And the first sound isn't always the first letter. It could be a combination of letters, and we had our subjects do this inside the scanner. We picked easy tasks because we wanted our dyslexics to be able to do them. A harder version of this task would be say something like say Germany and say it without the "m" sound, and the answer would be Gerany, and you have to understand that there is a, an independent unit of sound in there that you're trying remove, and that's something that developmental dyslexics have difficulties with. So we asked them to do these manipulations inside the scanner and looked at brain areas and found some under activity in parietal areas in the left hemisphere, and that's something people show using a variety of tasks. But then one question that we also wanted to ask is, what happens if we provide very intensive tutoring to these adults with dyslexia? Can we improve their reading skills, and, if we can improve their reading skills, is that change reflected in their brain function when we ask them to engage in this task again. So we picked an intervention that is pretty representative of a broad approach that people use to try to remediate people's reading problems. It involves very intensive training that practices their [inaudible] awareness skills. Also it asks them to involve in visual imagery where they in their mind's eye create visions of words, and we did this with them for about 8 weeks, and we then had them come back into the lab. Their training was actually received in North Carolina. The scanning was done at Georgetown University, and following the intervention, we saw significant gains in their reading skills and in their [inaudible] awareness skills, and we knew that those were not due to the placebo effect because half the dyslexics did not receive the intervention. So it was a randomized control design, and then we asked the question, "What happens in their brains as a result of their making these gains," and we found that the left hemisphere areas that were under activated in a dyslexic example now became more active following the intervention. So that sort of speaks to the fact that the areas that we typically see are now have become more engaged in the process. What was interesting was that in addition to those changes in the left hemisphere, we also saw changes in the right hemisphere, and those really speak more towards the mechanism of compensation. We don't typically see those right hemisphere areas involved in reading in most people, but it seems to suggest that under conditions where there is some difficulties with perhaps the left hemisphere isn't quite up to par, that the right hemisphere areas that are on the opposite hemisphere in the same locations so that the homotopic regions now become engaged, and that's something that you see in the literature on stroke patients who sometimes go through rehabilitation and then engage in contralateral brain areas, and, of course, we don't know if this is specific to our adult sample. These are people in their 40's. So the [inaudible] thing is that you can show change in plasticity in your 40's, not just in young readers, but the mechanism may, of course, be different, and so now we're going on to look at children to see what happens in the case of dyslexic children who make gains in reading. Do they use that same kind of mechanism to obtain better reading skills?
6. Is dyslexia genetic? If so, how can interventions make an impact on reading skills?
>> So typically when we talk about the development of dyslexia, we're talking about the kind of reading problems that run in families, and individuals who show those reading problems in isolation of any other difficulties or skills. So if you have a parent with dyslexia, the chances that their child will have dyslexia are about 35 percent. So we know it's very heritable, and that's already a warning sign. So if you are in a family where there's a history of reading problems, really parents need to look out for their youngsters at a very early age and begin to make them become familiar with the kinds of skills that we know facilitate reading acquisition later on. So, having said that, just because it's in your genes, it doesn't mean that it's something that can't be addressed, and probably the genetic mechanism is probably likely to be very complicated. They [inaudible] genes people have identified in different laboratories and different parts of the world, and it's likely that with each one of those genes, they're slightly different behavior manifestations, and it also speaks to the fact that when we see dyslexics, although we diagnose them based on their reading problems, they do differ somewhat in the kinds of difficulties that they have. Many of them have difficulties with understanding how words are made up of sounds and how you map those onto words, but many of them, even once they get the hang of that, struggle with reading fluency, so they're still reading very slowly, and if that happens they often have difficulties with reading comprehension. So it's not unlikely that in a family you may have 2 dyslexic children, one having more of a decoding difficulty and the other one having more of a comprehension difficulty. They may still both meet the criteria for dyslexia even though their difficulties are somewhat different from one another, but it does run in families, and it doesn't mean that it can't be addressed.
7. What research findings have surprised you most?
>> I think one of the things that surprises people in this field is the fact that dyslexia probably is much more complicated than any of us first believed. Historically, there was an interest first from the field of neurology. If you look at the work -- the early work that was done in this country by a neuropathologist called Samuel Orton, in the UK a neurologist called Macdonald Critchley, and they looked at it very much from the neurological perspective. And they talked about a range of difficulties that these children had, not just reading problems but also some difficulties in fine motor coordination and other skills. And then I think because of the fact that the reading problem is the most obvious difficulty, people really focused on the domain of language very strongly and really think of reading as a language-based reading -- language-based problem. And that certainly is true, and I think that the interventions that seem to be the most affective are the ones that really work around the many aspects of language; not just the sound structure of language but other aspects of language. But when I got into this area, I was actually in a group that was interested in visual cortex function and the fact that there had been a very striking observation in Australia many years ago that children with dyslexia seemed to show a different psychophysical curve when they're processing stimuli presented on a computer that involved gratings and making a judgment about contrast or speed or detecting things that were presented at varying speeds. These studies were done with the idea of tapping into what's referred to as the magnocellular deficit, it's a part of the visual system. And the idea was that perhaps that there's a difference in this part of the visual system, and that may or may somehow relate to their reading problems. Now, that link is still not very clear, but it is clear that they do have deficits in the system, and you can illicit that by asking them to do paradigms where, for example, they see dots moving across the visual screen and they have to make a determination about the direction or the speed or something like that. This is a task that engages this magnocellular system, which is in the dorsal stream of our brain, and you can show very striking differences, and it's been shown in different countries. And it's been shown that -- that performance on those skills is highly correlated to reading ability. And that I think is a surprise because people just don't quite see the connection. But on the other hand, perhaps it shouldn't be surprising because if you're looking at something like dyslexia, which is a developmental condition -- and these are systems that are perturbed prior to birth that result in these difficulties -- it's not likely that it's going to be contained to very isolated brain areas that only affect one skill. It's likely to actually affect multiple areas, and so as a result, we see multiple behavioral manifestations; some are more obvious, some are more simple. So the visual ones don't -- aren't prominent in all individuals with dyslexia, and they're very, very subtle. You can illicit them in the laboratory but you don't notice them in day-to-day life.
8. How is imaging technology used in your research?
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9. How can parents determine if reading interventions have been successful?
>> In our lab we study our idea of different interventions and -- but we do it in the combination of brain imaging. And so when people study reading interventions, and -- the questions are somewhat different. We're asking the brain basis of these interventions in case they are successful. But people are now doing much larger studies looking -- using these randomized controlled studies to identify which interventions are successful. And I think one thing that's very important is that parents need to understand that the design of these studies has to follow the randomized controlled design. Unfortunately in reading research, there hasn't been the same history as in medical research, so if you go to a pharmacy and you buy something to deal with your headache, you know that it's undergone FDA approval, it's been through a randomized controlled study -- several -- and we know what the benefits are and we know what the side effects are. If a parent tries to find a program for their dyslexic child, there is no mechanism by which to know which works, which doesn't work. If you go on the Internet, there are many programs that make claims that they can change your child's reading ability. And many of the claims are supported by quotes, by anecdotes of parents who will say this worked for their child. What you hardly ever see is hard data using randomized controlled studies. You sometimes see data of children before and after the intervention, but that itself is not convincing because much -- many other reasons can account for the fact why a child may make gains in reading when their part of a study if you don't have the appropriate controls.
10. What should a parent look for when considering a program for their child?
>> So what I always say to parents when they ask for a particular program works, I always say look at -- look at the evidence. You know, are they using randomized controlled studies that suggest there is a benefit of the intervention? And it doesn't matter if the intervention -- what nature the intervention is. It's those kinds of studies that we need to make informed decisions. And then, of course, we need to know whether the kinds of children involved in those studies are a good match to the child that is in question. So, you know, again, we need to know, is this a child with a decoding problem or is this a child that perhaps began more with a language-based oral language disability that then generalized to a reading disability. So unfortunately we don't have the answers yet because many of these studies need to be done. But the ultimate goal is to have that information available so that parents can make informed decisions and that they don't end up doing experiments in their own family where they try one intervention after another, and actually in the process mortgage their house because these interventions tend to be so expensive.
11. What direction do you see your research heading? >>
So, one of the things that's interesting about studying reading is, you know, we all to read and, but we, success at doing that is different, or the mechanisms that we use may be somewhat different. So, two areas that we've become very interested in is, one is looking at children who are almost the antithesis of our dyslexic readers, those are children who are very precocious readers. There are some children who read usually well, and it's unexpected. And, the children, in particular, that we're interested in are those children who are on the autism spectrum, and because they have autism, have impairment in oral language, so they're expressive and receptive language is poor, but very few, and this is really small sample, you will find they actually are good readers. Not only are they good readers, but they are fascinated by print, they love to read. So, we have seen a few of these children already, but we're hoping to expand our research so that we can study more of them, because they can tell us something about how you can get to becoming a skilled reader, in the absence of intact oral language, and, in terms of asking what the brain mechanisms are, it also provides a window into their communication disorders, where you ask the question, well, are there other areas that can become involved in the reading process, and can we somehow capture these areas, in these individuals. Another way to think about reading, of course, is everything that we study, in our lab, deals with the alphabetic language, but, of course, that's not the only way to become a reader, and so, we have started collaborating with a group in China to understand what is the neuro-basis of reading, when you are dealing with a logo graphic writing system, so, of course, our first graders have to be familiar with 26 letters of the alphabet, and understand how you use them and how you learn the 44 [inaudible] of the English language to come up with the different word combinations. Your first grade in China, you learn 600 characters, in your first grade, and the way that you represent them is somewhat different. They have a very complex with a special configuration. And then the questions are, if you engage the brain in a reading process that involves these parameters, which brain area, is to become involved? And, we already know from many studies that have been published in Chinese readers , that they engage visual systems much more strongly than alphabetic readers do, and so, what we want to do is look at the developmental trajectory in Chinese readers, and English readers, in America, simultaneously to see what are the developmental trajectories as they accommodate the needs of these different writing systems, and that, again, will give us an insight into how malleable the brain is, in terms of, becoming a reading brain, depending on the requirements made by the writing system."(Eden, 2013)