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Autism Spectrum Disorders in Later Life  

Ye In (Jane) Hwang, Kitty-Rose Foley, Samuel Arnold, and Julian Trollor

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or autism, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is typically recognized and diagnosed in childhood. There is no established biological marker for autism; rather, the diagnosis is made based on observation of behavioral traits, including (a) persistent deficits in social interaction and communication, and (b) restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, autistic individuals are a highly heterogeneous group and differ widely in the presentation and severity of their symptoms. The established prevalence of ASD is approximately 1% of the population. Information about autism in adulthood is limited; most of the literature examines childhood and adolescence. While the term “later life” has traditionally been associated with those over the age of 65, a dire lack of understanding exists for those on the autism spectrum beyond early adulthood. Individuals remain on the spectrum into later life, though some mild improvements in symptoms are observed over time. Autistic adults experience high levels of physical and mental health comorbidities. Rates of participation in employment and education are also lower than that of the general population. Quality of life is reportedly poorer for autistic adults than for nonautistic peers, though this is not affected by age. More robust studies of the health, well-being, and needs of autistic adults are needed, especially qualitative investigations of adulthood and aging and longitudinal studies of development over the lifespan.


Cerebral Palsy From a Developmental Psychology Perspective  

Karen Lidzba

Cerebral palsy (CP) is defined as non-progressive damage to the brain at or around birth, which leads to varying symptoms depending on the extent and location of damage. The leading symptom is sensory-motor impairment of varying expression, but additional perceptual, cognitive, and socio-emotional symptoms are common. CP can be divided into four types, with bilateral spastic being by far the most frequent, followed by the unilateral spastic, the dyskinetic, and the ataxic variants. The intellectual, linguistic, and cognitive profile of CP is extremely variant, but all qualities correlate more or less with CP type and motor impairment. Early diagnosis is important since early intervention may promote all developmental dimensions. Generally, individuals with unilateral spastic CP have the best (almost normal) intellectual, linguistic, and cognitive outcomes, while those with bilateral spastic CP fare the worst. Language perception is often an individual strength, while language expression, and particularly speech, may be heavily impaired. Attention and executive functions are often impaired as compared to typically developing controls, even in those children with normal intellectual functioning. The same holds true for visual perceptual functions, which are impaired in almost half of all children and adolescents with CP. The potential neuropsychological dysfunctions are a risk factor for arithmetic functions and literacy. Obstacles to participate in society are high for individuals with CP and heavily dependent on their motor, language, intellectual, and cognitive functions. However, quality of life is good for most children and adolescents, and they develop a sound self-concept. On the other side, bully experience is more common than amongst typically developing children and is associated with behavior problems and executive dysfunction. The development of children and adolescents with CP is determined by a complex interplay between physical, intellectual, and neuropsychological functions.


Temporal Dynamics of Prospective Memory (Event-Related Potentials)  

Robert West

Life is filled with goals or intentions that people hope to realize. Some of these are rather mundane (e.g., remembering to purchase a key ingredient for a recipe when stopping at the market), while others are more significant (e.g., remembering to pick up one’s child from school at the end of the day). Prospective memory represents the ability to form and then realize intentions at an appropriate time. A fundamental aspect of prospective memory is that one is engaged in one or more tasks (i.e., ongoing activities) between the formation of an intention and the opportunity to realize the goal. For instance, in the shopping example, one might form the intention at home and then travel to the market and collect several other items before walking past the desired ingredient. Considerable research has demonstrated that the efficiency of prospective memory declines with age, although age-related differences are not universal. The neurocognitive processes underpinning age-related differences in the formation and realization of delayed intentions have been investigated in studies using event-related brain potentials. This research reveals that age-related differences in prospective memory arise from the disruption of neural systems supporting the successful encoding of intentions, the detection of prospective memory cues, and possibly processes supporting the retrieval of intentions from memory when a cue is encountered or efficiently shifting from the ongoing activity to the prospective element of the task. Therefore, strategies designed to ameliorate age-related declines in prospective memory should target a variety of processes engaged during the encoding, retrieval, and enactment of delayed intentions.


Time Perception in Development  

Yarden Kedar

Time is an abstract, unobservable, multifaceted, and elusive concept, whose nature has long posited a major challenge in philosophical and scientific thought. Nonetheless, despite the fact that time is not directly perceived by our senses, a universal human experience of time does exist. People are aware of time passing by; seek ways to measure it; arrange their lives around different timelines; and constantly use verbal expressions referring to time. A key question in developmental science is when and how children develop a sense and a concept of time. Infants are equipped from birth with perceptual time-tracking mechanisms for detecting patterns and changes in the physical environment, and their biological clocks reach an adult-like level already at 3 months of age. Infants have been shown to accurately register the recency, duration, frequency, and rhythmic aspects of events. Infants also gradually become more attuned to inter-sensory (visual/auditory/tactile) temporal relations based on co-occurrences of synchrony, duration, rate, and rhythm. These early abilities establish the foundation for the emergence of a metacognitive awareness and conceptualization of time in later stages of development. Several cognitive components such as attention, memory, and language are crucial in producing and maintaining our subjective perception of time. Additional factors include the social and cultural practices of time, which determine our time perspective and time perception. Verbal interactions relating to time between parents and their children aid the child in grasping distinctions between the past, present, and future, and between proximate and remote past and future times.


Visual Attention With Cognitive Aging  

David J. Madden and Zachary A. Monge

Age-related decline occurs in several aspects of fluid, speed-dependent cognition, particularly those related to attention. Empirical research on visual attention has determined that attention-related effects occur across a range of information processing components, including the sensory registration of features, selection of information from working memory, controlling motor responses, and coordinating multiple perceptual and cognitive tasks. Thus, attention is a multifaceted construct that is relevant at virtually all stages of object identification. A fundamental theme of attentional functioning is the interaction between the bottom-up salience of visual features and top-down allocation of processing based on the observer’s goals. An underlying age-related slowing is prominent throughout visual processing stages, which in turn contributes to age-related decline in some aspects of attention, such as the inhibition of irrelevant information and the coordination of multiple tasks. However, some age-related preservation of attentional functioning is also evident, particularly the top-down allocation of attention. Neuroimaging research has identified networks of frontal and parietal brain regions relevant for top-down and bottom-up attentional processing. Disconnection among these networks contributes to an age-related decline in attention, but preservation and perhaps even increased patterns of functional brain activation and connectivity also contribute to preserved attentional functioning.