Who says memory is unimportant? A recent paper in the journal Child Development reports “Stronger Working Memory Reduces Sexual Risk Taking in Adolescents, Even After Controlling for Parental Influences.” Here is the abstract:
“This study examined the prospective influence of adolescent working memory (WM) on changes in impulsivity and sexual risk taking and assessed whether this relation could be explained by confounding effects of parental influences. Data from 360 community adolescents (Mage = 13.5 ± 0.95 years; 52% female; 56% non-Hispanic White; low-mid socioeconomic status (SES); recruited from Philadelphia area in 2004–2005) were analyzed using structural equation modeling to predict changes in impulsivity and sexual risk taking over a 2-year follow-up, using baseline assessments of WM, parental monitoring, parental involvement, and SES. Stronger WM predicted reduced involvement in sexual risk taking at follow-up, effects channeled through changes in impulsivity dimensions of “acting without thinking” and “inability to delay gratification.” Parental variables had a protective influence on adolescent impulsivity and risk involvement, but the effects of WM operated independently of parental influences.”
An earlier study found a link between working memory and alcohol use:
“Early adolescent alcohol use may be a consequence of (pre-existing) weaknesses in working memory (WM) rather than a cause of it. Efforts to reduce early alcohol use should consider the distinct roles of different impulsivity dimensions, in addition to WM, as potential targets of intervention.”
Psychedelic microdosing means taking very small doses of psychedelic drugs, with the hopes that they might have therapeutic benefit. You can read about this interesting research area here and here.
Individual differences are often ignored, but they can have real consequences. It appears that there are individual differences in face recognition ability:
“Research carried out in a number of labs over the last 15 years has revealed that people vary greatly in their ability to recognize faces. These individual differences in face recognition ability have interested researchers for several reasons. First, individual differences provide a means to try to better understand how face recognition is carried out, how it develops and which genes contribute to it (Yovel, Wilmer, & Duchaine, 2014). Second, this substantial variation in face recognition skills from person to person has important implications for a number of critical occupations and for how we interpret eyewitness testimony.”
A review, just published, in Current Directions in Psychological Science:
“With increasing life expectancies in most Western populations, the number of people experiencing age-associated cognitive impairment is increasing. Research is needed to identify factors that may help the elderly maintain or even improve cognitive function in the face of advancing age. This review evaluates whether dietary supplementation with natural pharmaceuticals can be used as a means to improve cognitive function or limit cognitive decline. The evidence surrounding popular supplements such as Ginkgo biloba, fish oils, Bacopa monnieri, polyphenol extracts, and vitamins is reviewed briefly. Potential mechanisms of action are also highlighted. This review also discusses challenges surrounding cognitive testing in psychopharmacological research, highlighting discrepancies between the domains of human cognition as described by contemporary models and as measured in clinical trials.”
Here is the paper’s concluding paragraph:
“The results of the clinical trials reviewed here are an admixture of hopeful findings, often leavened by studies of small duration and sample size. Although difficult and costly to conduct, trials of longer duration are needed to ascertain which dietary supplements, if any, afford protection against cognitive decline and cognitive impairment. Differences between existing studies also make it hard to draw overall conclusions about any particular supplement. In our own work, standardized herbal extracts of bacopa and pine bark have shown promise in terms of their ability to improve cognitive function, with a larger trial of longer duration currently underway to validate these preliminary findings (Stough et al., 2012). Meta-analyses have shown that multivitamins, fish oils, and ginkgo can all enhance specific aspects of cognitive function. To minimize differences in cognitive outcomes between studies, we suggest cooperation between different groups working in the area to develop a set of freely available cognitive tasks validated against the CHC model.”
This is paper, published in a highly regarded journal, is very optimistic about the prospect of nutritional supplementation. I am open minded about this, but note that research in this area tends to follow cycle: initial poorly designed studies raises hopes, while the effect tends to disappear with later better designed studies. I am particularly skeptical about claims made about fish oil.
I know I have a number of readers interested in ADHD, I would like to recommend the Distracted Mom blog. Here is her description of her blog:
“Hi, I’m Carolyn.
I am a single mother of two and a Registered Nurse of the Operating Room. I also have a background in Psychiatric nursing, an area I feel passionate about. I juggle co-parenting, schoolwork, and hospital work, and I am also a freelance writer and editor. Oh, and I also have ADHD.
I know about living with ADHD.
I also know about failing with ADHD, and about the long road to recovery. I took a path less traveled by, having made my way from high school dropout at 16 to nursing school graduate at 30. It wasn’t easy, and it took a long time to get here, but it’s a struggle worth sharing since I know I’m not alone in it.
My goal in writing this blog was to create the kind of resource that I wish I’d had access to when my child was first diagnosed with ADHD. There is a lot of information out there, but I wanted to hear from people who were living with it, who knew it from the inside out, and to whom I could relate. I wanted to hear from people who lived through the chaos and could show me the way through. I’m still finding my way, but what better way than to write my way through it?
Please join me and share your stories, too!
– Carolyn Mallon, RN”