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Does sensory deprivation affect cognitive abilities?

Does sensory deprivation affect cognitive abilities?


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I am wondering if the loss of vision or hearing early in life (say, before the age of 14 years) affects cognitive abilities later in life? I would imagine that as a group, early-blind or early-deaf people may tend to receive less education than the average healthy individual with normal sight and hearing skills? Given that most IQ tests rely on education-related subjects, would it be fair to conclude that sensory-deprived people, on average, may have lesser IQ, not because of their cognitive abilities per se, but because they tend to receive less education?


This is a really neat question.

A strong predictor of cognitive ability is one's environmental enrichment, or the stimulation of the brain in its physical and social surroundings. Those with sensory deprivation often have less success with social situations and self-esteem, as well as (presumably) less sensory input coming in. The implication is that lack of sensory stimulation during neurodevelopment can impair cognitive development.

This is linked to education in the sense that the educational environment typically provides a cognitively stimulating environment for children to grow in. In that sense, the quality of the educational environment -- and its associated opportunities for engagement in higher-level cognitive activities -- is another factor that predicts cognitive development. [1]

Interestingly enough, studies have shown that environmental enrichment can correct and rehabilitate the effects of sensory deprivation. One study [2] showed that physical exercise and an enriched environment actually helped to offset the effects of "dark-rearing" in rats.

Independently of environmental enrichment, the relationship between education and cognitive ability is not well-known. There are studies that suggest that cognitive ability early in life can predict one's success in school, and there is a strong correlation(r~.6-.8) between early childhood IQ and the level of education that the child will end up pursuing. And education certainly contributes to crystallized intelligence, which is the product of education and culture. Both fluid and crystallized intelligence are correlated with each other, thus factoring into one's general intelligence. Regardless, it is fairly well established that cognitive ability predicts success in school, but it is not clear how level of education affects overall cognitive ability.

But perhaps moreso than education is the weight of individual differences in the face of sensory deprivation. For example, certain personality traits are moderately correlated with cognitive ability. Self-efficacy, which is the general feeling that one can succeed in any circumstance, is correlated at around .22. On the Big 5, Openness to Experience is correlated at around .20. But it is important to note that these traits surely predict one's response and ability to cope and adapt to a traumatic event such as total deprivation of the senses (blindness, deafness, etc.) in early development. After all, it is clear that sensory deprivation can be a traumatic life event for individuals, particularly those who are seeing-impaired. To quote from the abstract of this study:

Blindness and sight restoration have been reported to induce both temporary and longer term psychopathology, usually followed by psychosocial readjustment. However, in some cases, readjustment may not occur and suicide may result… When compared with a hearing-impaired control group, impaired sight alone can acutely affect otherwise psychologically healthy individuals.

Given that certain traits that are linked to readjustment are also linked to intelligence, it may be the case that sensory deprivation has a higher impact of long-term cognitive ability in those who have a reduced capacity to begin with, relative to those with higher intelligence and natural ability.

So my informed conclusion would be that yes, sensory deprivation may affect cognitive abilities -- from an educational standpoint, a social standpoint, and a reduction in early stimulation (particularly during the critical period). The overall detrimental impact on these abilities may be relative to the existing intelligence of the person (or the even the existence of traits that are linked to intelligence).


Sources used:

[1] Wilson R, Barnes L, Bennett D (August 2003). "Assessment of lifetime participation in cognitively stimulating activities". J Clin Exp Neuropsychol 25 (5): 634-42.

[2] Argandoña, Enrike G, Harkaitz Bengoetxea, and José V Lafuente. “Physical Exercise Is Required for Environmental Enrichment to Offset the Quantitative Effects of Dark-Rearing on the S-100β Astrocytic Density in the Rat Visual Cortex.” Journal of Anatomy 215.2 (2009): 132-140. PMC. Web. 25 Aug. 2015.


Deprivation in early childhood can affect mental health in adulthood

Experiencing severe deprivation and neglect in childhood can have a lasting psychological impact into early adulthood, according to a unique study conducted at the University of Southampton, which has followed the mental health of a group of children adopted from Romanian institutions to UK families in the 1990s.

Published in The Lancet, this is the first large-scale study to follow a group of children who were subjected to extreme deprivation into adulthood, tracking how their mental health and cognition has developed as a result.

The English and Romanian Adoptees study is a collaborative study between the University of Southampton and King&rsquos College London and began shortly after the fall of the communist regime in Romania. Children living in institutions were subjected to extremely poor hygiene, insufficient food, little personalised care and no social or cognitive stimulation. The study, running since 1990, analyses the mental health of 165 children who spent time in Romanian institutions and who were adopted by families in the UK between the ages of two weeks and 43 months. In the UK, they joined socioeconomically advantaged, stable, caring and supportive families.

Comparing against 52 children adopted within the UK, the study has followed them throughout their childhood using questionnaires, IQ tests and interviews with the children and their parents to analyse social, emotional and cognitive outcomes at ages 6, 11 and 15.

The latest part of the study, led by Professor Edmund Sonuga-Barke while he was at the University of Southampton (Dr Jana Kreppner is now the Southampton academic lead), followed the adoptees to ages 22 to 25 years old. It includes around three-quarters of the original adoptees &ndash 39 UK adoptees, 50 Romanian adoptees who had spent less than six months in an institution as children and 72 who had spent over six months.

The researchers found that the amount of time spent in a Romanian institution was an important marker of children&rsquos future mental health. Romanian adoptees who had spent less than six months had similar rates of mental health symptoms as UK adoptees. However, adoptees who had spent more time in the institutions had higher rates of social, emotional and cognitive problems throughout their lives.

People who had lived in Romanian institutions for more than six months as children had higher rates of social problems including autistic features, difficulties engaging with others, inattention and overactivity which persisted from childhood into adulthood. They were also three to four times more likely to experience emotional problems as adults, and had lower educational attainment and employment rates than the other UK and Romanian adoptees. This all despite living in strong and supportive families for over 20 years.

As children, more adoptees who lived in Romanian institutions for over six months had an IQ of less than 80, but this recovered within normal levels (an IQ of 90 or above) by early adulthood, suggesting developmental delays but no permanent impact on general cognitive abilities.

Additionally, one in five (21 per cent, 15 children) adoptees who spent over six months in Romanian institutions did not experience any mental health problems throughout their lives. The next steps of the research will involve an in-depth genetic analysis of the most exposed adoptees who did not develop mental health problems to distinguish whether genetic and epigenetic differences contribute to resilience.

&ldquoBeing exposed to very severe conditions in childhood can be associated with lasting and deep-seated social, emotional and cognitive problems, which are complex and vary over time,&rdquo said lead author Professor Sonuga-Barke, who is now at King&rsquos College London.

&ldquoThis highlights the importance of assessing patients from deprived backgrounds when providing mental health support and carefully planning care when these patients transfer from child to adult mental health care. Although focussed on children adopted from Romanian institutions in the early 1990s, our findings may also be relevant to large numbers of children who are still exposed to abusive or neglectful conditions around the world.&rdquo

Because the children were different ages when they entered institutions and lived there for different amounts of time, the study could not determine whether there is a window during childhood development when children may be more or less likely to be affected by deprivation. In addition, it cannot control for other early risk factors affecting the child&rsquos mental health, such as maternal smoking or substance abuse during pregnancy, but the authors argue that there are unlikely to be significant differences among the two groups of Romanian adoptees.

Writing in a linked Comment, Professor Frank Verhulst, Erasmus University Medical Centre, The Netherlands, said: &ldquoWhatever the underlying mechanisms, the findings of Sonuga-Barke and colleagues&rsquo study elegantly support the rule of the earlier the better for improving the caregiving environment for young children whose basic needs are profoundly violated. This finding is true for millions of children around the world who are exposed to war, terrorism, violence, or mass migration. As a consequence, many young children face trauma, displacement, homelessness, or family disruption.&rdquo


Providing Reality Based Diversions

Clients who are not oriented can benefit from reality based diversions and activities.

Some of these reality based diversions can include discussions about the month and day of the year, discussions about the weather of the season, reading the newspaper, participating in a daily "news of the day" or reality orientation group sessions, reminiscence therapy, and other individual and group activities according to the client's preferences and needs.


Can Poor Vision or Hearing Affect Your Mind?

Visual impairment can influence thinking, memory and mood, but negative effects can be minimized.

Newswise — Loss of acuity in hearing and vision is a common accompaniment to aging. While only an estimated one in every 1,000 people under the age of 45 has visual impairment, one in every 13 people over the age of 65 does, according to the American Foundation for the Blind. Hearing suffers a similar decline: among people aged 65 to 74, 23 percent have trouble hearing after age 75, the figure climbs to nearly 40 percent.

In addition to weakening important connections to the environment, this often gradual onset of sensory deprivation can have other important effects on the brain. It is associated with the development of mood disorders, and with declines in key aspects of mental functioning. Finding ways to prevent sensory change, and to adjust to impairments if they develop, is important to maintaining mental health as we age, according to Massachusetts General Hospital's Mind, Mood & Memory.

"Vision and hearing loss are major public health issues because they affect so many older individuals, and because they have an adverse impact on mental health," says Dennis Norman EdD, Chief of Psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital. "If the senses are limited, everything is affected, including interaction with surroundings, relationships, activities, and feelings of self-worth. Impairment can lead to depression, anxiety, social isolation and many other problems."

WHEN SENSES DECLINEVisual impairment is defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as blindness in one eye, blindness in both eyes, or any other significant trouble seeing. Hearing impairment is defined as deafness in one ear, deafness in both ears, or any other significant trouble hearing. According to CDC figures, an estimated 3.6 million Americans aged 70 or over suffer from some form of visual impairment, while 6.7 million older adults report hearing impairment. An estimated 1.7 million adults aged 70 and over report both vision and hearing impairment.

These older people with sensory deficits are at greater risk for a variety of health problems, according to a recent CDC survey. Compared to older individuals without impairments, those with sensory impairment are significantly more likely to encounter functional problems such as difficulties in walking, getting outside, getting into or out of a bed or chair, or managing medications. They are more vulnerable to falls, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and depression. Those with visual impairment are also less likely to socialize than individuals without sensory impairment.

"That's why evaluating vision and hearing should be part of any health checkup," Dr. Norman says. "It's important to catch subtle changes, because the earlier you treat them, the better people are able to deal with the impairments."

MOOD EFFECTSPeople with vision and hearing problems are also more vulnerable to depression and anxiety, and are less likely to engage in social activities. Depression is characterized by a low mood lasting two weeks or more with symptoms such as pervasive sadness, loss of interest in activities usually enjoyed, feelings of worthlessness, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, agitation, fatigue, and suicidal thought.

A study presented at the International Congress Series in London in April 2005 found that among a group of people with seriously impaired vision, 22 percent exhibited signs of major depression. A National Council on Aging study of 2,300 people with hearing loss found that among individuals with untreated impairment, up to 30 percent reported major depression, and up to 17 percent reported suffering anxiety for a month or more in the preceding year. Mood disorders associated with sensory impairments were often significantly improved through rehabilitation training and/or the use of assistive devices such as hearing aids.

COGNITION EFFECTSResearch suggests that cognition and memory, too, can suffer when vision and hearing fade, although the precise reasons for these changes are not clear. A study of 2,946 people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD, a condition in which a key area of the retina degenerates and people lose the ability to see objects in detail) uncovered a strong link between visual problems and cognitive impairment. From 2000 to 2004, researchers measured the degree of visual impairment of each subject, then administered a series of six tests designed to measure thinking, learning and memory abilities. They found subjects with the greatest degree of visual impairment had the poorest average scores on the test of cognition, and that scores decreased as vision decreased, according to a report in the April 2006 issue of Archives of Ophthalmology . The authors proposed that AMD and cognitive decline may result from common risk factors or that visual impairment may cause cognitive impairment by reducing people's participation in stimulating events or that impairment may cause depression and isolation, which may then lead to cognitive decline.

People with hearing impairment may also experience problems with cognitive functioning. Work by researchers at Brandeis University suggests that memory ability among people with hearing loss may be compromised by the extra effort required to hear. In a study comparing a group of older people with mild-to-moderate hearing impairment with a similar group without hearing impairment, participants were read a list of 15 words and instructed to remember only the last three words. People with hearing impairments were able to remember the final word as well as the unimpaired, but they did significantly worse at remembering the other two words. Differences between the two groups may indicate that resources that would otherwise be available for higher-level comprehension or encoding information in memory was expended by the hearing-impaired in the effort to hear accurately, the researchers suggested.

PREVENTING SENSORY CHANGESMake an effort to prevent hearing and vision loss by getting regular checkups to catch problems early, and by taking preventative measures such as these:

Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses to reduce exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) that might damage the eyes use eye protection when operating machinery that may inflict injury from flying objects such as sparks or chips.Protect your ears from loud noises (85 decibels or more) that can damage the delicate hair cells of the inner ear by avoiding noise sources, using earplugs or keeping earphone volume low.

Maintain health by getting regular medical checkups, giving up smoking, and managing conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure that can damage eyes and/or ears.

Eat right: A healthy diet can protect your eyes. Consume plenty of citrus fruits and juices for vitamin C eat carrots and dark-green leafy vegetables such as spinach for beta-carotene eat whole grains, nuts, and eggs for vitamin E and get needed zinc from fish, meats, whole grains and dairy products. For nutrients that strengthen or protect hearing, eat foods rich in: vitamin D (fortified dairy products, seafood, fortified cereals) vitamin B12 (meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products and shellfish) and folate (liver, eggs, beans, fortified cereals, leafy green vegetables, and fruits).

Consider supplements. Ask your doctor about taking supplements. In addition to the vitamins and minerals mentioned above, supplements of bilberry (huckleberry) have been thought to perhaps help protect eyesight, and ginkgo biloba and vinpocetine may help prevent or ameliorate hearing problems. There are also basic steps that can be taken to help people cope with existing impairment of hearing and vision.

"Recognize the fact that you or a loved one may need assistance," advises Dr. Norman. "Try to accept help from others, and take advantage of devices such as magnifying lenses and hearing aids that can help ensure independence."

WHAT YOU CAN DOGet professional help for mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.Make an effort to continue social activities. Isolation can lead to depression and lack of mental stimulation.

Learn about the impairment, and how other people cope with it. Consider joining a support group.


Editorial: The Sensation-Cognition Interface: Impact of Early Sensory Experiences on Cognition


The fourteen articles in this special topic are linked by their consideration of how various kinds of experiential deprivation can affect cognitive development. Reflecting recent increased interest in multisensory processing, most submissions look at how the absence of one sensory modality influences processing in another. Codina et al. studied perceptual changes in the peripheral visual field induced by deafness and/or sign language. They compared performance in the central and peripheral vision of deaf signers, hearing signers and hearing non-signers in a forced choice task. Deaf participants performed better than the other groups for peripherally presented stimuli, suggesting that sign language acquisition alone does not change peripheral vision in the way that deafness does. Samar and Berger investigate the hypothesis of reallocation of attentional resources from the central to the peripheral visual field in the deaf, using a spatial attention paradigm requiring target localization. Comparing deaf participants with or without cochlear implants (CIs) with hearing participants, they surprisingly observed that deaf with no CIs show a reduced central attentional capacity which was not associated with enhanced peripheral attention. In the perception of faces, a left visual field bias typically exists which suggests a right hemisphere specialization. This bias is already observed in 5-year-old hearing children. Dole et al. found a reduced left visual field bias in deaf adults compare to hearing peers when using chimeric faces. This result was associated with increased looking time toward the mouth for deaf participants. Early profound deafness is therefore associated with differences in face scanning and could induce a change in hemispheric specialization possibly linked to speech reading. Pimperton et al. investigated whether deaf adults with CIs showed significantly better scores on a test of speechreading than hearing, hypothesizing that the age of implantation might influence this ability. They found that the deaf with CIs were better speechreaders than the hearing, with a significant positive correlation between age at implantation and speechreading performance: earlier implantation was associated with poorer speechreading scores. Aparicio et al. investigated the neural substrate of speech reading and speech with cued speech (CS) recruiting deaf individuals, CS users, and individuals with typical hearing. Their study explores the neural similarities and differences in processing oral language delivered in a visuo-manual or in an audio-visual modality. They found a common, amodal neural basis for the perception of both audiovisual speech and CS, but clear differences were observed in the posterior parts of the superior temporal sulcus for auditory and speechread information in audiovisual speech, and in the occipitotemporal junction for CS. Corina et al. recorded auditory and visual evoked potentials in hearing children and deaf children with CIs. They reported an atypical auditory P1 in the deaf children, even with early implantation and significant auditory experience, which they interpret as potentially reflecting an aberrant maturation of cortical function early in development. They found no differences in the visual evoked potentials. When analyzing the relationship between auditory P1 and visual N1 within participants, they found a significant correlation in the hearing children not in deaf children with CIs.

In addition to these studies of deaf children and adults, several contributions looked at cognition in blind children and adults. Cappagli et al. looked at auditory spatial localization in preschool children who were congenitally blind or had low vision. Their results suggest that some early visual experience is required for the development of domain-general spatial cognition. Gori et al. report a study that required early blind, late blind and sighted adults to report the shape made by a moving sound source and then to replicate that movement in a locomotion task. They report that early blind, but not late blind, individuals struggled to identify the auditory motion paths and, even when they could correctly do so, their ability to reproduce those shapes in the locomotion task was error prone. Tonelli et al. asked whether vision is necessary for the calibration of auditory space, or whether the same function can be subserved by touch. In blindfolded adults with typical vision, they report that haptic exploration of a 3D model of a room, accompanied by ambulatory exploration of the room while blindfolded, resulted in improved bisection of an auditory line. Subsequent visual exploration did not improve bisection any further. Finally, two reviews explore different aspects of cognition in blind individuals. Voss reviews the literature on auditory spatial cognition in the blind and suggests that data must be interpreted in terms of task demands. In particular, findings differ depending upon whether testing occurs in the horizontal or vertical plane, whether depth judgments are absolute or relative, and whether tasks are performed mono- or binaurally. He suggests that the specificity of effects likely represents the use of different auditory spectral cues. Martin et al. point out the importance of considering etiology in their review of ocular versus cortical/cerebral visual impairment (CVI). They point out that CVI is now a highly prevalent cause of early childhood blindness in developed countries, and that it is associated with a range of attentional and visual dysfunctions that mean rehabilitation strategies designed for those with ocular deficits are ineffective for individuals with CVI.

Together, these eleven articles on sensory deprivation�ness and blindness—reveal some striking theoretical and practical parallels. The cross-sensory calibration hypothesis of Gori et al. (2012) bears a remarkable similarity to the auditory scaffolding hypothesis proposed by Conway et al. (2009), and provides a potential unifying framework for understanding how a lack on input in one sensory modality affects development in another [see also the intersensory redundancy hypothesis of Bahrick and Lickliter (2000)]. There are also important methodological considerations that arise from both literatures. Voss points out that early and late blind individuals may make use of different auditory spectral cues, and may make use of different reference frames. In addition, he also notes that transient visual deprivation (such as by blindfolding) results in effects not observed in early blind individuals. In the same way, whether or not a deaf child has a CI (and the age at which they receive one) may also results in different patterns of compensatory change, and the work of Bross et al. established that transient auditory deprivation results in visual changes not observed in those born profoundly deaf (Bross et al., 1980). Last of all, Martin et al.'s review of ocular versus cerebral etiologies for visual impairment mirrors discussion in the field of deafness about carefully considering the etiology of hearing loss in deaf individuals (Bavelier et al., 2006).

The last three contributions to this special topic reflect the effects of different kinds of deprivation on cognition—linguistic and social deprivation. Gagne and Coppola ask whether observing social interactions is sufficient to support social cognition in deaf adults who have not acquired conventional language. They report that these Homesigners performed well on simple visual perspective taking tasks. However, they struggled on false belief tasks, as did unschooled signers and speakers of conventional languages. The authors suggest that language may be important for the development of theory of mind, but that it is not sufficient. Henner et al. examined how the age of entry to a signing school for the deaf (and, by proxy, age of sign language exposure) affects the ability to make syntactic judgments and perform an analogical reasoning task. Their data suggest that earlier entry into signing schools for the deaf is, in these children, associated with better ASL syntactic knowledge and improved analogical reasoning skills. Finally, Tibu et al. analyzed data from the Bucharest Early Intervention Project, looking at the effects of institutionalization on the development of ADHD symptoms. They report an analysis to show that the effect of social and communicative deprivation on the emergence of ADHD symptoms at age 12 years is mediated by impaired working memory. These studies show that it is not only sensory experience that shapes cognitive abilities social and linguistic interaction also play an important role in the development of a child's ability to think and reason. Further research is needed for a better holistic understanding of how sensory, linguistic and social interactions are interrelated and work together to shape and dictate the direction of cognitive development.


How Perception Affects Us: The Pathways and Types of Perception

How does perception affect us? Perception is our sensory experience of the world around us. This involve recognizing environmental stimuli and the actions that are responses to those stimuli. Perception is key to gaining information and understanding the world around us. Without it, we would not be able to survive in this world filled with stimuli surrounding us. This is because perception not only molds our experience of the world but allows us to act within our environment. To learn more about the cognitive ability of perception and how perception affects us, read more below!

How Perception Affects Us

Perception plays a pivotal role in your five senses: being able to touch, see, taste, smell, and hear. It is involved in proprioception, which is a set of senses that detect changes in body positions and movements. Also, perception plays a role in the cognitive processes that are required for the brain to process information, like recognizing the face of someone you know or detecting familiar scents.

How Does Perception Work?

How does perception affect us? The process of perception is a series of steps that begins with the environment which leads to our perception of a stimulus, and then an action is generated in response to that stimulus. What is amazing is that this process is continual and is happening all the time, even when you’re not aware of it. Our brains take in plenty of stimuli from the environment, from the food we are tasting to the feel of the keypad we are typing on to even the birds chirping across our windows. This process takes place many times unconsciously and automatically, like when light falls on your retina and converts it into an actual image that your brain can comprehend. What the brain does in this system of perception is take in important stimuli and adapt to repetitive, unnecessary stimuli so that we are not overwhelmed with every single sensation occurring around us.

How Perception Affects Us

The steps involved in the perceptual process are:
1. The Environmental Stimuli

This is everything in our environment that has the potential to be perceived. It could include things to be seen, touched, tasted, smelled, heard, or even received by our proprioceptive senses.

2. Transduction

These signals are then taken in from your sensory organs and then converted into messages that can be interpreted by the brain.

3. Neural Processing

While being transduced, the electrical signals follow a particular pathway depending on what signal just came in (like an auditory signal or a visual signal). Many of the neurons in your body are interconnected in their own complex maps. The electrical signals that pass through these neurons are propagated from the receptor cells to the brain.

4. Perception

Here is where we get down to business. During the perception stage, we actually perceive and consciously become aware of the stimulus object that has affected us from our environment.

5. Recognition

This is where we interpret and give meaning to those environmental stimuli. Whereas perception involves us becoming aware of a stimulus present, recognition is when we actually understand that stimulus.

6. Action

As a final result, we take some sort of action in response to that environmental stimulus. Most of the time, the action phase depends on some type of motor activity that occurs in response to the perceived and recognized stimulus. This could involve a variety of actions, like turning your head when someone calls your name, chewing and swallowing your food after tasting it, and even running toward a person in distress.

How Perception Affects Us: Types of Perception

1. Depth and Spatial Perception

This is the ability for a person to perceive distance. It is extremely important for one to discern distances in the real world, like the distance between me and another person and the space between objects. Included in depth/spatial perception is the ability to perceive moving objects, like vehicles driving on roads. Factors like first, second, and third dimensions come into play in our understanding of depth perception.

Spatial perception is possible due to certain cues in our environment that help us to understand the distance between multiple objects in space. These cues are of two types:

A. Monocular Cues

These are cues that can operate with the aid of only one eye. Some of them include linear perspective, which is how we can tell if objects are close or far away. Images of objects that are far away appear smaller to us. Aerial perspective is when objects nearer to us appear clearer than distant objects. Interposition is when one object obstructs our view of another so that the object in front appears nearer than the partially covered one. Gradient structure is when the regions of objects closer to the observer have a coarse texture with plenty of details, while the objects further away from us become finer and finer.

B. Binocular Cues

These are cues that can only work with the function of both eyes. The two binocular cues are retinal disparity and convergence/divergence. Retinal disparity occurs when the image of the object that falls of both retinas is different. This happens more often when objects are closer than further away. Convergence/divergence of the eyeballs takes place when the object moves nearer and nearer to our eyes so that our eyeballs converge and when the object moves away from us, the eyeballs diverge.

How Perception Affects Us

2. Movement Perception

We understand when objects are in movement because particular objects appear in different places at different times. This is a natural process that we learn since birth. It is only through this ability that an individual can understand the world around him or her and perceive dangers or threats in movement, which is key for survival.

In a phenomenon called apparent motion, we perceive objects as moving when really they are stationary. It becomes an illusion then, as we perceive objects that are not moving to in fact be moving. An example of this is when we are moving fast on a bus or a car and the trees, plants, and houses we pass by appear to be moving in the opposite direction. Obviously, those objects are not moving, but we perceive them as indeed in motion.

Another cool example of this is movies we watch, or what used to be called “moving pictures.” The movement of the figures in films appear to be moving, but they really are not. What movies really are are a real of film pictures moving very, very fast to produce a movement feeling known as stroboscopic motion or the phi phenomenon. It is the same case for moving-picture booklets, where the artists flips through the edges of a book and it gives the appearance of activity from the drawings.

3. Form Perception

This is the ability to recognize objects in a particular form within a certain environment. According to Gestalt psychologists, different laws govern how we perceive different patterns within space.

The law of proximity holds that when we perceive a collection of objects, we will see objects close to each other as forming a group. This also affects how we view pictures and films. If you were to magnify pictures on a computer screen to a large depth, you would see pixels forming the picture together. When we look at one complete image, we don’t see each individual pixel rather we see it as one whole object based on the law of proximity.

The law of similarity states that elements will be grouped perceptually if they are similar to each other. Color plays a big role in this grouping. Think again to the pixels that make up a photograph. Looking closely, the pixels in one area are all similar or closely related shades of the same color to make up that one element of the image.

How Perception Affects Us

The law of figure-ground captures the idea that when we perceive a visual field, some objects take a prominent role (the figures) while others recede into the background. For example, if you were getting a picture taken of yourself near a lake with beautiful hills and mountains behind you, then you would be the central figure of the photo, while the water, mountains, sky, and other scenery would be the ground.

The law of closure holds that when we capture objects that are not complete, we perceptually close them up so that we perceive shapes in a picture that are not actually there. A classic example of this is aligning three pac-man, incomplete circles into a pyramid and then using your perception to sense the triangle that they form, although no triangle is physically present in the picture.

How Perception Affects Us: Factors Affecting Perception

Perceptual Learning

Based on past experiences, special training, and knowledge of specific stimuli, each of us learns to emphasize certain sensory inputs and to ignore others. For example, if I am working on an assignment in my office that is due soon, my sensory apparatus is more aware of the work that is in front of me, like the computer screen, the keypad I am typing with, or the pen that I am holding, rather than focusing on the “tick-tock” sound of the clock right next to me. This is because I have been trained for years to place priorities on the immediate work in front of me rather than extenuating stimuli. Experience is always the best teacher for many perceptual skills.

Mental Set

This refers to how mentally prepared you are to receive some sensory input. Expecting specific stimuli keeps one prepared with fantastic attention and concentration. For example, if I am riding the one of the New York City subways, then I am more attentive to the rustling sound of the train approaching rather than the huge amount of noise that is coming from people playing music, children crying, and other nefarious sounds.

How Perception Affects Us

Motives and Needs

The things you want and need will most certainly influence your perception. An example of this is a hungry person at a conference. Since he is extremely hungry, he is more likely to perceive caterers coming into the hall to set up food in the dining area than others might be. It is very difficult for his attention to be directed toward other important issues until his hunger is satisfied

Cognitive Styles

It is thought that people differ in the ways that they process information, with each of us having our own unique ways of responding to stimuli. All individuals will react to variable situations in their specific way. One thought is that people who are flexible and athletic are more attentive to external stimuli of pressure and force and they are less influenced by internal needs and motives.

Radiyyah is an undergraduate student at Macaulay Honors College and Queens College. She is currently pursuing a double Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Neuroscience with a minor in Sociology. Radiyyah is passionate about all fields relating to the brain and social psychology and she hopes to continue her career in Neuropsychology research.


Cognitive development and sensory play

In play experiences, combining the sense of touch with the senses of vision, hearing, taste and smell helps build cognitive skills.

Early childhood educators cannot overstate the importance of sensory play in the educational process.

Ten-month old Cassie is grasping and turning some wooden blocks. One by one, she turns them around in her hands, feeling them carefully, and then she brings them to her mouth to further explore their texture and shape. She notices they don&rsquot seem to smell or taste like anything special. With her tongue and her fingers, she explores the flat sides and sharper corners. She is using all of her senses&mdashvision, smell, touch, hearing and taste&mdashto learn more about these blocks.

Young children learn through using multiple senses simultaneously. Hands-on learning with concrete objects, like Cassie&rsquos experience in the scenario described above, leads to abstract thought as she grows and develops. In play experiences, combining the sense of touch with the senses of vision, hearing, taste and smell helps build cognitive skills.

Cognitive skills are those skills we use when we solve problems and create novel ideas from current ideas. The process of solving problems begins with observation that is, taking note of the attributes of objects. Young children use all their senses to explore objects and they file it away in their memories. Also, when children have sensory experiences, they store their whole body experiences in their &ldquosensory memory.&rdquo We use our sensory memory to begin the process of understanding and gaining knowledge.

By exploring the wooden blocks over and over, a child learns something about the characteristics of blocks. One of the things they learn is that the big block is heavier than the small block, but they all taste the same. As High Scope early childhood specialist Suzanne Gainsley stated, &ldquoDiscovering and differentiating these characteristics is a first step in classification, or sorting&mdashan important part of preschoolers&rsquo science learning and discovery.&rdquo

Early childhood educators cannot overstate the importance of sensory play in the educational process. It is the foundation of all the skills children will use in school learning to read, write and solve math and science problems. Once a child has these experiences, they are able to draw upon the body memory and cognitive memory of their experiences when faced with new situations. Further, the process of observation is a skill in and of itself. Keen observation skills give a child an advantage in school and throughout life.

This process continues through the child&rsquos whole life and is the same process adults use to discover new medications or understand the nature of matter at the molecular level. &ldquoBy providing students with materials that they can physically manipulate, play with and explore, teachers help them learn more about the world and develop crucial skills that they will utilize later in life,&rdquo said Caitrin Blake of Concordia University Nebraska.

For example, a texture or sensory table is a popular place for children in early childhood education settings. Cognitive skills such as math skills are developed through spatial awareness and pattern recognition with objects in the sensory table. Science and technology skills, which are cognitive skills too, include observing, experimenting, drawing conclusions, predicting and learning about the natural and physical world.

Putting items in the texture table that present problems or challenges for children will help them develop cognitive skills. Teachers might put tubes of different sizes and items of different sizes so children must find the right-sized tube to fit the item. Gainsley suggests including &ldquoobjects that children can pour materials through (e.g., paper towel or toilet paper tubes, funnels with different-sized openings, bendable plastic tubing in different lengths).&rdquo

While safety is always a concern the teachers of young children must be aware of and attentive to, providing young children with a variety of materials and objects that have different colors, textures and smells enrich a child&rsquos life and build the skills they will need as adults.

For further research into sensory play and its benefits, Michigan State University Extension suggests the following websites:


Effects of sleep deprivation on cognition

Sleep deprivation is commonplace in modern society, but its far-reaching effects on cognitive performance are only beginning to be understood from a scientific perspective. While there is broad consensus that insufficient sleep leads to a general slowing of response speed and increased variability in performance, particularly for simple measures of alertness, attention and vigilance, there is much less agreement about the effects of sleep deprivation on many higher level cognitive capacities, including perception, memory and executive functions. Central to this debate has been the question of whether sleep deprivation affects nearly all cognitive capacities in a global manner through degraded alertness and attention, or whether sleep loss specifically impairs some aspects of cognition more than others. Neuroimaging evidence has implicated the prefrontal cortex as a brain region that may be particularly susceptible to the effects of sleep loss, but perplexingly, executive function tasks that putatively measure prefrontal functioning have yielded inconsistent findings within the context of sleep deprivation. Whereas many convergent and rule-based reasoning, decision making and planning tasks are relatively unaffected by sleep loss, more creative, divergent and innovative aspects of cognition do appear to be degraded by lack of sleep. Emerging evidence suggests that some aspects of higher level cognitive capacities remain degraded by sleep deprivation despite restoration of alertness and vigilance with stimulant countermeasures, suggesting that sleep loss may affect specific cognitive systems above and beyond the effects produced by global cognitive declines or impaired attentional processes. Finally, the role of emotion as a critical facet of cognition has received increasing attention in recent years and mounting evidence suggests that sleep deprivation may particularly affect cognitive systems that rely on emotional data. Thus, the extent to which sleep deprivation affects a particular cognitive process may depend on several factors, including the magnitude of global decline in general alertness and attention, the degree to which the specific cognitive function depends on emotion-processing networks, and the extent to which that cognitive process can draw upon associated cortical regions for compensatory support.


Effects of sleep deprivation on cognition

Sleep deprivation is commonplace in modern society, but its far-reaching effects on cognitive performance are only beginning to be understood from a scientific perspective. While there is broad consensus that insufficient sleep leads to a general slowing of response speed and increased variability in performance, particularly for simple measures of alertness, attention and vigilance, there is much less agreement about the effects of sleep deprivation on many higher level cognitive capacities, including perception, memory and executive functions. Central to this debate has been the question of whether sleep deprivation affects nearly all cognitive capacities in a global manner through degraded alertness and attention, or whether sleep loss specifically impairs some aspects of cognition more than others. Neuroimaging evidence has implicated the prefrontal cortex as a brain region that may be particularly susceptible to the effects of sleep loss, but perplexingly, executive function tasks that putatively measure prefrontal functioning have yielded inconsistent findings within the context of sleep deprivation. Whereas many convergent and rule-based reasoning, decision making and planning tasks are relatively unaffected by sleep loss, more creative, divergent and innovative aspects of cognition do appear to be degraded by lack of sleep. Emerging evidence suggests that some aspects of higher level cognitive capacities remain degraded by sleep deprivation despite restoration of alertness and vigilance with stimulant countermeasures, suggesting that sleep loss may affect specific cognitive systems above and beyond the effects produced by global cognitive declines or impaired attentional processes. Finally, the role of emotion as a critical facet of cognition has received increasing attention in recent years and mounting evidence suggests that sleep deprivation may particularly affect cognitive systems that rely on emotional data. Thus, the extent to which sleep deprivation affects a particular cognitive process may depend on several factors, including the magnitude of global decline in general alertness and attention, the degree to which the specific cognitive function depends on emotion-processing networks, and the extent to which that cognitive process can draw upon associated cortical regions for compensatory support.


Providing Reality Based Diversions

Clients who are not oriented can benefit from reality based diversions and activities.

Some of these reality based diversions can include discussions about the month and day of the year, discussions about the weather of the season, reading the newspaper, participating in a daily "news of the day" or reality orientation group sessions, reminiscence therapy, and other individual and group activities according to the client's preferences and needs.


Deprivation in early childhood can affect mental health in adulthood

Experiencing severe deprivation and neglect in childhood can have a lasting psychological impact into early adulthood, according to a unique study conducted at the University of Southampton, which has followed the mental health of a group of children adopted from Romanian institutions to UK families in the 1990s.

Published in The Lancet, this is the first large-scale study to follow a group of children who were subjected to extreme deprivation into adulthood, tracking how their mental health and cognition has developed as a result.

The English and Romanian Adoptees study is a collaborative study between the University of Southampton and King&rsquos College London and began shortly after the fall of the communist regime in Romania. Children living in institutions were subjected to extremely poor hygiene, insufficient food, little personalised care and no social or cognitive stimulation. The study, running since 1990, analyses the mental health of 165 children who spent time in Romanian institutions and who were adopted by families in the UK between the ages of two weeks and 43 months. In the UK, they joined socioeconomically advantaged, stable, caring and supportive families.

Comparing against 52 children adopted within the UK, the study has followed them throughout their childhood using questionnaires, IQ tests and interviews with the children and their parents to analyse social, emotional and cognitive outcomes at ages 6, 11 and 15.

The latest part of the study, led by Professor Edmund Sonuga-Barke while he was at the University of Southampton (Dr Jana Kreppner is now the Southampton academic lead), followed the adoptees to ages 22 to 25 years old. It includes around three-quarters of the original adoptees &ndash 39 UK adoptees, 50 Romanian adoptees who had spent less than six months in an institution as children and 72 who had spent over six months.

The researchers found that the amount of time spent in a Romanian institution was an important marker of children&rsquos future mental health. Romanian adoptees who had spent less than six months had similar rates of mental health symptoms as UK adoptees. However, adoptees who had spent more time in the institutions had higher rates of social, emotional and cognitive problems throughout their lives.

People who had lived in Romanian institutions for more than six months as children had higher rates of social problems including autistic features, difficulties engaging with others, inattention and overactivity which persisted from childhood into adulthood. They were also three to four times more likely to experience emotional problems as adults, and had lower educational attainment and employment rates than the other UK and Romanian adoptees. This all despite living in strong and supportive families for over 20 years.

As children, more adoptees who lived in Romanian institutions for over six months had an IQ of less than 80, but this recovered within normal levels (an IQ of 90 or above) by early adulthood, suggesting developmental delays but no permanent impact on general cognitive abilities.

Additionally, one in five (21 per cent, 15 children) adoptees who spent over six months in Romanian institutions did not experience any mental health problems throughout their lives. The next steps of the research will involve an in-depth genetic analysis of the most exposed adoptees who did not develop mental health problems to distinguish whether genetic and epigenetic differences contribute to resilience.

&ldquoBeing exposed to very severe conditions in childhood can be associated with lasting and deep-seated social, emotional and cognitive problems, which are complex and vary over time,&rdquo said lead author Professor Sonuga-Barke, who is now at King&rsquos College London.

&ldquoThis highlights the importance of assessing patients from deprived backgrounds when providing mental health support and carefully planning care when these patients transfer from child to adult mental health care. Although focussed on children adopted from Romanian institutions in the early 1990s, our findings may also be relevant to large numbers of children who are still exposed to abusive or neglectful conditions around the world.&rdquo

Because the children were different ages when they entered institutions and lived there for different amounts of time, the study could not determine whether there is a window during childhood development when children may be more or less likely to be affected by deprivation. In addition, it cannot control for other early risk factors affecting the child&rsquos mental health, such as maternal smoking or substance abuse during pregnancy, but the authors argue that there are unlikely to be significant differences among the two groups of Romanian adoptees.

Writing in a linked Comment, Professor Frank Verhulst, Erasmus University Medical Centre, The Netherlands, said: &ldquoWhatever the underlying mechanisms, the findings of Sonuga-Barke and colleagues&rsquo study elegantly support the rule of the earlier the better for improving the caregiving environment for young children whose basic needs are profoundly violated. This finding is true for millions of children around the world who are exposed to war, terrorism, violence, or mass migration. As a consequence, many young children face trauma, displacement, homelessness, or family disruption.&rdquo


Influence of Anxiety on Cognitive Control Processes

Cognitive control is the ability to direct attention and cognitive resources toward achieving one’s goals. However, research indicates that anxiety biases multiple cognitive processes, including cognitive control. This occurs in part because anxiety leads to excessive processing of threatening stimuli at the expense of ongoing activities. This enhanced processing of threat interferes with several cognitive processes, which includes how individuals view and respond to their environment. Specifically, research indicates that anxious individuals devote their attention toward threat when considering both early, automatic processes and later, sustained attention. In addition, anxiety has negative effects on working memory, which involves the ability to hold and manipulate information in one’s consciousness. Anxiety has been found to decrease the resources necessary for effective working memory performance, as well as increase the likelihood of negative information entering working memory. Finally, anxiety is characterized by focusing excessive attention on mistakes, and there is also a reduction in the cognitive control resources necessary to correct behavior. Enhancing our knowledge of how anxiety affects cognitive control has broad implications for understanding the development of anxiety disorders, as well as emerging treatments for these conditions.

Keywords

Subjects

Introduction

Experiencing elevated levels of anxiety affects how individuals see and respond to their world. As a result, a considerable amount of research has been completed to increase our understanding of how anxiety affects cognitive processes. This literature has indicated that individuals with elevated anxiety devote their attention toward threatening images and words, at the expense of ongoing activities (Bar-Haim, Lamy, Pergamin, Bakermans-Kranenburg, & IJzendoorn, 2007). In addition, emotional information is maintained in our thoughts, which can lead to impaired concentration (Eysenck, Derakshan, Santos, & Calvo, 2007), as well as deficits in our ability to notice and correct any resulting mistakes (Olvet & Hajcak, 2009). Therefore, elevated levels of anxiety (i.e., high trait anxiety), as well as anxiety disorders, are characterized by biases in both automatic and strategic ways in how one perceives their world (Bar-Haim et al., 2007). These biases are displayed to stimuli relevant to their fears. For example, individuals with social anxiety disorder are characterized by biases related to social rejection, and individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are associated with biases related to trauma-relevant stimuli (e.g., Yiend, 2010).

In addition, anxiety is characterized by biases in later, more elaborative processes. For example, anxious individuals will interpret neutral information as threatening (e.g., Eysenck, Mogg, May, Richards, & Mathews, 1991). Furthermore, research has found that nonanxious individuals tend to interpret ambiguous information as positive, whereas anxious individuals do not display this positivity bias (e.g., Hirsch & Mathews, 2000). Anxiety also appears to lead to biases in recalling information from long-term memory (Hertel & Mathews, 2011). In these studies, individuals are asked to learn lists of stimuli with positive and negative valence, and then after a delay, are asked to recall or recognize these stimuli. Based on these studies, anxious individuals tend to display a bias for recalling information related to threat (Mitte, 2008). Therefore, this research broadly suggests that anxious individuals tend to allocate their attention initially to threatening stimuli, interpret neutral stimuli as negative, and are subsequently more likely to remember these stimuli. Furthermore, many theoretical models have suggested that these biases play a causal role in the development of clinically significant levels of psychopathology (e.g., MacLeod, Campbell, Rutherford, & Wilson, 2004). Broadly, this literature also suggests that anxiety may be characterized by deficits in the control of attention, or cognitive control, which has implications for the development and treatment of these conditions.

As a result, recent research has begun to evaluate how these biases can be directly targeted in treatment. This literature is based on a seminal paper by MacLeod and colleagues (2002), which evaluated whether attentional biases could be manipulated. Among a sample of individuals with average levels of trait anxiety, the authors used a reaction time task that reinforced individuals to direct their attention either toward threat or toward neutral information. The results indicated that where individuals direct their attention could be manipulated, such that they could be trained to either focus attention on neutral or threatening stimuli. Furthermore, those individuals who were trained to attend to negative stimuli displayed an increase in negative mood during a subsequent stress task, whereas individuals trained to attend to neutral stimuli displayed no change in mood (MacLeod et al., 2002). This suggests that attention biases to negative information may contribute to negative mood states associated with anxiety.

More recent research has used these findings to develop additional treatment approaches for anxiety. Specifically, a growing literature has evaluated whether manipulating attention away from negative and threatening stimuli would lead to a decrease in anxious symptoms. Research evaluating these attention bias modification (ABM) treatments (e.g., Amir, Beard, Burns, & Bomyea, 2009 Schmidt, Richey, Buckner, & Timpano, 2009) suggests that manipulating attention can actually reduce subsequent anxious symptoms. Although metaanalytic reviews indicate that there is a small to moderate effect with ABM treatments (Hakamata et al., 2010), as well as cognitive bias modification (CBM) treatments more broadly (Hallion & Ruscio, 2011), more work is still needed to understand the factors that affect attentional biases. For example, Hakamata and colleagues (2010) note that the effects of ABM on anxiety may be smaller than other empirically supported treatments, such as medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. Furthermore, more research is needed to understand the specific mechanisms of CBM procedures. For example, researchers have suggested that ABM may help participants learn how to avoid threatening images or words, which can maintain psychopathology over time (e.g., Cisler & Koster, 2010 Koster et al., 2010).

Thus, understanding the factors that affect these early, automatic attentional processes has important implications for understanding the development and treatment of anxiety disorders. One factor that is likely associated with cognitive biases broadly is cognitive control. Cognitive control has been defined as the ability to adapt our attention and responses in order to respond appropriately to the environment. Cognitive control is thought of as a limited resource system that directs our perceptions, mental imagery, and responses in order to perform complex tasks (e.g., Botvinick, Braver, Barch, Carter, & Cohen, 2001 MacDonald, Cohen, Stenger, & Carter, 2000). This system allows humans to engage in extended goal-directed behavior. Control systems are typically thought of as the ability to focus on specific activities via top-down or goal-directed attention, and are contrasted with automatic responses (Botvinick & Cohen, 2014). Therefore, the ability to stay focused on a particular task while inhibiting distractions is necessary for completing ongoing activities. However, responding to salient and potentially threatening information, which relies on bottom-up (automatic) or stimulus-driven processing, is also important. Therefore, cognitive control is the ability to direct attention and cognitive resources to achieve one’s goals while also navigating changes that occur in the environment.

Cognitive Control

Cognitive control is a broad construct that reflects many underlying processes. One of the first frameworks developed to understand cognitive control arose from working memory perspectives. Working memory is the ability to hold and manipulate information in one’s current consciousness (e.g., Baddeley, 2003). This can include rotating images in one’s mind or randomly generating letters or words. In their original model of working memory, Baddeley and Hitch (1974) described the central executive, which regulates where an individual is paying attention. This component, therefore, allows individuals to use top-down mechanisms to control their initial orientation to stimuli and manipulation of mental images of these stimuli, as well as to select an appropriate response. Several models of working memory have subsequently been developed, which differ to the extent that they distinguish between executive control of attention and lower-order storage systems. For example, Baddeley (2012) describes lower-order storage systems that can process verbal or visual information, as well as a central executive that controls these systems. In contrast, Cowan (2005) suggests that working memory involves information from long-term memory that is activated in one’s current attentional focus. Therefore, at the descriptive level, these two models appear quite different in their accounts of working memory. However, they also make several similar hypotheses, and the specific differences may simply be about emphasis and terminology (Baddeley, 2012).

Other perspectives of working memory have focused on delineating specific executive skills, or functions, that allow an individual to engage in more complex behavior. For example, Miyake, Friedman, Emerson, Witzki, and Howerter (2000) had 137 undergraduate students perform several tasks aimed at evaluating specific abilities of the central executive, as well as more complex tasks that rely on these skills. Results of statistical modeling suggested that there are three executive functions: inhibition, shifting, and updating. Inhibition refers to the ability to inhibit automatic or prepotent responses. Shifting refers to the ability to switch among different tasks or mental operations. Finally, the last executive function refers to the ability to update and monitor the contents of working memory. Miyake et al. (2000) further evaluated how these functions relate to each other and more complex behaviors. Their results found that correlations between these factors were in the moderate range, and that the executive functions related differentially to more complex tasks. For example, the ability to generate numbers randomly appears to rely on both inhibition and updating (Miyake et al., 2000). These results have been highly influential in understanding cognitive control, as well as how emotional factors can affect cognitive processing (e.g., Eysenck et al., 2007).

Based on these perspectives, Eysenck et al. (2007) developed a model for describing how anxiety affects basic cognitive processing. Although this framework focuses on trait anxiety, more recent studies have found evidence that these predictions also relate to diagnosable levels of anxiety (e.g., Najmi, Amir, Frosio, & Ayers, 2015), as well as more specific types of anxiety (e.g., Judah, Grant, Mills, & Lechner, 2013). As a result, recent research suggests that attentional control has a negative relationship with symptomatology among various anxiety disorders (Armstrong, Zald, & Olatunji, 2011) and may have broad implications for the development of anxiety symptoms across these disorders (e.g., Mills et al., 2016). Generally, this perspective focuses on the control of attention via effortful (i.e., top-down, goal-driven) processes or more automatic (i.e., bottom-up, stimulus-driven) processes (Corbetta & Shulman, 2002). Although these two systems are not completely independent, a healthy balance between top-down and bottom-up information processing allows an individual to engage in behaviors to move toward their goals (top-down) while managing salient and unexpected stimuli when appropriate (bottom-up).

Attentional control theory posits that anxiety disrupts the balance between these two attentional systems (Eysenck et al., 2007). Specifically, individuals high in trait anxiety devote excessive resources to the detection of potential threat, directing their attention toward possible signs of threat at the cost of goal-driven, higher-order processes. This can affect performance effectiveness, or quality of performance and processing efficiency, or the number of resources used to maintain effectiveness. Eysenck and colleagues (2007) suggest that anxiety decreases efficiency because anxiety takes up some attentional resources that otherwise would be utilized to respond to task demands. However, anxiety only affects performance in situations where this anxiety consumes more resources than an individual can recruit for the current task. This framework also suggests that anxiety typically affects processes that draw on the inhibition and shifting executive functions, rather than updating. Research has found strong support for this theory and its predictions using a wide range of methodologies, including reaction time (Derakshan, Smyth, & Eysenck, 2009), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI Basten, Stelzel, & Fiebach, 2012), and event-related potentials (ERPs Ansari & Derakshan, 2011).

Therefore, these models provide a framework to evaluate the effects of anxiety on cognitive control processes. First, the ability to regulate attentional processes to specific stimuli is an important part of managing ongoing task goals (Diamond, 2013). A wide variety of studies have documented how anxiety affects these attentional processes. Second, working memory, including capacity of working memory and specific executive functions, is highly important to managing and manipulating information in one’s consciousness (D’Esposito & Postle, 2015). Research has indicated that anxiety can affect the normal operation of these working memory processes, internal representations, and ongoing tasks. Third, actively monitoring and adjusting one’s behavior is a requirement for effective performance. Several models have been developed to form predictions about how performance is monitored during a specific activity. Research indicates that electrophysiological approaches (i.e., ERPs) are useful in this respect (e.g., Botvinick & Cohen, 2014). In addition, a considerable body of literature has developed suggesting that anxiety affects this performance-monitoring system. Therefore, due to the strong associations with anxiety and these three aspects of attentional control, the current article will review the selective attention, working memory, and performance monitoring literatures. We will take a broad, dimensional approach to anxiety, incorporating data from clinical and subclinical populations, as well as state and trait anxiety.

Selective Attention

Within the cognitive psychology literature, attention is thought of as a process that regulates perception, memory, and responses of the nervous system to incoming stimuli (e.g., Luck & Vecera, 2002). There are several aspects or mechanisms involved in attention, and it likely affects task goals at all levels of information processing (Chun, Golomb, & Turk-Browne, 2011). Selective attention can be defined as what occurs when cognitive resources are utilized to engage in enhanced processing of certain incoming stimuli (Hillyard, Vogel, & Luck, 1998 Luck & Kappenman, 2012). That is, when individuals focus on a specific sensory input (e.g., objects, sounds), they are using selective attention. Research has suggested that this leads to increased activity in sensory areas of the brain (e.g., Posner & Dehaene, 1994). The result is that cognitive resources are focused on certain stimuli, while irrelevant stimuli are ignored. Therefore, selective attention is highly important to any goal-directed behavior, in that an individual needs to focus on the ongoing task while ignoring task-irrelevant stimuli.

Research in this area has found that several factors relevant to emotion and processing of emotional stimuli can affect where individuals devote their attentional resources. For example, studies have found that emotional stimuli capture our attention (e.g., Mogg & Bradley, 1999 Ӧhman et al., 2001), particularly for individuals with elevated anxiety, using a variety of methodologies, such as the attentional blink (e.g., Anderson & Phelps, 2001), visual search tasks (e.g., Eimer & Kiss, 2007), and Stroop tasks (e.g., Grant & Beck, 2006). In particular, research has found that anxious individuals are primed to attend to threatening images and words over neutral or positive words, whereas nonanxious individuals focus primarily on neutral or positive images and words (Bar-Haim et al., 2007 Hakamata et al., 2010 Yiend, 2010). Furthermore, a metaanalysis indicated that selective attention biases were a robust phenomenon associated with anxiety (Bar-Haim et al., 2007).

One common methodology used within this literature is the dot-probe. In this task, participants see two task-irrelevant stimuli (typically faces) that are displayed for varying onsets, one of which is followed by a probe stimulus (e.g., a letter or an asterisk). Participants are asked to respond as fast as possible to the probe. Participants’ response times should be faster when the probe replaces facial stimuli that they were attending to, compared to facial stimuli that they were not attending to (Mogg & Bradley, 1999). Using this methodology, researchers have been able to evaluate whether anxious individuals display hypervigilance for threat (via faster response times following emotional faces) or avoidance of these stimuli (via faster response times following neutral faces). Early research using this methodology was mixed, with some studies finding evidence of hypervigilance (e.g., Mogg & Bradley, 1999) and others finding evidence of avoidance (Mansell, Clark, Ehlers, & Chen, 1999).

As a result, Mogg, Philippot, and Bradley (2004) developed the vigilance-avoidance hypothesis, which suggests that anxious individuals initially orient their attention toward threatening stimuli and subsequently focus attention away from these stimuli. Several studies have found support for this hypothesis, particularly for early vigilance (Carlson & Reinke, 2008 Koster, Crombes, Verschuere, Van Damme, & Wiersema, 2006). However, although some studies have supported subsequent avoidance (Koster, Verschuere, Crombes, & Van Damme, 2005 Mogg et al., 2004), others indicate that anxious individuals display faster response latencies to threatening stimuli, indicating difficulty with disengaging attention (Amir, Elias, Klumpp, Przeworski, 2003 Yiend & Mathews, 2001). Recent studies also have increased our knowledge in this area by measuring eye movements to assess selective attention. For example, one study used eye-tracking to evaluate the effects of state and trait anxiety during a passive viewing task of positive, neutral, and threatening images (Quigley, Nelson, Carriere, Smilek, & Purdon, 2012). Results found that regardless of trait anxiety levels, state anxiety was associated with increased viewing time and likelihood of first fixation toward threatening images. Other eye-tracking studies have found biases in selective attention across a wide range of paradigms (e.g., Holas, Krejtz, Cypryanska, & Nezlek, 2014 Schofield, Johnson, Inhoff, & Coles, 2012). Schofield et al. (2012) evaluated the time course of eye movements during a dot-probe task for individuals diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and nonclinical controls. Their results found that over time, controls were more likely to focus their attention on positive or neutral images, whereas those with social anxiety disorder attended to all types of images. Similarly, a recent metaanalysis of eye-tracking found support for anxiety to be characterized by initial vigilance for threatening stimuli, although results were mixed for avoidance and difficulty with disengaging attention (Armstrong & Olatunji, 2012). Clearly, further research is needed in this area.

Another methodology that can advance our understanding of selective attention processes is event-related potentials (ERPs), which can break reaction time into explicit stages of information processing. ERPs represent segments of brain waves, derived from electroencephalography (EEG), that assess specific cognitive processes (Luck, 2005). ERPs use an averaging technique on the overall EEG in order to isolate the specific brain activity involved in sensory perception, cognitive processes (e.g., determining the identity of a stimulus), and signals initiating motor movement, with high temporal resolution (Luck, 2005). Therefore, ERPs are extremely advantageous to the examination of the time course of cognitive activity. They are particularly useful in assessing two specific processes related to identifying a stimulus in the environment: amount of neural resources devoted to the stimulus (i.e., amplitude) and the latency, or the time that it takes to identify, discriminate, or respond to the stimulus.

Capitalizing on these strengths, studies using ERPs have furthered our understanding of how anxiety leads to biases within specific stages of attention. Selective attention biases can occur due to early perceptual responses to stimuli, overt and/or covert attention to stimuli, and more sustained processes. By varying which component is being evaluated, research has documented specific effects of anxiety at all three stages of processing. For example, early perceptual ERP components have been used to assess attentional resource allocation prior to conscious awareness of a stimulus (Luck & Hillyard, 1994). Studies assessing these components have found that anxiety is associated with early enhanced attention to aversive faces (Rossignol, Campanella, Bissot, & Philippot, 2013 van Peer, Spinhoven, & Roelofs, 2010), suggesting that trait anxiety can bias early perception.

Research also has used ERPs to evaluate later attention allocation (Holmes, Mogg, de Fockert, Nielsen, & Bradley, 2014 Kappenman, MacNamara, & Proudfit, 2015). For example, Kappenman et al. (2015) used two ERP components to measure whether unselected participants display biases in initial selective attention, as well as sustained attention to threatening stimuli during a dot-probe task. Results found evidence of participants displaying an initial shift of attention toward threatening images based on ERP data. However, no evidence was found for sustained biases with emotional faces, suggesting that individuals with normal levels of anxiety may initially direct attention toward emotional stimuli but are able to disengage this attention quickly. In contrast, individuals with elevated levels of anxiety have displayed biases at both perceptual stages. Recent studies indicate that individuals high in trait anxiety have been found to direct visual processing resources toward emotional stimuli rather than neutral stimuli (Judah, Grant, & Carlisle, 2016 Moran & Moser, 2015). In addition, researchers have found that anxiety is associated with sustained attentional processing for threatening stimuli for individuals with both subclinical anxiety (e.g., Grant, Judah, White, & Mills, 2015) and clinical levels of anxiety (e.g., Hajcak, Dunning, & Foti, 2009).

In sum, consistent evidence suggests that anxiety is associated with biases in selective attention for emotional stimuli (see Table 1 for overview of findings). Several studies also find that individuals with normal levels of anxiety initially pay attention to signs of threat. These results have consequences for later cognitive processes, such as whether stimuli are associated with maintenance of these biases in working memory. Furthermore, selective attention is highly related to working memory (Gazzaley & Nobre, 2012), and initial attentional shifts to threat may initiate later processes associated with the development and maintenance of anxiety. Therefore, understanding how anxiety affects attention likely has implications for working memory processes as well.


Cognitive development and sensory play

In play experiences, combining the sense of touch with the senses of vision, hearing, taste and smell helps build cognitive skills.

Early childhood educators cannot overstate the importance of sensory play in the educational process.

Ten-month old Cassie is grasping and turning some wooden blocks. One by one, she turns them around in her hands, feeling them carefully, and then she brings them to her mouth to further explore their texture and shape. She notices they don&rsquot seem to smell or taste like anything special. With her tongue and her fingers, she explores the flat sides and sharper corners. She is using all of her senses&mdashvision, smell, touch, hearing and taste&mdashto learn more about these blocks.

Young children learn through using multiple senses simultaneously. Hands-on learning with concrete objects, like Cassie&rsquos experience in the scenario described above, leads to abstract thought as she grows and develops. In play experiences, combining the sense of touch with the senses of vision, hearing, taste and smell helps build cognitive skills.

Cognitive skills are those skills we use when we solve problems and create novel ideas from current ideas. The process of solving problems begins with observation that is, taking note of the attributes of objects. Young children use all their senses to explore objects and they file it away in their memories. Also, when children have sensory experiences, they store their whole body experiences in their &ldquosensory memory.&rdquo We use our sensory memory to begin the process of understanding and gaining knowledge.

By exploring the wooden blocks over and over, a child learns something about the characteristics of blocks. One of the things they learn is that the big block is heavier than the small block, but they all taste the same. As High Scope early childhood specialist Suzanne Gainsley stated, &ldquoDiscovering and differentiating these characteristics is a first step in classification, or sorting&mdashan important part of preschoolers&rsquo science learning and discovery.&rdquo

Early childhood educators cannot overstate the importance of sensory play in the educational process. It is the foundation of all the skills children will use in school learning to read, write and solve math and science problems. Once a child has these experiences, they are able to draw upon the body memory and cognitive memory of their experiences when faced with new situations. Further, the process of observation is a skill in and of itself. Keen observation skills give a child an advantage in school and throughout life.

This process continues through the child&rsquos whole life and is the same process adults use to discover new medications or understand the nature of matter at the molecular level. &ldquoBy providing students with materials that they can physically manipulate, play with and explore, teachers help them learn more about the world and develop crucial skills that they will utilize later in life,&rdquo said Caitrin Blake of Concordia University Nebraska.

For example, a texture or sensory table is a popular place for children in early childhood education settings. Cognitive skills such as math skills are developed through spatial awareness and pattern recognition with objects in the sensory table. Science and technology skills, which are cognitive skills too, include observing, experimenting, drawing conclusions, predicting and learning about the natural and physical world.

Putting items in the texture table that present problems or challenges for children will help them develop cognitive skills. Teachers might put tubes of different sizes and items of different sizes so children must find the right-sized tube to fit the item. Gainsley suggests including &ldquoobjects that children can pour materials through (e.g., paper towel or toilet paper tubes, funnels with different-sized openings, bendable plastic tubing in different lengths).&rdquo

While safety is always a concern the teachers of young children must be aware of and attentive to, providing young children with a variety of materials and objects that have different colors, textures and smells enrich a child&rsquos life and build the skills they will need as adults.

For further research into sensory play and its benefits, Michigan State University Extension suggests the following websites:


How Perception Affects Us: The Pathways and Types of Perception

How does perception affect us? Perception is our sensory experience of the world around us. This involve recognizing environmental stimuli and the actions that are responses to those stimuli. Perception is key to gaining information and understanding the world around us. Without it, we would not be able to survive in this world filled with stimuli surrounding us. This is because perception not only molds our experience of the world but allows us to act within our environment. To learn more about the cognitive ability of perception and how perception affects us, read more below!

How Perception Affects Us

Perception plays a pivotal role in your five senses: being able to touch, see, taste, smell, and hear. It is involved in proprioception, which is a set of senses that detect changes in body positions and movements. Also, perception plays a role in the cognitive processes that are required for the brain to process information, like recognizing the face of someone you know or detecting familiar scents.

How Does Perception Work?

How does perception affect us? The process of perception is a series of steps that begins with the environment which leads to our perception of a stimulus, and then an action is generated in response to that stimulus. What is amazing is that this process is continual and is happening all the time, even when you’re not aware of it. Our brains take in plenty of stimuli from the environment, from the food we are tasting to the feel of the keypad we are typing on to even the birds chirping across our windows. This process takes place many times unconsciously and automatically, like when light falls on your retina and converts it into an actual image that your brain can comprehend. What the brain does in this system of perception is take in important stimuli and adapt to repetitive, unnecessary stimuli so that we are not overwhelmed with every single sensation occurring around us.

How Perception Affects Us

The steps involved in the perceptual process are:
1. The Environmental Stimuli

This is everything in our environment that has the potential to be perceived. It could include things to be seen, touched, tasted, smelled, heard, or even received by our proprioceptive senses.

2. Transduction

These signals are then taken in from your sensory organs and then converted into messages that can be interpreted by the brain.

3. Neural Processing

While being transduced, the electrical signals follow a particular pathway depending on what signal just came in (like an auditory signal or a visual signal). Many of the neurons in your body are interconnected in their own complex maps. The electrical signals that pass through these neurons are propagated from the receptor cells to the brain.

4. Perception

Here is where we get down to business. During the perception stage, we actually perceive and consciously become aware of the stimulus object that has affected us from our environment.

5. Recognition

This is where we interpret and give meaning to those environmental stimuli. Whereas perception involves us becoming aware of a stimulus present, recognition is when we actually understand that stimulus.

6. Action

As a final result, we take some sort of action in response to that environmental stimulus. Most of the time, the action phase depends on some type of motor activity that occurs in response to the perceived and recognized stimulus. This could involve a variety of actions, like turning your head when someone calls your name, chewing and swallowing your food after tasting it, and even running toward a person in distress.

How Perception Affects Us: Types of Perception

1. Depth and Spatial Perception

This is the ability for a person to perceive distance. It is extremely important for one to discern distances in the real world, like the distance between me and another person and the space between objects. Included in depth/spatial perception is the ability to perceive moving objects, like vehicles driving on roads. Factors like first, second, and third dimensions come into play in our understanding of depth perception.

Spatial perception is possible due to certain cues in our environment that help us to understand the distance between multiple objects in space. These cues are of two types:

A. Monocular Cues

These are cues that can operate with the aid of only one eye. Some of them include linear perspective, which is how we can tell if objects are close or far away. Images of objects that are far away appear smaller to us. Aerial perspective is when objects nearer to us appear clearer than distant objects. Interposition is when one object obstructs our view of another so that the object in front appears nearer than the partially covered one. Gradient structure is when the regions of objects closer to the observer have a coarse texture with plenty of details, while the objects further away from us become finer and finer.

B. Binocular Cues

These are cues that can only work with the function of both eyes. The two binocular cues are retinal disparity and convergence/divergence. Retinal disparity occurs when the image of the object that falls of both retinas is different. This happens more often when objects are closer than further away. Convergence/divergence of the eyeballs takes place when the object moves nearer and nearer to our eyes so that our eyeballs converge and when the object moves away from us, the eyeballs diverge.

How Perception Affects Us

2. Movement Perception

We understand when objects are in movement because particular objects appear in different places at different times. This is a natural process that we learn since birth. It is only through this ability that an individual can understand the world around him or her and perceive dangers or threats in movement, which is key for survival.

In a phenomenon called apparent motion, we perceive objects as moving when really they are stationary. It becomes an illusion then, as we perceive objects that are not moving to in fact be moving. An example of this is when we are moving fast on a bus or a car and the trees, plants, and houses we pass by appear to be moving in the opposite direction. Obviously, those objects are not moving, but we perceive them as indeed in motion.

Another cool example of this is movies we watch, or what used to be called “moving pictures.” The movement of the figures in films appear to be moving, but they really are not. What movies really are are a real of film pictures moving very, very fast to produce a movement feeling known as stroboscopic motion or the phi phenomenon. It is the same case for moving-picture booklets, where the artists flips through the edges of a book and it gives the appearance of activity from the drawings.

3. Form Perception

This is the ability to recognize objects in a particular form within a certain environment. According to Gestalt psychologists, different laws govern how we perceive different patterns within space.

The law of proximity holds that when we perceive a collection of objects, we will see objects close to each other as forming a group. This also affects how we view pictures and films. If you were to magnify pictures on a computer screen to a large depth, you would see pixels forming the picture together. When we look at one complete image, we don’t see each individual pixel rather we see it as one whole object based on the law of proximity.

The law of similarity states that elements will be grouped perceptually if they are similar to each other. Color plays a big role in this grouping. Think again to the pixels that make up a photograph. Looking closely, the pixels in one area are all similar or closely related shades of the same color to make up that one element of the image.

How Perception Affects Us

The law of figure-ground captures the idea that when we perceive a visual field, some objects take a prominent role (the figures) while others recede into the background. For example, if you were getting a picture taken of yourself near a lake with beautiful hills and mountains behind you, then you would be the central figure of the photo, while the water, mountains, sky, and other scenery would be the ground.

The law of closure holds that when we capture objects that are not complete, we perceptually close them up so that we perceive shapes in a picture that are not actually there. A classic example of this is aligning three pac-man, incomplete circles into a pyramid and then using your perception to sense the triangle that they form, although no triangle is physically present in the picture.

How Perception Affects Us: Factors Affecting Perception

Perceptual Learning

Based on past experiences, special training, and knowledge of specific stimuli, each of us learns to emphasize certain sensory inputs and to ignore others. For example, if I am working on an assignment in my office that is due soon, my sensory apparatus is more aware of the work that is in front of me, like the computer screen, the keypad I am typing with, or the pen that I am holding, rather than focusing on the “tick-tock” sound of the clock right next to me. This is because I have been trained for years to place priorities on the immediate work in front of me rather than extenuating stimuli. Experience is always the best teacher for many perceptual skills.

Mental Set

This refers to how mentally prepared you are to receive some sensory input. Expecting specific stimuli keeps one prepared with fantastic attention and concentration. For example, if I am riding the one of the New York City subways, then I am more attentive to the rustling sound of the train approaching rather than the huge amount of noise that is coming from people playing music, children crying, and other nefarious sounds.

How Perception Affects Us

Motives and Needs

The things you want and need will most certainly influence your perception. An example of this is a hungry person at a conference. Since he is extremely hungry, he is more likely to perceive caterers coming into the hall to set up food in the dining area than others might be. It is very difficult for his attention to be directed toward other important issues until his hunger is satisfied

Cognitive Styles

It is thought that people differ in the ways that they process information, with each of us having our own unique ways of responding to stimuli. All individuals will react to variable situations in their specific way. One thought is that people who are flexible and athletic are more attentive to external stimuli of pressure and force and they are less influenced by internal needs and motives.

Radiyyah is an undergraduate student at Macaulay Honors College and Queens College. She is currently pursuing a double Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Neuroscience with a minor in Sociology. Radiyyah is passionate about all fields relating to the brain and social psychology and she hopes to continue her career in Neuropsychology research.


Editorial: The Sensation-Cognition Interface: Impact of Early Sensory Experiences on Cognition


The fourteen articles in this special topic are linked by their consideration of how various kinds of experiential deprivation can affect cognitive development. Reflecting recent increased interest in multisensory processing, most submissions look at how the absence of one sensory modality influences processing in another. Codina et al. studied perceptual changes in the peripheral visual field induced by deafness and/or sign language. They compared performance in the central and peripheral vision of deaf signers, hearing signers and hearing non-signers in a forced choice task. Deaf participants performed better than the other groups for peripherally presented stimuli, suggesting that sign language acquisition alone does not change peripheral vision in the way that deafness does. Samar and Berger investigate the hypothesis of reallocation of attentional resources from the central to the peripheral visual field in the deaf, using a spatial attention paradigm requiring target localization. Comparing deaf participants with or without cochlear implants (CIs) with hearing participants, they surprisingly observed that deaf with no CIs show a reduced central attentional capacity which was not associated with enhanced peripheral attention. In the perception of faces, a left visual field bias typically exists which suggests a right hemisphere specialization. This bias is already observed in 5-year-old hearing children. Dole et al. found a reduced left visual field bias in deaf adults compare to hearing peers when using chimeric faces. This result was associated with increased looking time toward the mouth for deaf participants. Early profound deafness is therefore associated with differences in face scanning and could induce a change in hemispheric specialization possibly linked to speech reading. Pimperton et al. investigated whether deaf adults with CIs showed significantly better scores on a test of speechreading than hearing, hypothesizing that the age of implantation might influence this ability. They found that the deaf with CIs were better speechreaders than the hearing, with a significant positive correlation between age at implantation and speechreading performance: earlier implantation was associated with poorer speechreading scores. Aparicio et al. investigated the neural substrate of speech reading and speech with cued speech (CS) recruiting deaf individuals, CS users, and individuals with typical hearing. Their study explores the neural similarities and differences in processing oral language delivered in a visuo-manual or in an audio-visual modality. They found a common, amodal neural basis for the perception of both audiovisual speech and CS, but clear differences were observed in the posterior parts of the superior temporal sulcus for auditory and speechread information in audiovisual speech, and in the occipitotemporal junction for CS. Corina et al. recorded auditory and visual evoked potentials in hearing children and deaf children with CIs. They reported an atypical auditory P1 in the deaf children, even with early implantation and significant auditory experience, which they interpret as potentially reflecting an aberrant maturation of cortical function early in development. They found no differences in the visual evoked potentials. When analyzing the relationship between auditory P1 and visual N1 within participants, they found a significant correlation in the hearing children not in deaf children with CIs.

In addition to these studies of deaf children and adults, several contributions looked at cognition in blind children and adults. Cappagli et al. looked at auditory spatial localization in preschool children who were congenitally blind or had low vision. Their results suggest that some early visual experience is required for the development of domain-general spatial cognition. Gori et al. report a study that required early blind, late blind and sighted adults to report the shape made by a moving sound source and then to replicate that movement in a locomotion task. They report that early blind, but not late blind, individuals struggled to identify the auditory motion paths and, even when they could correctly do so, their ability to reproduce those shapes in the locomotion task was error prone. Tonelli et al. asked whether vision is necessary for the calibration of auditory space, or whether the same function can be subserved by touch. In blindfolded adults with typical vision, they report that haptic exploration of a 3D model of a room, accompanied by ambulatory exploration of the room while blindfolded, resulted in improved bisection of an auditory line. Subsequent visual exploration did not improve bisection any further. Finally, two reviews explore different aspects of cognition in blind individuals. Voss reviews the literature on auditory spatial cognition in the blind and suggests that data must be interpreted in terms of task demands. In particular, findings differ depending upon whether testing occurs in the horizontal or vertical plane, whether depth judgments are absolute or relative, and whether tasks are performed mono- or binaurally. He suggests that the specificity of effects likely represents the use of different auditory spectral cues. Martin et al. point out the importance of considering etiology in their review of ocular versus cortical/cerebral visual impairment (CVI). They point out that CVI is now a highly prevalent cause of early childhood blindness in developed countries, and that it is associated with a range of attentional and visual dysfunctions that mean rehabilitation strategies designed for those with ocular deficits are ineffective for individuals with CVI.

Together, these eleven articles on sensory deprivation�ness and blindness—reveal some striking theoretical and practical parallels. The cross-sensory calibration hypothesis of Gori et al. (2012) bears a remarkable similarity to the auditory scaffolding hypothesis proposed by Conway et al. (2009), and provides a potential unifying framework for understanding how a lack on input in one sensory modality affects development in another [see also the intersensory redundancy hypothesis of Bahrick and Lickliter (2000)]. There are also important methodological considerations that arise from both literatures. Voss points out that early and late blind individuals may make use of different auditory spectral cues, and may make use of different reference frames. In addition, he also notes that transient visual deprivation (such as by blindfolding) results in effects not observed in early blind individuals. In the same way, whether or not a deaf child has a CI (and the age at which they receive one) may also results in different patterns of compensatory change, and the work of Bross et al. established that transient auditory deprivation results in visual changes not observed in those born profoundly deaf (Bross et al., 1980). Last of all, Martin et al.'s review of ocular versus cerebral etiologies for visual impairment mirrors discussion in the field of deafness about carefully considering the etiology of hearing loss in deaf individuals (Bavelier et al., 2006).

The last three contributions to this special topic reflect the effects of different kinds of deprivation on cognition—linguistic and social deprivation. Gagne and Coppola ask whether observing social interactions is sufficient to support social cognition in deaf adults who have not acquired conventional language. They report that these Homesigners performed well on simple visual perspective taking tasks. However, they struggled on false belief tasks, as did unschooled signers and speakers of conventional languages. The authors suggest that language may be important for the development of theory of mind, but that it is not sufficient. Henner et al. examined how the age of entry to a signing school for the deaf (and, by proxy, age of sign language exposure) affects the ability to make syntactic judgments and perform an analogical reasoning task. Their data suggest that earlier entry into signing schools for the deaf is, in these children, associated with better ASL syntactic knowledge and improved analogical reasoning skills. Finally, Tibu et al. analyzed data from the Bucharest Early Intervention Project, looking at the effects of institutionalization on the development of ADHD symptoms. They report an analysis to show that the effect of social and communicative deprivation on the emergence of ADHD symptoms at age 12 years is mediated by impaired working memory. These studies show that it is not only sensory experience that shapes cognitive abilities social and linguistic interaction also play an important role in the development of a child's ability to think and reason. Further research is needed for a better holistic understanding of how sensory, linguistic and social interactions are interrelated and work together to shape and dictate the direction of cognitive development.


Methodological issues and common biases

Although the adverse effects of SD on cognitive performance are quite well established, some studies have failed to detect any deterioration. Inadequate descriptions of study protocols or subject characteristics in some studies make it difficult to interpret the neutral results. However, it is likely that such results are due to methodological shortcomings, such as insensitive cognitive measures, failure to control the practice effect or other confounding factors, like individual sleep history or napping during the study. Also, if the task is carried out only once during the SD period, the results may be influenced by circadian rhythm.

Sleep deprivation studies are laborious and expensive to carry out, which may lead to compromises in the study design: for example, a small sample size can reduce the statistical power of the study, but a larger population may come at the expense of other methodological issues, such as a reduction in the cognitive test selection or in the number of nights spent in the sleep laboratory. Comparison of the results is also complicated because the length of sleep restriction varies and the studies are designed either within- or between-subjects.

Sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings may impair sleep quality. An adaptation night at the sleep laboratory is used to minimize this first night effect. However, in several studies, this has been neglected and the SD period has been preceded by a “normal” night at home (eg, Harrison and Horne 2000 Jennings et al 2003 Choo et al 2005 ). Although sleeping at home certainly reflects a subject’s reality more accurately, it does not allow for precise control and information of sleeping conditions. Adding a portable recording, such as an actigraph, provides objective information about eg, bedtime and resting periods. In some studies, the first night in the sleep laboratory has been the baseline (eg, Drummond et al 2000 Forest and Godbout 2000 De Gennaro et al 2001 Drummond et al 2001 ), whereas others have included one adaptation night (eg, Casagrande et al 1997 Alhola et al 2005 ). Yet, it may be questionable to use data from the second night as the baseline because sleep quality can be better than normal due to the rebound from the first night. Accordingly, only data from the third night should be accepted, which has been the case in a few studies ( Thomas et al 2000 Van Dongen et al 2003a ). This, however, makes the procedure very hard. Furthermore, study protocols can be improved by adding an ambulatory EEG recording to confirm the wakefulness of the subjects during the study.

In sleep studies, a common pitfall is recruitment methods. Enrolment via advertisements or from sleep clinics favors the selection of subjects with sleeping problems or concerns about their cognitive performance. Thus, strict exclusion criteria regarding physical or mental diseases or sleeping problems are essential. Further, sleeping habits should be controlled to make sure that the subjects are not initially sleep deprived. For this, use of a sleep diary for eg, 1𠄳 weeks before the experiment (eg, De Gennaro et al 2001 Habeck et al 2004 Alhola et al 2005 ) or an actigraph is applicable ( Harrison and Horne 1999 Thomas et al 2000 ).

The use of medication or stimulants, such as caffeine, alcohol or tobacco, is often prohibited before the experiment (eg, Thomas et al 2000 Van Dongen et al 2003a Habeck et al 2004 Alhola et al 2005 Choo et al 2005 ). In some studies, the subjects have been required to refrain from these substances only 24 h before the study ( Habeck et al 2004 Choo et al 2005 ), which may increase withdrawal symptoms and dropping out of the study. Thus a longer abstinence, eg, 1𠄲 weeks, is more appropriate ( Van Dongen et al 2003a Alhola et al 2005 ).

A variety of cognitive tests, from simple reaction time measures to complex decision-making tasks requiring creativity and reasoning, have been used to evaluate the effect of SD on cognition. The greatest problem in repeated cognitive testing is the practice effect, which easily conceals any adverse effects of SD. Therefore, careful control over learning is essential. Cognitive processes are also intertwined in several ways, which makes it difficult to specify exactly which cognitive functions are utilized in certain performances. Because attention is involved in performing any cognitive task, a decrease in other cognitive domains during SD may be mediated through impaired attention. In complex tasks, however, applying previous knowledge and use of strategies or creativity may be more essential. Some studies have concentrated on neural correlates of cognitive functioning during continuous wakefulness. Both fMRI ( Portas et al 1998 Drummond et al 2000 Drummond et al 2001 Chee and Choo 2004 Habeck et al 2004 Choo et al 2005 ) and PET have been used ( Thomas et al 2000 ). Although these trials yield interesting information about brain functioning, the use of imaging techniques limits the selection of cognitive tests that could be carried out at the same time.

Dorrian et al (2005) have compiled a list of criteria for neurocognitive tests that would be suitable for investigating sleep deprivation effects. The criteria include psychometric quality, ie, reliability and validity, but the tests should also reflect a fundamental aspect of waking neurocognitive functions and it should be possible to interpret them in a meaningful way. The tasks should be repeatable, independent of aptitude, and they should be short with a high signal load. These criteria are not met in some studies. Dorrian et al (2005) also argued that vigilance is the underlying factor through which the sleep deprivation effects are mediated in all other tasks. However, although attention is needed to perform any task to some extent, the hypothesis that sleep deprivation can have an independent effect on other cognitive functions such as memory cannot be ruled out. Nevertheless, when measuring other cognitive functions, the characteristics of the task should be considered carefully and, eg, for repeated measures of memory, parallel test versions should be used.


Deprivation in early childhood can affect mental health in adulthood, according to landmark study

Despite living in strong and supportive families for over 20 years, many children exposed to severe early deprivation in Romanian institutions aged 0-3 experience a range of mental health problems in early adulthood.

Experiencing severe deprivation and neglect in childhood can have a lasting psychological impact into early adulthood, according to a unique study which has followed the mental health of a group of children adopted from Romanian institutions to UK families in the 1990s.

Published in The Lancet, this is the first large-scale study to follow a group of children who were subjected to extreme deprivation into adulthood, tracking how their mental health and cognition has developed as a result.

The English and Romanian Adoptees study began shortly after the fall of the communist regime in Romania. Children living in institutions were subjected to extremely poor hygiene, insufficient food, little personalised care and no social or cognitive stimulation. The study, running since 1990, analyses the mental health of 165 children who spent time in Romanian institutions and who were adopted by families in the UK between the ages of two weeks and 43 months. In the UK, they joined socioeconomically advantaged, stable, caring and supportive families.

Comparing against 52 children adopted within the UK, the study has followed them throughout their childhood using questionnaires, IQ tests and interviews with the children and their parents to analyse social, emotional and cognitive outcomes at ages 6, 11 and 15.

The latest part of the study followed the adoptees to ages 22 to 25 years old. It includes around three-quarters of the original adoptees -- 39 UK adoptees, 50 Romanian adoptees who had spent less than six months in an institution as children and 72 who had spent over six months.

The researchers found that the amount of time spent in a Romanian institution was an important marker of children's future mental health. Romanian adoptees who had spent less than six months had similar rates of mental health symptoms as UK adoptees. However, adoptees who had spent more time in the institutions had higher rates of social, emotional and cognitive problems throughout their lives.

People who had lived in Romanian institutions for more than six months as children had higher rates of social problems including autistic features, difficulties engaging with others, inattention and overactivity which persisted from childhood into adulthood. They were also three to four times more likely to experience emotional problems as adults, and had lower educational attainment and employment rates than the other UK and Romanian adoptees. This all despite living in strong and supportive families for over 20 years.

As children, more adoptees who lived in Romanian institutions for over six months had an IQ of less than 80, but this recovered within normal levels (an IQ of 90 or above) by early adulthood, suggesting developmental delays but no permanent impact on general cognitive abilities.

Additionally, one in five (21%, 15 children) adoptees who spent over six months in Romanian institutions did not experience any mental health problems throughout their lives. The next steps of the research will involve an in-depth genetic analysis of the most exposed adoptees who did not develop mental health problems to distinguish whether genetic and epigenetic differences contribute to resilience.

"Being exposed to very severe conditions in childhood can be associated with lasting and deep-seated social, emotional and cognitive problems, which are complex and vary over time," said lead author Professor Edmund Sonuga-Barke, King's College London, UK, who conducted the follow-up study while at the University of Southampton. "This highlights the importance of assessing patients from deprived backgrounds when providing mental health support and carefully planning care when these patients transfer from child to adult mental health care. Although focussed on children adopted from Romanian institutions in the early 1990s, our findings may also be relevant to large numbers of children who are still exposed to abusive or neglectful conditions around the world."

Because the children were different ages when they entered institutions and lived there for different amounts of time, the study could not determine whether there is a window during childhood development when children may be more or less likely to be affected by deprivation. In addition, it cannot control for other early risk factors affecting the child's mental health, such as maternal smoking or substance abuse during pregnancy, but the authors argue that there are unlikely to be significant differences among the two groups of Romanian adoptees.

Writing in a linked Comment, Professor Frank Verhulst, Erasmus University Medical Centre, The Netherlands, said: "Whatever the underlying mechanisms, the findings of Sonuga-Barke and colleagues' study elegantly support the rule of the earlier the better for improving the caregiving environment for young children whose basic needs are profoundly violated. This finding is true for millions of children around the world who are exposed to war, terrorism, violence, or mass migration. As a consequence, many young children face trauma, displacement, homelessness, or family disruption."


Can Poor Vision or Hearing Affect Your Mind?

Visual impairment can influence thinking, memory and mood, but negative effects can be minimized.

Newswise — Loss of acuity in hearing and vision is a common accompaniment to aging. While only an estimated one in every 1,000 people under the age of 45 has visual impairment, one in every 13 people over the age of 65 does, according to the American Foundation for the Blind. Hearing suffers a similar decline: among people aged 65 to 74, 23 percent have trouble hearing after age 75, the figure climbs to nearly 40 percent.

In addition to weakening important connections to the environment, this often gradual onset of sensory deprivation can have other important effects on the brain. It is associated with the development of mood disorders, and with declines in key aspects of mental functioning. Finding ways to prevent sensory change, and to adjust to impairments if they develop, is important to maintaining mental health as we age, according to Massachusetts General Hospital's Mind, Mood & Memory.

"Vision and hearing loss are major public health issues because they affect so many older individuals, and because they have an adverse impact on mental health," says Dennis Norman EdD, Chief of Psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital. "If the senses are limited, everything is affected, including interaction with surroundings, relationships, activities, and feelings of self-worth. Impairment can lead to depression, anxiety, social isolation and many other problems."

WHEN SENSES DECLINEVisual impairment is defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as blindness in one eye, blindness in both eyes, or any other significant trouble seeing. Hearing impairment is defined as deafness in one ear, deafness in both ears, or any other significant trouble hearing. According to CDC figures, an estimated 3.6 million Americans aged 70 or over suffer from some form of visual impairment, while 6.7 million older adults report hearing impairment. An estimated 1.7 million adults aged 70 and over report both vision and hearing impairment.

These older people with sensory deficits are at greater risk for a variety of health problems, according to a recent CDC survey. Compared to older individuals without impairments, those with sensory impairment are significantly more likely to encounter functional problems such as difficulties in walking, getting outside, getting into or out of a bed or chair, or managing medications. They are more vulnerable to falls, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and depression. Those with visual impairment are also less likely to socialize than individuals without sensory impairment.

"That's why evaluating vision and hearing should be part of any health checkup," Dr. Norman says. "It's important to catch subtle changes, because the earlier you treat them, the better people are able to deal with the impairments."

MOOD EFFECTSPeople with vision and hearing problems are also more vulnerable to depression and anxiety, and are less likely to engage in social activities. Depression is characterized by a low mood lasting two weeks or more with symptoms such as pervasive sadness, loss of interest in activities usually enjoyed, feelings of worthlessness, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, agitation, fatigue, and suicidal thought.

A study presented at the International Congress Series in London in April 2005 found that among a group of people with seriously impaired vision, 22 percent exhibited signs of major depression. A National Council on Aging study of 2,300 people with hearing loss found that among individuals with untreated impairment, up to 30 percent reported major depression, and up to 17 percent reported suffering anxiety for a month or more in the preceding year. Mood disorders associated with sensory impairments were often significantly improved through rehabilitation training and/or the use of assistive devices such as hearing aids.

COGNITION EFFECTSResearch suggests that cognition and memory, too, can suffer when vision and hearing fade, although the precise reasons for these changes are not clear. A study of 2,946 people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD, a condition in which a key area of the retina degenerates and people lose the ability to see objects in detail) uncovered a strong link between visual problems and cognitive impairment. From 2000 to 2004, researchers measured the degree of visual impairment of each subject, then administered a series of six tests designed to measure thinking, learning and memory abilities. They found subjects with the greatest degree of visual impairment had the poorest average scores on the test of cognition, and that scores decreased as vision decreased, according to a report in the April 2006 issue of Archives of Ophthalmology . The authors proposed that AMD and cognitive decline may result from common risk factors or that visual impairment may cause cognitive impairment by reducing people's participation in stimulating events or that impairment may cause depression and isolation, which may then lead to cognitive decline.

People with hearing impairment may also experience problems with cognitive functioning. Work by researchers at Brandeis University suggests that memory ability among people with hearing loss may be compromised by the extra effort required to hear. In a study comparing a group of older people with mild-to-moderate hearing impairment with a similar group without hearing impairment, participants were read a list of 15 words and instructed to remember only the last three words. People with hearing impairments were able to remember the final word as well as the unimpaired, but they did significantly worse at remembering the other two words. Differences between the two groups may indicate that resources that would otherwise be available for higher-level comprehension or encoding information in memory was expended by the hearing-impaired in the effort to hear accurately, the researchers suggested.

PREVENTING SENSORY CHANGESMake an effort to prevent hearing and vision loss by getting regular checkups to catch problems early, and by taking preventative measures such as these:

Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses to reduce exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) that might damage the eyes use eye protection when operating machinery that may inflict injury from flying objects such as sparks or chips.Protect your ears from loud noises (85 decibels or more) that can damage the delicate hair cells of the inner ear by avoiding noise sources, using earplugs or keeping earphone volume low.

Maintain health by getting regular medical checkups, giving up smoking, and managing conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure that can damage eyes and/or ears.

Eat right: A healthy diet can protect your eyes. Consume plenty of citrus fruits and juices for vitamin C eat carrots and dark-green leafy vegetables such as spinach for beta-carotene eat whole grains, nuts, and eggs for vitamin E and get needed zinc from fish, meats, whole grains and dairy products. For nutrients that strengthen or protect hearing, eat foods rich in: vitamin D (fortified dairy products, seafood, fortified cereals) vitamin B12 (meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products and shellfish) and folate (liver, eggs, beans, fortified cereals, leafy green vegetables, and fruits).

Consider supplements. Ask your doctor about taking supplements. In addition to the vitamins and minerals mentioned above, supplements of bilberry (huckleberry) have been thought to perhaps help protect eyesight, and ginkgo biloba and vinpocetine may help prevent or ameliorate hearing problems. There are also basic steps that can be taken to help people cope with existing impairment of hearing and vision.

"Recognize the fact that you or a loved one may need assistance," advises Dr. Norman. "Try to accept help from others, and take advantage of devices such as magnifying lenses and hearing aids that can help ensure independence."

WHAT YOU CAN DOGet professional help for mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.Make an effort to continue social activities. Isolation can lead to depression and lack of mental stimulation.

Learn about the impairment, and how other people cope with it. Consider joining a support group.



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