Making sense of the environment

Attention

  • Selective attention: our ability to focus on something that is going on while other, non-related things are going on around us.
  • Divided attention: the type of attention we need to use when we are forced to do more than one task at a time. How much our attention is divided depends on the difficulty of the tasks.

Cognition

  • Information-processing model: describes how our brains work as machines that pay attention to and perceive our surroundings. Once this information has been processed it is stored in our brains so that it can be drawn upon later.
  • Cognitive development: the development of one's ability to understand concepts and think reasonably for oneself.
    • Piaget's stages of cognitive development
      1. Sensorimotor (ages: 0-2 years): Involves learning to perceive the world using senses. During this stage they learn object permanence, the concept that even if you hide a ball under the rug, the ball continues to exist.
      2. Preoperational Stage (ages: 2-7 years): The child learns that objects and ideas can be shown using symbols, such as images and words. They also learn to speak. During this period of time the child is very egocentric, and do not understand other people's perspectives.
      3. Concrete Operational Stage (ages: 7-11 years): During this period of time the child learns the principle of conservation, which is the concept that a tall slender cup can hold the same amount of fluid as a short wider cup, even though the cups are different. The child is also able to think logically about actual events.
      4. Formal Operational Stage (ages 12- adulthood): During this period of time people learn how to reason based on morals, how to form hypotheses, and other forms of abstract reasoning.
    • Cognitive changes in late adulthood
      • Adults over the age of 60 have delayed reaction times and slowed speech because their information-processing capabilities have become slower.
      • One of the most significant cognitive changes that occur during adulthood is our memory. After the age of 60 it is more difficult for us to recall, but our ability to recognize is still mostly intact.
        • To recall something is to recover information without being given any clues. So, without prompting, an elderly person would know that your birthday is in July.
        • To recognize is to recover information when given clues. For example, if you were to say, "My birthday is coming up!" someone elderly could recognize that your birthday was in July.
      • After the age of 60 time-based tasks become difficult. For example, it may be difficult for someone over the age of 60 to follow a weekly routine, such as going to physical therapy twice a week for their 2:00 pm appointment.
    • Role of culture in cognitive development
      • The culture we grow up in lays a platform for social relationships to form, as well as serves as an environment to observe others' social interactions.
      • The things we learn from what we observe in our environment shapes how we behave and think. Some people think in images, and some think in words.
      • Studies have found that different languages lead to different ways of thinking and reasoning.
    • Influence of heredity and environment on cognitive development
      • Nature: the hereditary influence / genetics
      • Nurture: the environmental influence such as social culture and education.
      • "Nature vs. Nurture" - our cognitive development is a complicated interaction between our genetic predispositions to certain abilities and disabilities (nature) and our environment (nurture).
  • Biological factors that affect cognition
    • Processes that occur in the frontal lobe include organization and planning. The hippocampus, is responsible for forming new memories.
    • The amygdala (and the rest of the limbic system) is also involved with cognition. Its job is to arouse the necessary emotions, causing alertness and motivation necessary to complete tasks.
  • Problem solving and decision making
    • Types of problem solving
      • Trial and error - the process by which we experiment using various different approaches until we find one that is effective.
      • Algorithm - the process of following a set of particular rules or calculations, often involving a computer, to come up with the correct answer.
      • Heuristics - the process of using cognitive shortcuts, formed by someone's previous experiences. A "rule of thumb" is an example of a heuristic.
    • Barriers to effective problem solving
      • Confirmation bias: a tendency to look for information that supports and agrees with your idea, instead of seeking out new information that may disprove or go against it.
      • Fixation: the failure to see an issue from a new perspective. Sometimes fixation occurs because of a mental set.
        • A mental set is the inclination to fixate on answers that have been successful in the past, even though they may be irrelevant or inappropriate for solving the current problem.
        • Function fixedness is a tendency to observe the functions of things (objects) as static and unchanging. For example, one may think the only way to get to work is by driving, when other methods exist such as biking or public transportation.
      • Approaches to problem solving: a combination of trial and error, algorithmic, and heuristics.
      • Heuristics and biases (e.g., overconfidence, belief perseverance)
        • Heuristics, or mental shortcuts, are used so that we can make quick decisions.
          • Representative heuristic - we have a tendency to make judgments based on the probability of something happening based on our typical idea of a particular event. For example, we believe we will receive a cake rather than a salad when it is our birthday. This is because cakes are typically more representative of a birthday than a salad.
          • Availability heuristic- tendency to believe that something is more common or more likely to happen just because it is more readily obtainable in our memory. For example, if everyone in your household has the flu, and someone at work coughs, you may jump to the conclusion that they, too, have the flu.
        • Belief bias is the tendency to cast judgment on issues using what someone believes about their conclusion, regardless of the logic that was used to support the argument.
          • Belief perseverance is the tendency for us to hold on to our pre-existing beliefs, despite being presented with evidence that contradicts our beliefs.
          • Another way that information can be skewed is by how it is "framed". This is how the information is presented (ie. in a negative or positive).
    • Intellectual functioning
      • Theories of intelligence
        • Intelligence Quotient - ("IQ") created by German psychologist William Stern. The first tests to measure intelligence were created to measure a "mental age", marked by a collection of abilities/disabilities that children of a certain age group possess
        • The eight types of intelligence
          1. Nature Intelligence- the ability to understand the biological aspects of the world.
          2. Linguistic Intelligence- the ability to write, read, and speak.
          3. Intrapersonal Intelligence- the ability to have insight; to understand one's inner self.
          4. Interpersonal Intelligence- the ability to understand and associate with other people.
          5. Mathematical Intelligence- the ability to perform in numbers (math).
          6. Spatial Intelligence- the ability to see and process the world (space) that surrounds you.
          7. Musical Intelligence- the ability to compose and/or perform musically.
          8. Bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence- the ability to perform athletically (dance, sports, manual labor, etc.).
        • General intelligence (also referred to as the "G factor") is the type of intelligence that underlies all types of intelligence. It is arguable whether this factor is quantifiable.
        • Emotional Intelligence is a type of intelligence that refers to one's ability to understand, sympathize/empathize, regulate, and express one's emotions.
        • Triarchic Theory of Intelligence -Developed by Robert Sternberg, 3 components
          1. Experiential intelligence- (also known as creative intelligence) the ability to familiarize oneself with new circumstances and form new concepts. For example: If you move to a foreign country and you are able to learn the new language, you are exhibiting experiential intelligence.
          2. Componential intelligence- (also known as analytical intelligence) the traditional idea of intelligence. Includes ability to logically reason and think abstractly. Also includes the ability to communicate and think mathematically. This type of intelligence can be evaluated by standard tests of intelligence (e.g. IQ tests).
          3. Contextual intelligence- (also known as practical intelligence, or "street smarts") this is the ability to apply one's knowledge base to the world around them. Example: You have learned that UV rays from the sun can give you skin cancer, so when the sunlight becomes intense, you move to sit in the shade.
        • Primary Mental Abilities- Belief is that we are born with seven primary mental abilities:
          • Reasoning
          • Numerical ability
          • Associative Memory
          • Spatial visualization
          • Word fluency
          • Perceptual speed
          • Verbal comprehension
        • Savant Syndrome is rare, and is characterized by extreme talent in one particular area, such as music, but rather poor cognitive functioning in most other fields. This condition often involves a form of mental retardation, such as autism.
      • Influence of heredity and environment on intelligence
        • Both heredity and the environment play large roles with regards to one's intellectual capabilities.
        • In addition to genetics, life experiences can also affect one's intelligence scores. Environmental hardships (especially during development) can negatively affect one's cognitive abilities (e.g. trauma, malnutrition, isolation, and sensory deprivation).
      • Variations in intellectual ability
        • Intelligence is hard to measure; many of the tests administered to quantify intelligence have built-in bias, and have unavoidable confounding factors. For example, sometimes racial groups score differently from each other not because of their race, but because of different incomes and availability to different qualities of education.
        • IQ Scores: The average score on an intelligence test is 100. The lowest end of the spectrum falls below 70 mark. At the high of the scale, there are people who score higher than 130.

    Consciousness

    • States of consciousness: consciousness is defined as the state of being awake and able to process what is happening internally and externally
      • Alertness
        • Alertness and arousal refer to our ability to pay attention to events that are occurring around us.
        • Drugs, poisons, and head injuries can hinder our ability to be aware. Awareness can also be altered by a variety of conditions, including ADD, chronic fatigue syndrome, ADHD, depression, and narcolepsy.
        • Alertness depends on our 24-hour cycle.
        • The reticular formation (also referred to as reticular activating system, RAS) structures of our brainstem control levels of arousal.
      • Sleep
        • Polysomnography (PSG) is a test used to test measure physiological processes during sleep. The test includes a series of smaller tests, including:
          • Electrooculogram (EOG)- measures movements of the eyes during sleep.
          • Electroencephalogram (EEG)- measures the electrical impulses of the brain, these high frequencies and low amplitudes are known as alpha waves (collectively referred to as neural synchrony).
          • Electromyogram (EMG)- measures musculoskeletal movements.
        • Stages of sleep
          • Stage 1- This stage of sleep has mainly theta waves that are of low to moderate frequency (3-7 Hertz). During this stage of non-REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep there are slow eye movements.
          • Stage 2 – There is a decrease in heart rate, respiration, and body temperature. During stage 2 the EEG measures moderate brainwave activity. This stage of the sleep cycle is defined by the introduction of k-complexes and sleep spindles that blend in among the theta waves.
          • Stage 3 and 4- this is the stage at which we sleep the deepest, and we transition into slow wave sleep (SWS). It is characterized by the presence of delta waves. Delta waves are low frequency (0.5-3 Hertz) but high in amplitude. During this stage of sleep there is no eye movement, and growth hormones are secreted.
          • REM (rapid eye movement)- this is the last stage of sleep, characterized by swift eye movements and the presence of dreams. The brainwaves measured by the EEG are low intensity and erratic frequency, and look like the waves that are observed in someone who is awake. REM sleep is also characterized by a lack of muscle movement. This type of motionless sleep is called paradoxical sleep.
        • Sleep cycles and changes to sleep cycles
          • One sleep cycle: stages are passed through in sequence (Stage 1, 2, 3, then 4), then rise back through the stages (Stage 4, 3, 2, then 1), before entering REM sleep. One cycle takes the average person 90 minutes to complete.
          • As these sleep cycles continue, the amount of time spent in "deep sleep" decreases, and time spent in REM sleep increases
          • Theories why we sleep
            • Because we are not nocturnal creatures, so during the day we have the light to use our vision, and during the night we avoid predators by sleeping
            • Sleeping is a healing/restorative time for our body and brain tissues.
            • We grow during sleep (while we are still developing); the pituitary gland releases growth hormones.
            • It is thought that our brain is processing the day's events and creating long-term memories.
        • Sleep and circadian rhythms: The circadian rhythm is a biological process that oscillates throughout a (roughly) 24-hour period. It is also commonly referred to as a biological clock, and can vary depending on age. Our biological clocks are affected by the amount of light we are exposed to (natural and artificial). Light triggers proteins in our retina to send signals to the pineal gland, which produces melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that causes us to sleep.
        • Dreaming: occurs during REM. If one does not sleep well enough to reach the REM stage, the individual will spend more time in REM the next time they sleep. This compensation is known as REM rebound
          • According to Sigmund Freud called the "story" of our dreams (called manifest content) are symbolic of our unconscious ideas, called latent content
          • The Activation-Synthesis Theory states that physiological processes happening in the brain create dreams
        • Sleep-wake disorders
          • Parasomnias are abnormal actions that occur during sleep. Example of a parasomnia is somnambulism, popularly referred to as "sleep walking", as well as night terrors.
          • Dyssomnia- this refers to an interruption in quantity, quality, and/or timing of sleep. Popular examples of dyssomnias include sleep apnea and narcolepsy.
            • Sleep apnea is characterized by disruptive pauses in breathing that can last up to a minute, often causing the person to wake up. (Occurs more in obese people).
            • Narcolepsy is a condition in which someone will fall asleep somewhat randomly, but especially when the person is relaxed.
          • Insomnia- this refers to the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep for lasting periods of time. It can be caused by chronic stress, and is often treated by sleeping pills.
        • Irregular Sleep-Wake syndrome is an extreme form of insomnia, with only 1-4 hours of sleep in a period of 24 hours. Someone with this syndrome does not feel sleep deprived, and is able to function normally.
      • Hypnosis and meditation
        • Hypnosis is an interaction between a hypnotist and a patient during an induced state of consciousness in which the patient is in a state of being open to the hypnotists' suggestion(s). It is thought to work by blocking information being received by sensory neurons
          • Hypnosis cannot cause someone to acquire extraordinary capabilities or to commit acts that go strongly against their morals (e.g. robbing a bank).
          • Used to help people recall old memories, though sometimes accidentally inaccurate
          • Scientists have observed measurable changes in brain activity during hypnotism. This could mean that the changes observed in the brain are creating a different state of consciousness. Two main theories
            • The Dissociation Theory states that the hypnosis patient is experiencing a divided state of consciousness. It is thought that if the patient alters their focus and tunes-out their everyday state of consciousness, they will be able to focus on another more specific and directed state of consciousness.
            • The Social Influence Theory says that people under hypnosis are highly vulnerable to social influences. This means that the hypnosis patient may do and say what the hypnotist expects of them without even meaning to.
          • Meditation is the act of thinking and focusing the mind on something (e.g. breathing in, breathing out.) It is done in many different ways, and is usually practiced to reduce stress
          • Dialectic behavioral therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It is prescribed widely among people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). DBT teaches a number of behavioral skills such as emotional regulation, mindfulness, and distress tolerance. It's goals are to help people be aware and present of the "here and now", and to learn to tolerate negative emotions.
          • Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a program based on the management of stress. The program includes various activities that focus on mindfulness, such as yoga and meditation
    • Consciousness-altering drugs
      • Types of consciousness-altering drugs and their effects on the nervous system and behavior: Drugs can alter the way we are able to cognitively function by changing the way our neurons fire. The three main categories include depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens. Depending on the substance, our neurons can fire more slowly (depressants), more quickly (stimulants), or by mimicking other neurons (hallucinogens).
        • Depressants (e.g. alcohol, opiates, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates)
          • Depress the inhibition and reasoning areas of the brain
          • Use leads to delayed reaction time, slurred speech, and poor motor skills
          • Can cause short-term memory loss (blackouts)
          • Affects dopamine (responsible for happy feeling) and GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric acid, responsible for calm feeling) systems
        • Opiates (e.g. opium, morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, heroin)
          • Opiates are byproducts of opium
          • Classified as a type of depressant
          • Opiates behave the same way as our own endorphins, causing users to feel relaxed and joyful
          • Prescribed to relieve severe pain
        • Barbiturates (e.g. tranquilizers, Mebaral, Butisol, Nembutal)
          • Classified as a type of depressant
          • Prescribed to aid with sleep, anxiety reduction, prevention of seizures
          • Users feel relaxed and tired, sometimes confused
          • Can cause slurred speech, slowed heart beat, and weakness
          • Should never be mixed with alcohol, can be fatal
        • Benzodiazepines (e.g. Lorazepam, Clonazepam, Xanax, Valium)
          • Prescribed to alleviate excessive anxiety
          • Classified as a type of depressant
          • Can also be used to prevent seizures
          • Stimulates GABA system, creates feeling of calm
          • Should never be mixed with alcohol, can be fatal
        • Hallucinogens (e.g. Marijuana, LSD, Psilocybin mushrooms)
          • Users see images that do not exist in reality
          • Colors may appear more bright
          • Can cause euphoria and state of relaxation
          • Sometimes user can experience extreme fear (depending on what user is seeing)
          • Not normally prescribed as a therapeutic drug
        • Stimulants (e.g. amphetamines, caffeine, nicotine, cocaine)
          • Increase the speed of bodily functions (breathing, heart rate, overall increased energy)
          • Users feel energized and hyper alert
          • Often used for purposes such as staying awake and improving physical abilities
          • Prescribed to treat attention deficit disorders such as ADD and ADHD (Adderall).
      • Drug addiction and the reward pathway in the brain
        • Drug addiction is a disease in which people feel an excessive, constant compulsion to use drugs. Sometimes this is limited to one type of drug; sometimes the user will abuse multiple types of drugs. It is theorized that addiction is reinforced by the release of dopamine in circuits located in the brainstem (especially the nucleus accumbens, the pleasure center of the brain).
        • Psychological dependence occurs when the drug user is dependent on their drug(s) of choice to avoid painful emotions and memories. Often times the user has been subjected to emotional and/or physical trauma in the past.
        • Physiological dependence occurs when the user's body becomes so accustomed to having the drug that when the user stops they experience withdrawal. Withdrawal refers to uncomfortable feelings such as fatigue, nausea, irritability, and headache once the drug has been stopped. Withdrawal can be fatal (e.g. alcohol).

    Memory

    • Encoding: the process of creating memories from the sensory information we receive.
      • Four types of encoding
        • Semantic encoding involves encoding sensory information with specific relevance to the person (a phrase, word, image, event, etc.) that can be applied to a particular situation. This type of coding does not use sensory input such as sound, taste etc.
        • Acoustic encoding involves encoding sounds (language, music, other sounds). We use our echoic memory to recall the auditory information that has been stored.
        • Tactile encoding involves the use of our tactile senses. It is how we recall how something feels (physically). For example, we can remember silk feels smooth.
        • Visual encoding involves the processing and encoding of images and other visual information (e.g. pictures, someone's face, a specific place). Before becoming a long-term memory, visual information is stored within our iconic memory (a type of memory specific to the storage of visual input).
      • Process of encoding information
        • The hippocampus (located in the temporal lobe of the brain) receives sensory information from the cortex. There is also a pathway that leads back (from the hippocampus) to different areas of the primary cortex. This neural circuit is responsible for recording and linking associations with the memories we form.
        • The serial position effect explains that we are least likely to remember the information in the middle of a list, and most likely to remember what was listed first and last.
        • The primacy effect is a phenomenon in which we are more likely to recall information that was listed in the beginning (as opposed to information mentioned in the middle of a list.
        • The recency effect explains that we are also more likely to recall information that was listed last.
      • Processes that aid in encoding memories
        • A mnemonic is any method used to improve one's ability to recall information through the use of vocal repetition.
        • Methods for memorization:
          • Elaboration involves the relation of new information to old, long-term memories, to form a sort of narrative.
          • Chunking is a process that aids in recall by organizing pieces of new information into groups that fit into particular categories. For example, if you are trying to remember all the animals you saw at the zoo, you may choose to remember them by the habitats they were in.
          • Acronyms are words or short sentences that represent a larger idea. For example, in order to remember the order of operations (in mathematics) you could use the acronym PEMDAS (Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiply, Divide, Add, Subtract).
          • Associating memories with images has also been shown to aid in recall. This technique is especially effective if you can link new information to images or ideas that are personally applicable. This technique is known as self-reference.
        • It has been shown that information that is processed on a deeper level (such as information that is personally relatable) is more likely to be remembered. This effect is known as depth of processing.
        • Another technique for memorization is to create hierarchies. For example, if you are trying to remember the members of a family, you may decide to create a hierarchy system that orders them by age, oldest to youngest.
    • Storage
      • Types of memory storage (e.g., sensory, working, long-term)
        • There are three stages of memory: 1) Sensory memory 2) Short-term memory 3) Long-term memory
        • Sensory memory is the first recall of sensory information; it is quick and short-term. For example, if you touch a pan on the stove, you will remember it was hot.
        • There are two types of sensory memory:
          • Echoic memory- the memory of a sound (very brief, lasting only as long as about 4 seconds). For example, the specific sound of a bird chirping.
          • Iconic memory- the memory of an image (even more brief than echoic memory, lasting not even a full second). For example, the color of a stranger's eyes.
        • Short-term memory is a memory that is of short duration, approximately 20 seconds. An example of this could be remembering someone's address just long enough to type it into your GPS. A subset of short-term memory is the working memory, which refers to the immediate processing of events and linguistics. This is the type of memory that we use most often in school when learning a new concept.
        • Long-term memory is a memory that can last infinitely, for example, remembering the date you were born, the face of your mother, etc.
        • Other types of memory
          • Declarative memory (also known as explicit memory) refers to the memorization of information to the point where the person is able to "declare" it. For example, when you remember a song and are able to sing along to lyrics.
          • Procedural memory (also known as implicit memory) is the memorization of how to complete a task. For example, one would exercise procedural memory when driving a car.
          • Episodic memory refers to memories surrounding a specific (often important or meaningful) event. For example, remembering the specific details of and surrounding a serious car crash.
          • Semantic memory refers to memories of facts, such as the name of the president.
          • Autobiographical memory refers to the collection of memories that we collect about ourselves over a lifetime. Such memories include life events, relationships with people, emotions, etc.
          • Retrospective memory refers to memories of things that have happened in the past. This is the type of memory we are using when learning about historical events, etc. Retrospective memory includes episodic, semantic, declarative, and autobiographical memories.
          • Prospective memory refers to memories that must be had in the future. For example, one might say to themselves "I must remember to get milk when I go to the grocery store." This is an example of prospective memory.
      • Semantic networks and spreading activation
        • Semantic networks (also known as frame networks) are neural networks that signify lingual or logical relationships between ideas.
        • Nodes are what we call the specific ideas/ events that we remember. Various associations connect nodes. These associations vary in strength; some are remembered and used frequently, some are rarely called upon. An example of a node: the image of a tiger. An example of an association of this node: large animals, which could lead us to another related node, such as a lion (because it is a large animal, too).
        • Nodes become activated when adjacent neural signals are strong enough to reach a response threshold. This threshold can only be reached after signals from other (neighboring) nodes have been added together. This cumulative effect is known as summation.
        • Spreading activation is a phenomenon that occurs when a series of nodes are activated. These nodes create an activation pattern of other, related nodes that will be activated. This is how we remember more details about a singular event.
    • Retrieval
      • Recall, recognition, and relearning
        • Recall is the ability to remember information. Three types of recall include:
          • Serial recall is the ability to remember various events, or a list of items in the sequence in which they occurred or, were listed.
          • Free recall is the ability to remember something "out of the blue", without a cue.
          • Cued recall is the ability to remember something once cued or asked.
        • Relearning is the process of learning something that has already been learned in the past. For example, if someone who hadn't played the piano in twenty years were to sit down and try to play the piano, they would likely have to relearn how to play.
        • Recognition is the process of identifying details within a collection of information.
      • Retrieval cues
        • A retrieval cue is like a prompt that is used to remind us of something. Example: if you heard a song in the car that you wanted to remember for later, you would come up with retrieval cues, such as which radio channel it was on, who you were listening to the music with, if the vocalist was female or male, etc.
        • Priming is the activation of past, related ideas and associations that are all related to one main idea. Example: You are shown a sponge and then asked to name a type of cheese. This may have primed you to say "Swiss" because of an association you made with the holes, found in both the sponge and Swiss cheese.
        • Retrieval failure occurs when there are not enough (or not substantial enough) cues for the person to remember.
      • The role of emotion in retrieving memories
        • A mood-dependent memory is a phenomenon in which information that was learned while someone was feeling a certain emotion is most easily remembered when the person is experiencing that emotion again. For example, if someone is unhappy, this emotion may remind the person of other things/times that were unhappy as well.
        • Some memories are emotionally biased. This means one's memory becomes skewed in a certain direction according to that person's mood. For example, if your dog has an accident in the house, you may remember your dog as a pain, when normally you love your dog.
      • Processes that aid retrieval: cues, emotions.
    • Forgetting
      • Aging and memory
        • Short-term memory begins, on average, to decline after the age of sixty. Some think this may occur because of a loss of neurons (due to aging). As we become older, we are much more likely to struggle with free recall (recalling information "out of the blue") than with recognition.
        • Information that is important/meaningful, and information regarding a skill (e.g. how to ride a bike) is less likely to be forgotten. Information that has little importance to someone is much more likely to be forgotten.
      • Memory dysfunctions (e.g., Alzheimer's disease, Korsakoff's syndrome)
        • Dementia is a chronic disorder of mental processes, particularly the ability to recall. It can be caused by an injury or disease of the brain; it is not contagious.
        • In addition to memory loss, other symptoms of dementia include changes in personality and cognitive abilities (e.g. reasoning).
        • Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. The majority of Alzheimer's patients are over age 65 (early onset can occur around 40 years old). Symptoms include forgetfulness (common first symptom), changes in mood and behavior, and difficulty speaking and swallowing. Alzheimers is a degenerative disease, and can worsen to the point of physically disabling a patient. There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease.
        • Korsakoff's syndrome is a chronic memory disorder that is caused by a deficiency of vitamin B1 (thiamine). It is a condition that is most commonly caused by heavy, constant alcohol abuse. In addition to memory loss, symptoms of Korsakoff's syndrome include confusion, poor coordination, disrupted speech, and involuntary eye movements.
        • Huntington's disease is a fatal genetic condition with no cure. Its symptoms include memory loss and dementia, as well as involuntary movements of the limbs. The disease is caused by neurons that are genetically programmed to degenerate over time.
        • Amnesia refers to partial or complete inability to remember something. There are two types of amnesia:
          • Anterograde amnesia is the inability to form new memories (this can be a result of damage to the hippocampus).
          • Retrograde amnesia is the inability to remember older memories (things that have happened in the past).
      • Decay
        • As the time (when you learned something) increases, so does the chance that you will forget it. The time since something was learned is known as a retention interval.
        • The Decay Theory states that if long-term memories are not recalled often, it will become harder and harder (if not impossible) to remember them.
        • It is also theorized that our inability to remember certain pieces of information may be due to the natural physiological death of neurons, especially as we age.
      • Interference
        • Interference is a phenomenon that occurs when one memory interferes with the creation of another memory, preventing it from forming. There are two types of interference:
          • Proactive interference occurs when old information (previously learned) prevents you from being able to remember something that was learned later.
          • Retroactive interference occurs when the learning of new information prevents someone from remembering information that was learned previously.
        • Positive transfer occurs when old information helps someone learn new information. An example of positive transfer would be learning how to scramble eggs after already knowing how to make sunny side-up eggs.
        • The Interference theory states that learning new information disrupts one's ability to remember long-term memories.
      • Memory construction and source monitoring
        • A schema is the overall framework of how we remember something (structure and components of the situation, details, etc.). Schemas can skew information. An example of a schema skewing information: being asked to recall the doctor's examining room that you saw as a child. You may remember certain things that were there, but due to your idea of what a doctor's examining room should look like, you may remember things such as tongue depressors, cotton balls, alcohol, etc., regardless of whether or not they were actually there.
        • People can also accidentally alter what they remember by being misinformed by others. False information can make people prone to forming false memories. This phenomenon is called the misinformation effect.
        • Imagination inflation occurs when certain memories are either constructed or exaggerated by the person's imagination. This is one way false memories can be created.
        • Memories are usually more accurate if the person can remember the source of their information. When the source of information is forgotten, this mistake is known as a source monitoring error.
        • The ability to form and recall accurate memories can be negatively affected by afflictions such as depression, trauma, brain injuries, and high levels of stress. They also make people more prone to source monitoring error.
    • Changes in synaptic connections underlie memory and learning
      • Neural plasticity
        • The term neural plasticity refers to the brain's ability to change and adapt according to various environments, behaviors and emotions, as well as new synaptic processes.
        • There are four types of neural plasticity:
          • Compensatory masquerade- the use of a new cognitive process to carry out a task that previously depended on a cognitive process that used to be impaired. It is the process of the brain finding another way to accomplish something when the first (typical) method is ineffective.
          • Cross-modal reassignment- the brain can adapt through the introduction of new inputs to an area of the brain that was previously lacking its main inputs.
          • Map expansion- information processing of a particular region of the brain can be heightened by frequent exposure to stimulus/ new information. For example, the area of the brain that deals with mathematics (inferior temporal gyrus) would become heightened after taking a calculus class.
          • Homologous area adaption- if the brain suffers damage to particular regions, sometimes it can shift the responsibilities of that area of the brain to another, undamaged area. This adaption is most active during the early stages of development.
        • Throughout someone's lifetime his or her brain is constantly changing. It is now known that new neurons can actually grow in particular areas of the brain, such as the hippocampus and cerebellum. The birth of new neurons is known as neurogenesis.
      • Memory and learning
        • We are able to form reliable memories after the age of 3. Memories of events that happened before the age of 3 are unreliable, and are susceptible to a phenomenon known as infantile amnesia.
        • As we age, our brain does not grow larger, but increases its interconnectivity between neurons. These connections between neurons are called synapses. These synapses are strengthened with use, especially when they are associated with strong emotions.
        • Neural nets consist of neurons that are activated at the same time in response to a particular association. Neural nets are activation patterns that consist of synapses that represent groups of information stored in our memory.
      • Long-term potentiation: the consistent process of strengthening neural synapses according to various activation patterns. As a synapse strengthens, the signal transmission time becomes quicker. For example: a mouse is placed in a maze, and in one of the corners is a piece of cheese. Assuming the mouse is successful, and finds the cheese, the mouse will more easily find the cheese (if put in the same place), next time he is placed in the maze.

    Language

    • Theories of language development (e.g., learning, Nativist, Interactionist)
      • Learning
        • Languages (with native competency) are usually learned by the age of 5.
        • Theory of Universal Grammar (UG): all languages are alike in structural foundation, and because of common grammar rules and patterns, we are able to learn to speak without formal instruction.
        • Some believe that we are born with an innate biological platform for language development (Nativist). Others believe that linguistic development is dependent on usage and experience (Interactionist).
      • Nativist- this perspective reinforces the idea that language is an innate feature of our being. Supporting ideas include:
        • Every human society known to man has had its own language.
        • Every human (without injury/disease) is able to speak its primary fluently by the age of 5.
        • Despite being able to speak a language fluently, we cannot describe the reasons for using particular sentence structures, principles of grammar, etc.
        • Interactionist
          • The Social interactionist theory says that language is acquired and perfected by interaction (particularly interaction between a developing child and a linguistically experienced elder).
          • This theory is based on a social-cognitive model, and places importance on the construction of a child's social circle, which, once constructed, serves to improve the child's language development.
      • Influence of language on cognition: It is thought that language can help broaden our understanding of the world. It enables us to share our thoughts and ideas. Speaking with one another can also expose us to new vocabulary and grammatical structure. Confounding factors include: environment, genetics, and culture.
      • Brain areas that control language and speech
        • Broca's area: responsible for forming speech. Located in the left frontal lobe. If this area is damaged, the person can't speak properly but can understand you just fine.
        • Wernicke's area: responsible for language comprehension. Located in the left temporal lobe, in the posterior part of the superior temporal gyrus. If this area is damaged, the person can speak fluently, but the words are gibberish.