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Next in mental health, substance abuse: Preventive interventions to strengthen working memory


Strong work­ing mem­o­ry puts brakes on prob­lem­at­ic drug use (Med­ical Xpress):

Ado­les­cents with strong work­ing mem­o­ry are bet­ter equipped to escape ear­ly drug exper­i­men­ta­tion with­out pro­gress­ing into sub­stance abuse issues…Most impor­tant in the pic­ture is exec­u­tive atten­tion, a com­po­nent of work­ing mem­o­ry that involves a per­son­’s abil­i­ty to focus on a task and ignore dis­trac­tions while pro­cess­ing rel­e­vant goal-ori­ent­ed infor­ma­tion, says Ati­ka Khu­rana, a pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Coun­sel­ing Psy­chol­o­gy and Human Ser­vices…

Pre­frontal regions of the brain can apply the brakes or exert top-down con­trol over impul­sive, or reward seek­ing urges,”…The find­ings sug­gest new approach­es for ear­ly inter­ven­tion since weak­ness­es in exec­u­tive func­tion­ing often under­lie self-con­trol issues in chil­dren as young as 3 years old, she said. A fam­i­ly envi­ron­ment strong in struc­tured rou­tines and cog­ni­tive-stim­u­la­tion could strength­en work­ing mem­o­ry skills…For old­er chil­dren, inter­ven­tions could be built around activ­i­ties that encour­age social com­pe­tence and prob­lem solv­ing skills in com­bi­na­tion with cog­ni­tion-build­ing efforts to increase self-con­trol and work­ing mem­o­ry.”

Study: Exper­i­men­ta­tion ver­sus pro­gres­sion in ado­les­cent drug use: A test of an emerg­ing neu­robe­hav­ioral imbal­ance mod­el (Devel­op­ment and Psy­chopathol­o­gy; behind pay­wall)

  • Abstract: Based on an emerg­ing neu­ro­science mod­el of addic­tion, this study exam­ines how an imbal­ance between two neu­robe­hav­ioral sys­tems (reward moti­va­tion and exec­u­tive con­trol) can dis­tin­guish between ear­ly ado­les­cent pro­gres­sive drug use and mere exper­i­men­ta­tion with drugs. Data from four annu­al assess­ments of a com­mu­ni­ty cohort (N = 382) of 11- to 13-year-olds were ana­lyzed to mod­el het­ero­gene­ity in pat­terns of ear­ly drug use. Base­line assess­ments of work­ing mem­o­ry (an indi­ca­tor of the func­tion­al integri­ty of the exec­u­tive con­trol sys­tem) and three dimen­sions of impul­siv­i­ty (char­ac­ter­iz­ing the bal­ance between reward seek­ing and exec­u­tive con­trol sys­tems) were used to pre­dict het­ero­ge­neous latent class­es of drug use tra­jec­to­ries from ear­ly to midado­les­cence. Find­ings revealed that an imbal­ance result­ing from weak exec­u­tive con­trol and height­ened reward seek­ing was pre­dic­tive of ear­ly pro­gres­sion in drug use, while height­ened reward seek­ing bal­anced by a strong con­trol sys­tem was pre­dic­tive of occa­sion­al exper­i­men­ta­tion only. Impli­ca­tions of these results are dis­cussed in terms of pre­ven­tive inter­ven­tions that can tar­get under­ly­ing weak­ness­es in exec­u­tive con­trol dur­ing younger years, and poten­tial­ly enable at-risk ado­les­cents to exer­cise greater self-restraint in the con­text of reward­ing drug-relat­ed cues.

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning, Health & Wellness

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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