Biobehavioral Foundations & Development of Cognitive Competence
BIOBEHAVIORAL FOUNDATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITIVE COMPETENCE: Six complementary and collaborative projects are included in this program-project, with a common scientific and administrative core, to elucidate the nature and emergence of cognitive competence as it is manifest across human and nonhuman primate species, across developmental periods, and across different groups (e.g., individuals with ADHD). The present proposal benefits from substantial collaboration and complementarity between investigators and convergence between the projects, so that the scientific promise of the entire program greatly exceeds the sum of the anticipated scientific gains of each strong individual project. The psychological processes being investigated (learning, memory, attention, executive function, categorization, language, and self regulation) are themselves closely inter-related, such that understanding of any one process dictates studying its relation to the other constructs using behavioral, cognitive, comparative, developmental, and neuroscientific paradigms. The proposal reflects a wide range of converging measures, including task performance, brain imaging, genetic analyses, psychophysiology. The goal of these projects is to build on the current state of knowledge, including the recent findings from our own research, and to inform and be informed by theories regarding behavior and its interaction with experience and biology. Funding: NIH/NICHD 060563& 38051
The program-project enjoys the scholarship and effort from a large team of scientists associated with the following projects (See below for full description of each project listed here):
EMERGENCE OF SPATIAL COGNITION AND MEMORY
MULTIPLE SYSTEMS OF CATEGORIZATION IN HUMANS AND NONHUMAN PRIMATES
EMERGENCE OF SELF-CONTROL
NEUROANATOMICAL CORRELATES OF COGNITIVE CONTROL
THE CONTROL OF ATTENTION AND OTHER COGNITIVE COMPETENCIES
INFLUENCE OF TRAINING ATTENTION IN EARLY CHILDHOOD ON SCHOOLING
BIOBEHAVIORAL FOUNDATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITIVE COMPETENCE: EMERGENCE OF SPATIAL COGNITION AND MEMORY (Drs. Menzel, Fragaszy, Sayers):
The long-term objective of this project is to characterize memory, planning, and tool using capabilities of primates that contribute to the solution of foraging problems. Specific Aim 1 is to assess chimpanzees’ recall memory of multiple features of an event. Hypothesis 1 is that chimpanzees are capable of episodic memory, as evidenced by their ability to recall and report what they saw, where they saw it, and properties of any objects involved. Specific Aim 2 is to characterize primates’ ability to recall, rank order, and sequentially visit multiple food resources over a wide spatial area. Hypothesis 2 is that primates rank-order the expected value of multiple distant resources based on quality, quantity, proximity, and visibility and then, quite often, visit the resources sequentially according to their ranking. Specific Aim 3 is to compare the environmental and temporal criteria that chimpanzees and adult humans use to recover multiple hidden items in a large outdoor test area. Hypothesis 3a is that chimpanzees can recall and recover dispersed food items in order of decreasing quantity. Hypothesis 3b is that adult humans are more apt than chimpanzees to recover dispersed hidden items in the temporal order in which the items originally were viewed. Specific Aim 4 is to explain variation in primate tool competence by determining how many spatial relations among movable objects chimpanzees and capuchins can manage simultaneously in manual tool-using tasks. Hypothesis 4a is that a primate’s level of performance in tool-using tasks can be predicted by its competence in managing 1, 2 or 3 simultaneous spatial relations in simpler form-board tasks. Hypothesis 4b is that chimpanzees take into account a larger number of spatial dimensions simultaneously in tool-using tasks than do capuchins. For humans, the ability to recall environmental features and past events underlies thinking, planning, and communication, but there are almost no data on recall capabilities in nonverbal animals. Data on the upper limits of recall capabilities, and on the factors that limit recall, will lead to a more detailed understanding of the similarities and differences between human and nonhuman memory systems to improved animal models of recall memory.
BIOBEHAVIORAL FOUNDATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITIVE COMPETENCE: MULTIPLE SYSTEMS OF CATEGORIZATION IN HUMANS AND NONHUMAN PRIMATES (Drs. Smith, Church)
Category learning is a basic cognitive function for humans and nonhuman animals and a focus in human and animal research. The proposed research would integrate these research traditions in many ways. It would 1) create paradigms that let human and animal categorization be closely compared; 2) extend to the primate literature constructive developments in the human literature; 3) describe the category-learning system from which that of humans evolved; 4) trace the development of categorization across a time depth of primate phylogeny; 5) evaluate the multiple-systems structure of primate categorization; 6) evaluate the extent to which primates use an explicit, rule-based categorization system; 7) ask whether primates dimensionalize their categories and stimuli as humans do; 8) explore explicit cognition by primates in the domain of dimensional rules and hypotheses; and 9) open a new window on primates’ declarative cognition. The research will also provide some of the first studies evaluating animals’ capacity to sustain categorization in the absence of immediate, trial-by-trial feedback, to self-instruct, to bridge their trial-to-trial performance with explicit rules, and to declare the rule they are using. These capacities are critical aspects of humans’ on-line cognition. The research also engages and advances the debate about reinforcement as the binding force in animal learning.
The research will advance the understanding of human categorization by including the first studies that 1) analyze the interaction and competition between explicit and implicit systems of categorization; and 2) evaluate cross-modal implicit and explicit category learning. The research will also challenge the casual theoretical link made between rule-based cognition and verbalization/language, by studying nonverbal species in which that link is broken. The research will foster a dialog among comparative, cognitive, and neuroscience researchers, by allowing the comparison of human and animal categorization abilities and limitations to be correlated with the differential development of the brain systems that serve category learning.
BIOBEHAVIORAL FOUNDATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITIVE COMPETENCE: THE EMERGENCE OF SELF-CONTROL: COMPARATIVE BEHAVIORAL AND NEUROBIOLOGICAL ASSESSMENTS (Drs. Beran, Brosnan, Williamson):
This project assesses self-control in three nonhuman primate species: chimpanzees, rhesus monkeys, and capuchin monkeys. Subjects will be given delay of gratification tasks in which preferred food items continue to accrue within their reach until they consume those items. Thus, maximizing food intake depends on showing self-control in the face of increasing temptation. These tasks will be validated by comparison to other cognitive control tasks. We predict that chimpanzees will show greater self-control than both monkey species, and we predict that capuchins will show greater self-control than rhesus monkeys. We predict that chimpanzees will perform better than monkeys because they more readily adopt behavior strategies for dealing with impulsive tendencies (such as self-distraction and reallocation of attention away from the accumulating reward). We predict that all species will show an effect of age whereby older individuals show better self-control, and this would indicate a similarity to the onset of behavioral self-regulation in human children. We will integrate a neurobiological perspective by assessing the relation between prefrontal cortex volume and anterior cingulate cortex volume and performance on the delayed gratification tasks. There is evidence that brain volume of these areas correlates with self-regulatory capacities in humans, and we predict a positive relation between the volume of these brain areas and self-control in all species, but particularly for the chimpanzees. Additionally, we will assess the idea that self-control may be a limited resource, susceptible to depletion from exertion and from competing needs for behavioral inhibition. We will use tasks that require multiple inhibitory and self-regulatory responses and determine what effects occur on delay maintenance behavior. We predict decreases in self-control as a result of this overloading of self-regulatory capacities. Finally, we will assess whether long-term experience in delayed gratification tests improves the self-control of individual animals of all species beyond that afforded by development and maturation.
BIOBEHAVIORAL FOUNDATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITIVE COMPETENCE: NEUROANATOMICAL CORRELATES OF COGNITIVE CONTROL (Dr. Hopkins):
The long term goals of the proposed studies are to understand the neural correlates of cognitive control in primates. The proposed studies will combine behavioral data with both neuroanatomical and functional imaging studies to provide a framework for understanding evolutionary and potentially developmental changes in emergent cognitive processes. The specific aims are to examine individual and phylogenetic differences in the relative proportion of the prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate gyrus in primates in relation to behavioral measures of cognitive control. Of specific interest is whether phylogenetic and individual differences in cognitive control are associated with variation in relative white and gray matter ratio in prefrontal cortex as well as cortical connectivity between sub-cortical and cortical brain regions. For these studies, both structural magnetic resonance images and diffusion tensor imaging will be used to quantify tissue composition and connectivity. In addition, the effects of sex and rearing history on cognitive control and associated brain areas will be tested in a sample of primates. Specifically, this study will assess whether early adverse rearing experiences have a significant effect on cognitive control as well as associated brain structures in primates. Lastly, the proposed studies will valuate the neural systems underlying cognitive control using positron emission tomography in primates in order to assess phylogenetic differences cognitive control. These studies will attempt to bridge single cell recording and lesions studies in nonhuman primates with functional imaging work with humans. Studies have shown that poor cognitive control is associated with a number of psychological and cognitive disorders such as addiction, obesity, mania, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, just to name a few. The proposed studies will identify specific neural systems involved in several tasks that assess cognitive control in primates. The results from the proposed studies will provide a strong foundation for understanding the biological substrates of cognitive control and also evaluate how different early rearing experiences influence this neural and behavioral system.
BIOBEHAVIORAL FOUNDATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITIVE COMPETENCE: THE CONTROL OF ATTENTION AND OTHER COGNITIVE COMPETENCIES (Dr. Washburn, Latzman, King, Espy):
The important and related constructs of attention and executive function (EF) are each themselves comprised of multiple skills and operations, and are subject to influence by multiple sources of constraint. We will examine the control of cognition by contrasting the potency of environmental constraints, experiential constraints, and executive constraints across species and across child development. Previous research suggests reliable performance differences between monkeys and human adults in the effects of variables that result in exogenous or endogenous shifts in attention. It seems reasonable to suggest that the pattern of performance for the monkeys may also be typical of other individuals for whom attention–and specifically the executive, motivated, purposive control of attention–is immature or otherwise deficit. These findings underscore the need to extend the research to preschool children and to chimpanzees with and without language training. This research is further designed to elucidate comparatively the nature and number of factors that comprise attention and EF and to identify the relation between these factors and other aspects of cognition like learning, memory, and language. Additionally, the use noninvasive imaging techniques and are proposed to elucidate the brain-behavior relations that underlie attention and related constructs, and particularly those that correspond to variations in the control of attention. We will also investigate training and other interventions that might result in improved capacity for executive attention by monkeys, chimpanzees, children, and adults. Together, these results will contribute to a unified perspective on attention and cognitive control that integrates data across species and across the lifespan. We anticipate that the findings will have implications for the assessment and remediation of individual and group differences in attention and EF, including those differences that contribute to attention-deficit or dysexecutive-syndrome diagnoses.
BIOBEHAVIORAL FOUNDATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITIVE COMPETENCE: INFLUENCE OF TRAINING ATTENTION IN EARLY CHILDHOOD ON SCHOOLING (Dr. Posner, Rothbart)
Self regulation is a central concept in developmental psychology. Understanding its neural and genetic basis provides an important research question and is critical to understanding whether training in attention can be an effective method for improving school performance in some or all preschool children. We seek to understand the development of self regulation during early childhood at all levels from the genetic to behavioral. We have isolated a neural system and genetic markers that appear to underlie a broad range of cognitive and emotional regulatory activities. We now seek to determine how well these factors predict regulatory efficiency during childhood. We also will determine how attention training influences school performance later in life, and what parameters are necessary to make such training effective.
1. To examine the long-term effects of a five day attention training intervention adapted from primate research, on the development of literacy, numeracy and social adjustment in preschool and early elementary school.
2. To test the influence of attention training on brain mechanisms of attention 1-3 years after training.
3. To identify the role of temperamental and genetic differences between children in the effectiveness of attention training and schooling. We will test the hypothesis that in human evolution, positive selection of genetic differences occurs in whole or part by allowing cultural differences such as schooling, training or parenting to have greater influence on child behavior.