Early Adversity Detrimental to Cognitive Functioning

Divorce, poor material home conditions, and poor maternal management all share one thing: adversity for the child in that home. In a study done by M. Richards and M. E. J. Wadsworth, they found that such adversities at a young age can cause significant problems for cognitive functioning in both the short and long term. The impact on cognitive functioning was seen through less than average measurements of verbal ability, memory, and speed of concentration that continued on to midlife. Adversity at a young age was also linked to lower educational achievement on top of the lower cognitive abilities and cognitive growth. While this study does show cause for concern, it also faces limitations, such as the disproportionate loss to follow-up of those with lower cognitive ability. This is a severe limitation not because it could prove the study inaccurate, but based on the research given it is a cause for concern that they may have underestimated the effects of adversity later in life. This study has proven to us the importance of reducing adversity in young children and the depths in which the adversity can cause long-lasting effects on an individual. With more research we can find ways of reducing the impact adversity has on an individual’s cognitive abilities.



PTSD Lacks Social Cognitive Research

Have you ever witnessed or been the victim of a traumatic event? Did you experience intense fear, helplessness or horror? Do you have recurrent, intrusive thoughts or perceptions of the event? Do you reexperience the event? Do you persistently avoid things or events associated with the event or try to numb the responses?

If so you may be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.PTSD affects 10%-80% of individuals exposed to trauma. PTSD is influenced by three main factors: Pre-event factors, Event factors, and Post-event factors.

Pre-event factors include previous exposure, early depression or anxiety, ineffective coping, family instability, family history, substance abuse, trouble with authority lack of social support, early losses, gender (females are twice as likely to suffer PTSD), individuals under 25 years of age.

Event factors consist of geographic nearness to the event, the level of exposure, the meaning of the event, the younger you are in age, being a victim multiple times, duration, ongoing risk of a threat, if the event was intentional, participation in an atrocity.

Post-event factors include a lack of social support, the inability to change it, self-pity or neglect, unable to find meaning in the event, Acute stress disorder, the immediate reaction of psychological arousal, and avoidant or numbing symptoms.

PTSD has recently been called into question as to whether it changes the social cognition in individuals with this disorder.

DePrince studied impacts of betrayal trauma and suggested changes in social cognition as a possible mechanism for risk of revictimization.

” Trauma survivors are known to often experience severe problems in the social domain (also in context with the process of disclosure, as reviewed by Ullman [2003]). The impact of social reaction—especially dysfunctional reactions such as denial or indifference— to trauma disclosure may influence processes of social cognition insofar as this may trigger more intrusions and fortify social retraction in trauma survivors.” (Nietlisbach, 396)

The factors previously listed shows the importance of social support and social bonds in whether or not an individual develops PTSD. So why hasn’t there been research into the impact of these social cognitive factors, such as theory of mind and the capacity to empathize as compared to a healthy control group?

PTSD is a relatively new disorder so while it is understanding that this area lacks research. It is important to recognize the need for more research and to create a deeper understanding for a disorder that is very commonly developed.


The PTSD Workbook – Mary Beth Williams, Soili Poijula




A Hormone Can Help You Remember Happy Faces

Hormones do crazy things, they aid in one’s development and play a significant role in the things we do. But what if I told you the same hormone that is used to produce breast milk can also help you remember happy faces?

Evidence has shown that the hormone oxytocin plays a role in maternal behaviors and social bonding. A new study by Adam J. Guastella, Ph.D. and his colleagues has shown that this same hormone is also responsible for the enhancement and encoding of positive social memories. In a double-blind study, they compared Healthy males who were given either oxytocin or a placebo.The participants then were given faces showing different emotions and returned the next day to pick out the photos of those they recognized from the previous day. Participants that were administered oxytocin were more likely to remember the faces of those that were happy as compared to other emotions. Dr. Guastella reported, “findings are exciting because they show for the first time that oxytocin facilitates the encoding of positive social information over social information that is either neutral or negative.”

This study has many applications in our society, including a possibility for oxytocin to help those that are socially isolated make stronger social connections. While more research needs to be done, this study has made a breakthrough discovery that may help individuals suffering from several psychiatric disorders.


Neuroimaging and Schizophrenia

One of the main reasons Schizophrenia has such unfavorable functioning is due to an impairment of cognitive functioning. Symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions significantly affect the ways in which an individual is able to interact with others and the way the individual views situations. These symptoms have been the main ways in which schizophrenia is diagnosed.However, there has been a recent change in focus to neurocognitive factors to determine the functional impairment of one with this disorder. Social abilities of one suffering from schizophrenia is a major determination of the prognosis.

One way neuroimaging has been used to study the social cognition of schizophrenic individuals is through facial emotion recognition. Hironobu Fujiwara, Wallid Yassin, and Toshiya Murai studied the correlation between amygdala size and how people with schizophrenia recognized facial emotions. As compared to the control group, individuals with schizophrenia had smaller amygdalas and also did worse in facial emotion recognition. Alexithymia, the inability to recognize one’s personal emotional state, was also found through neuroimaging to be an essential characteristic of schizophrenia, another social cognitive impairment.

Due to social cognition being imperative of social functioning, neuroimaging has shown that the parts of the brain that correlate with reduced quality of life overlaps with that of an individual with schizophrenia’s social cognitive impairments. While research into the social cognitive impairments of schizophrenia continues to grow, we start to notice the complexities surrounding this issue. We need to not only take into account different characteristics surrounding the social cognitive impairments but also, the ways in which the impaired brain functioning also correlates with these impairments.