Brain training has no effect on decision-making

 

Increased preference for immediate over delayed and for risky over certain rewards has been associated with unhealthy behavioural choices.

Motivated by evidence that enhanced cognitive control can shift choice behaviour away from immediate and risky rewards, we tested whether training executive cognitive function could influence choice behaviour and brain responses. In this randomized controlled trial, 128 young adults (71 male, 57 female) participated in 10 weeks of training with either a commercial web-based cognitive training program or web-based video games that do not specifically target executive function or adapt the level of difficulty throughout training.

Pre and post training, participants completed cognitive assessments and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during performance of validated decision-making tasks: delay discounting (choices between smaller rewards now vs. larger rewards in the future) and risk sensitivity (choices between larger riskier rewards vs. smaller certain rewards). Contrary to our hypothesis, we found no evidence that cognitive training influences neural activity during decision-making, nor did we find effects of cognitive training on measures of delay discounting or risk sensitivity.

Participants in the commercial training condition improved with practice on the specific tasks they performed during training, but participants in both conditions showed similar improvement on standardized cognitive measures over time. Moreover, the degree of improvement was comparable to that observed in individuals who were reassessed without any training whatsoever. Commercial adaptive cognitive training appears to have no benefits in healthy young adults above those of standard video games for measures of brain activity, choice behaviour, or cognitive performance.

Significance statement

Engagement of neural regions and circuits important in executive cognitive function can bias behavioral choices away from immediate rewards. Activity in these regions may be enhanced through adaptive cognitive training. Commercial brain training programs claim to improve a broad range of mental processes; however, evidence for transfer beyond trained tasks is mixed. We undertook the first randomised controlled trial of the effects of commercial adaptive cognitive training  on neural activity and decision-making in young adults, compared to an active control (playing online video games). We found no evidence for relative benefits of cognitive training with respect to changes in decision-making behaviour or brain response, or for cognitive task performance beyond those specifically trained.

Reference:

Kable, J. et al., No Effect of Commercial Cognitive Training on Neural Activity During Decision-MakingJournal of Neuroscience, 2017. p. 2832-16.

Teen dies of stroke after love bite

Love bite stroke hickeyA teenager has died after a love bite from his girlfriend caused a blood clot that quickly led to a stroke.

Julio Macias Gonzalez, a 17-year-old from Mexico City, raised alarm among his family when he began convulsing at the dinner table.

It is thought his girlfriend gave him a hickey earlier that evening which caused a blood clot that travelled to the teen’s brain. Paramedics were called to the scene but Julio could not be saved and died shortly after.

The young man’s family are blaming his 24-year-old girlfriend for his death but she has now disappeared.

It is not the first time a love bite has been believed to have triggered a reaction. In 2011 a 44-year-old woman in New Zealand lost movement in her left arm after having a stroke.

On noticing a faded love bite, doctors quickly realised damage to a major artery in her neck and linked it to her paralysis. The suction had caused a blood clot to form which then travelled to the woman’s heart, causing a stroke.

Dr Teddy Wu, who treated the woman at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital, said: “To my knowledge, it’s the first time someone has been hospitalised by a hickey.”

Love bites or hickeys are caused by a person sucking on an area of another person’s skin, more commonly the neck. The suction causes blood vessels under the skin to burst which causes bruising that can last up to two weeks.

When Pain Persists


Persistent pain: It’s the same as if you ride a bike a lot, you get better at riding a bike. Play the piano a lot, you get better at it. Send danger messages a lot, you get better at it. That’s an adaptation, and the same thing occurs in the brain.

Catalyst investigates recent advances in science and medical engineering that are transforming our understanding of chronic pain and opening the door to new treatments in the hope of bringing relief to so many people.


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