Putting the Psychologist into the Syringe: the Impact of Psychological Processes in the Management of Chronic Pain
Thirteen to thirty percent of adult Canadians live with chronic pain conditions. People living with these conditions must cope with painful medical interventions, multiple medications and associated side effects, in addition to reductions in income, productivity and overall quality of life. As such, it is essential that individuals living with chronic pain be supported in the development of pain management skills. This talk will address the research evidence for psychological management of chronic pain and discuss new directions.
A Staring Contest Between Brains: Whose Brain Blinks?
The attentional blink refers to the cognitive phenomenon that attending closely to one brief event will result in a deficit in remembering a second brief event if the second event occurs specifically between one tenth of a second and one half of a second after the first event. This curious but seemingly trivial effect may in fact have huge implications for the study of neuromodulatory activity in human subjects. Neuromodulators are chemicals that change the way neurons react to other inputs. I will discuss evidence that the attentional blink is a manifestation of the activity of the locus coeruleus - norepinephrine system, a major neuromodulatory system that has a profound influence on neural processing. This line of research suggests that the relative pattern of the attentional blink in various clinical populations can inform us about norepinephrine activity in those populations. For example, a recent study I was involved in demonstrated that psychopathic offenders have a reduced attentional blink compared to non-psychopathic people. We argued that an attentional abnormality is a central feature of clinical psychopathy, and may result in part from malfunction of the locus coeruleus - norepinephrine system.
How Parents Can Make their Kids Smarter?
There has been a growing interest in the effects that parenting has on children’s cognitive development. I will present the findings from a longitudinal study which examined the effects of parent-child interaction on children’s cognitive functioning. Parent-child interaction was examined in the context of a joint problem solving task when children were 2 and 3 years old. Children’s performance on a variety of tasks that measure higher, prefrontally based cognitive functions was assessed at ages 2, 3, and 4 years. The findings showed that the way in which parents supported children in the joint problem solving task at age 3 accounted for a significant amount of individual differences in children’s cognitive functioning at the age of 4 years. Specifically, parents who were more sensitive, helped more appropriately and were less intrusive had children who 1 year later performed better on measures of cognitive functioning. Overall, the findings suggest that the development of higher cognitive functions is shaped by the social context in which it takes place.