Master's Thesis Defense - Application Development and Investigation of a Cognitive Training Protocol
Date: June 5, 2012
Time: 11:00 AM
Location: Bellet Building, Room: 310
Advisors: Joshua Jacobs, Ph.D. and John Kounios, Ph.D.
Sustained, focused attention is important to effective generalized task performance. Recent research indicates that training paradigms targeting such broad cognitive functions may enhance fluid intelligence. Improvement of focused attention through meditation has been reported both anecdotally and by modern research, suggesting that this type of training might produce a cognitive enhancement. Here, we develop an experimental computer application to provide a standardized framework for investigating potential cognitive enhancement of such practice in greater detail. Subjects perform a signal-detection/vigilance task in which short syllable-discrimination trials are presented at long random intervals, with volume adjustment to approach the auditory threshold. Prior research shows that accuracy on this type of task is negatively impacted by extraneous thoughts. We hypothesize that the average length of the inter-trial intervals will be inversely related to subject accuracy, reflecting increased demand on endogenous attentional control. Subjects who improve their scores are expected to also improve on cognitive metrics administered pre- and post-training. The exercise is deployed on a python/JS Google App Engine web-application which can be used remotely. This system guides each subject through the training automatically and compensates for different hardware/software environments. Benefits include less lab-time, fewer expenses and easier recruitment. This method also provides a clear path for development of the training paradigm into a public application or generalized platform for cognitive enhancement applications.
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