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Volume 7 Issue 1 (2011)

Associations between music education, intelligence, and spelling ability in elementary school original article

pp. 1-6 | First published on 31 March 2011 | DOI:10.2478/v10053-008-0082-4

Katrin Hille, Kilian Gust, Ulrich Bitz, Thomas Kammer


Musical education has a beneficial effect on higher cognitive functions, but questions arise whether associations between music lessons and cognitive abilities are specific to a domain or general. We tested 194 boys in Grade 3 by measuring reading and spelling performance, non verbal intelligence and asked parents about musical activities since preschool. Questionnaire data showed that 53% of the boys had learned to play a musical instrument. Intelligence was higher for boys playing an instrument (p < .001). To control for unspecific effects we excluded families without instruments. The effect on intelligence remained (p < .05). Furthermore, boys playing an instrument showed better performance in spelling compared to the boys who were not playing, despite family members with instruments (p < .01). This effect was observed independently of IQ. Our findings suggest an association between music education and general cognitive ability as well as a specific language link.

Keywords: music education, intelligence, literacy, spelling, cognitive development

School based working memory training: Preliminary finding of improvement in children's mathematical performance original article

pp. 7-15 | First published on 31 March 2011 | DOI:10.2478/v10053-008-0083-3

Marcus Witt


Working memory is a complex cognitive system responsible for the concurrent storage and processing of information. Given that a complex cognitive task like mental arithmetic clearly places demands on working memory (e.g., in remembering partial results, monitoring progress through a multi-step calculation), there is surprisingly little research exploring the possibility of increasing young children's working memory capacity through systematic school-based training. This study reports the preliminary results of a working memory training programme, targeting executive processes such as inhibiting unwanted information, monitoring processes, and the concurrent storage and processing of information. The findings suggest that children who received working memory training made significantly greater gains in the trained working memory task, and in a non-trained visual-spatial working memory task, than a matched control group. Moreover, the training group made significant improvements in their mathematical functioning as measured by the number of errors made in an addition task compared to the control group. These findings, although preliminary, suggest that school-based measures to train working memory could have benefits in terms of improved performance in mathematics.

Keywords: working memory, training, central executive, mathematics, children

Neural representations of the sense of self original article

pp. 16-30 | First published on 31 March 2011 | DOI:10.2478/v10053-008-0084-2

Wiliam R. Klemm


The brain constructs representations of what is sensed and thought about in the form of nerve impulses that propagate in circuits and network assemblies (Circuit Impulse Patterns, CIPs). CIP representations of which humans are consciously aware occur in the context of a sense of self. Thus, research on mechanisms of consciousness might benefit from a focus on how a conscious sense of self is represented in brain. Like all senses, the sense of self must be contained in patterns of nerve impulses. Unlike the traditional senses that are registered by impulse flow in relatively simple, pauci-synaptic projection pathways, the sense of self is a system-level phenomenon that may be generated by impulse patterns in widely distributed complex and interacting circuits. The problem for researchers then is to identify the CIPs that are unique to conscious experience. Also likely to be of great relevance to constructing the representation of self are the coherence shifts in activity timing relations among the circuits. Consider that an embodied sense of self is generated and contained as unique combinatorial temporal patterns across multiple neurons in each circuit that contributes to constructing the sense of self. As with other kinds of CIPs, those representing the sense of self can be learned from experience, stored in memory, modified by subsequent experiences, and expressed in the form of decisions, choices, and commands. These CIPs are proposed here to be the actual physical basis for conscious thought and the sense of self. When active in wakefulness or dream states, the CIP representations of self act as an agent of the brain, metaphorically as an avatar. Because the selfhood CIP patterns may only have to represent the self and not directly represent the inner and outer worlds of embodied brain, the self representation should have more degrees of freedom than subconscious mind and may therefore have some capacity for a free-will mind of its own. Several lines of evidence for this theory are reviewed. Suggested new research includes identifying distinct combinatorially coded impulse patterns and their temporal coherence shifts in defined circuitry, such as neocortical microcolumns. This task might be facilitated by identifying the micro-topography of field-potential oscillatory coherences among various regions and between different frequencies associated with specific conscious mentation. Other approaches can include identifying the changes in discrete conscious operations produced by focal trans-cranial magnetic stimulation.

Keywords: consciousness, Avatar, theory of consciousness, nerve impulses, neural networks

The role of response modalities in cognitive task representations original article

pp. 31-38 | First published on 31 March 2011 | DOI:10.2478/v10053-008-0085-1

Andrea M. Philipp, Iring Koch


The execution of a task necessitates the use of a specific response modality. We examined the role of different response modalities by using a task-switching paradigm. In Experiment 1, subjects switched between two numerical judgments, whereas response modality (vocal vs. manual vs. foot responses) was manipulated between groups. We found judgment-shift costs in each group, that is irrespective of the response modality. In Experiment 2, subjects switched between response modalities (vocal vs. manual, vocal vs. foot, or manual vs. foot). We observed response-modality shift costs that were comparable in all groups. In sum, the experiments suggest that the response modality (combination) does not affect switching per se. Yet, modality-shift costs occur when subjects switch between response modalities. Thus, we suppose that modality-shift costs are not due to a purely motor-related mechanisms but rather emerge from a general switching process. Consequently, the response modality has to be considered as a cognitive component in models of task switching.

Keywords: response modalities, cognitive control, motor control, task switching, task representation

The effect of target context and cue type in a postcue word pronunciation task original article

pp. 39-48 | First published on 31 March 2011 | DOI:10.2478/v10053-008-0086-0

Karen Murphy, Lauren Green


Dallas and Merikle (1976a, 1976 b) demonstrated that when participants were presented with a pair of words for over 1 s and subsequently cued to pronounce one of the words aloud (postcue task) semantic priming effects occurred. Humphreys, Lloyd-Jones, and Fias (1995) failed to replicate this postcue semantic priming effect using word pairs that were semantic category co-ordinates. The aim of Experiment 1 was to determine if the disparate postcue task results reported by these researchers could be accounted for by the prime-target contexts or cue types engaging different attentional processes or a combination of these factors. A postcue pronunciation task was used and word pairs presented were taken from an associate-semantic context and a semantic category context. In the Dallas and Merikle condition the line cue flanked the location in which the target word was previously shown. In the Humphreys et al. condition the cue word UPPER or lower was centrally presented and indicated the location in which the target word previously appeared. Results demonstrated that the occurrence of semantic and associate-semantic priming effects under postcue task conditions varied for the two cue types. Experiment 2 investigated if these results were attributable to a between subject manipulation of cue type. Using a fully repeated measures design priming effects were evident for top located targets in both the associate-semantic and semantic prime-target contexts. Experiment 3 used a between subjects design to rule out the possibility that carry over effects between cue and context conditions contributed to the postcue task priming effects. Priming was evident for top located targets in an associate-semantic and semantic context for the line cue. For the word cue there was priming for top located targets from an associate-semantic context and a reverse priming effect for top located targets from the semantic context. Possible explanations for the occurrence of priming effects under postcue task conditions are discussed.

Keywords: postcue task, semantic priming, associate-semantic priming, word pronunciation, word recognition

Timelines of past events: Reconstructive retrieval of temporal patterns original article

pp. 49-54 | First published on 31 March 2011 | DOI:10.2478/v10053-008-0101-5

Maria G. Carelli


Most naturalistic events are temporally and structurally complex in that they comprise a number of elements and that each element may have different onset and offset times within the event. This study examined temporal information processing of complex patterns of partially overlapping stimulus events by using 2 tasks of temporal processing. Specifically, participants observed a pantomime in which 5 actors appeared on the scene for different periods of time. At test, they estimated the duration each actor was present or reconstructed the temporal pattern of the pantomime by drawing a timeline for each actor. Participants made large errors in the time estimation task, but they provided relatively accurate responses by using the timeline as a retrieval support. These findings suggest that temporal processing of complex asynchronous events is a challenging cognitive task, but that reliance on visuo-spatial retrieval support, possibly in combination with other temporal heuristics, may produce functional approximations of complex temporal patterns.

Keywords: temporal processing, time estimation, event representation, timelines