Sunday, March 12, 2006

Impact of distracting sounds and tinitus on working memory - controlled executive attention?

An interesting post at the Science Blog re: new research that demonstrates a relationshiop between chronic/moderate tinnitus and poor working memory performance--Chronic tinnitus takes toll on demanding cognitive tasks
  • Brief intro from the post -- "Individuals with chronic, moderate tinnitus do more poorly on demanding working memory and attention tests than those without tinnitus, according to research conducted at the University of Western Sydney. However, on less complex tasks, no significant differences were found, suggesting that tinnitus has no effect on tasks that involve more involuntary, automatic responses."

I find this research particulary interesting as it relates to another study I had just skimmed that investigated the effect of distracting speech and non-speech sounds on working memory performance (Gsm-MW). The abstract and link to this aticle is below.

In the way my cortex connects informational dots, I tend to see a common thread--namely, the controlled executive attention model of working memory of Kane, Conway, Engle and Wilhelm. Click here to see prior comments and information regarding this model of working memory, a model that is currently at the top of my viable working memory models.

The following is the abstract for the article by Elliott elt al. (2006) in the European Journal of Cognitive Psychology. Click here to view/read article

  • The present work aims to establish a greater understanding of the cognitive mechanisms involved in avoiding distraction from speech and nonspeech sounds. Although mixed results have been presented by research investigating the hypothesis that individuals with superior working memory abilities are better able to avoid acoustic distraction, we found that working memory correlated with some aspects of performance during distraction when carefully examined. This is consistent with the view that working memory involves resisting interference. In a large sample, we examined two different tasks accompanied by acoustic distraction--serial recall and rapid colour namin--as well as two different measures of working memory (operation span and running span). We show that the previous inability to find relations between working memory and avoidance of distraction may stem from the use of inadequate correlational techniques. Additionally, the level of difficulty of the serial recall task may be an important factor. The results illustrate that commonly used statistical techniques can be misleading and furthermore that the ability to avoid distraction from irrelevant items may not be a unitary construct.

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