Monday, March 05, 2007

Cognitive flexibility, executive function, and Glr

I sometimes skim journal articles with titles that are not directly related to my major areas of domain expertise and interest. Quite often I'm surprised to find little descriptions of important cognitive/intellectual phenomena in the literature reviews, even though the primary purpose of the study is not of significant interest to my work. Today I stumbled across one of these "lit review" gems in an article about Parkinson's Disease (PD).

The article dealt with cognitive flexibility, which, over the many years of my career in research practice, had come to have a certain psychological meaning to me. Contemporary research often refers to cognitive flexibility as a part of executive functioning (EF).

This article connected some nodes in my fishing new of cognitive/intellectual I thought I'd share this little tidbit. The bottom line is that the construct of cognitive flexibility can be thought of as having two different means of expression in human behavior. I liked the description of the two. The information is presented below [italics added by the blogmaster]. The "spontaneous" component of flexibility refers to the CHC broad stratum II ability of Glr (Broad Retrieval Ability), while the reactive component is more associated with EF For some reason I had not made this connection previously. My mental schema feel better now.

If anyone is interested in the substantive portions of this article by Tomer et al. (2007) in Neuropsychologia, click here.

  • Although there is still controversy regarding the exact nature of this impairment, deficits in cognitive flexibility have been among the most noticeable cognitive difficulties encountered by patients with PD (e.g. Brown 1988; Cools, 2005; Cooper et al., 1991; Lees Smith, 1983).
  • Cognitive Fexibility refers to the ability to shift avenues of thought and action in order to perceive, process and respond to situations in different ways (Eslinger Grattan, 1993). It is an essential requirement for regulating one’s behaviour, and as such, it is one component of executive functions. However, the impairment in cognitive flexibility in Parkinson’s disease (PD) is by no means a universal finding and some studies do not find such deficits (Piatt, Fields, Paolo, Koller, Troster, 1999; Troster et al., 1998). Many factors may contribute to this variability including the nature of the tasks employed in the various studies, and the characteristics of the patients studied.
  • Cognitive flexibility is not a unitary process. Eslinger and Grattan (1993) distinguished between two types of cognitive flexibility: (1) reactive flexibility, which they defined as the readiness to shift cognition and behaviour according to the demands of the situation, is usually evaluated by performance on set-shifting tasks and (2) spontaneous flexibility is the ability to generate a flow of ideas and answers, often in response to a single question. This is most often assessed with fluency tasks (such as word, design or ideational fluency).

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