News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

From Mind Wandering to Involuntary Retrieval: Age-Related Differences in Spontaneous Cognitive Processes

By David Maillet and Daniel L. Schacter | Neuropsychologia | November 23, 2015

Abstract:

The majority of studies that have investigated the effects of healthy aging on cognition have focused on age-related differences in voluntary and deliberately engaged cognitive processes. Yet many forms of cognition occur spontaneously, without any deliberate attempt at engaging them. In this article we review studies that have assessed age-related differences in four such types of spontaneous thought processes: mind-wandering, involuntary autobiographical memory, intrusive thoughts, and spontaneous prospective memory retrieval. These studies suggest that older adults exhibit a reduction in frequency of both mind-wandering and involuntary autobiographical memory, whereas findings regarding intrusive thoughts have been more mixed. Additionally, there is some preliminary evidence that spontaneous prospective memory retrieval may be relatively preserved in aging. We consider the roles of age-related differences in cognitive resources, motivation, current concerns and emotional regulation in accounting for these findings. We also consider age-related differences in the neural correlates of spontaneous cognitive processes.

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Specifying the CORE Network Supporting Episodic Simulation and Episodic Memory by Activation Likelihood Estimation

By Roland G. Benoit and Daniel L. Schacter | Neuropsychologia | July 2, 2015

Abstract:

It has been suggested that the simulation of hypothetical episodes and the recollection of past episodes are supported by fundamentally the same set of brain regions. The present article specifies this core network via Activation Likelihood Estimation (ALE). Specifically, a first meta-analysis revealed joint engagement of core network regions during episodic memory and episodic simulation. These include parts of the medial surface, the hippocampus and parahippocampal cortex within the medial temporal lobes, and the lateral temporal and inferior posterior parietal cortices on the lateral surface. Both capacities also jointly recruited additional regions such as parts of the bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. All of these core regions overlapped with the default network. Moreover, it has further been suggested that episodic simulation may require a stronger engagement of some of the core network’s nodes as wells as the recruitment of additional brain regions supporting control functions. A second ALE meta-analysis indeed identified such regions that were consistently more strongly engaged during episodic simulation than episodic memory. These comprised the core-network clusters located in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and posterior inferior parietal lobe and other structures distributed broadly across the default and fronto-parietal control networks. Together, the analyses determine the set of brain regions that allow us to experience past and hypothetical episodes, thus providing an important foundation for studying the regions’ specialized contributions and interactions.

Read full article here.