El Dr. Marcos Ríos responde las dudas pendientes sobre su ponencia "Lentitud en el procesamiento de la información"

Dr. Marcos Ríos addresses some of the unanswered questions from his presentation “Slow processing speed”


On April 25th, the neuropsychologist Marcos Ríos gave a free online presentation at NeuronUP Academy on slow processing speed. After his talk, a question and answer period was held, but due to time limits and the great interest of the audience, some questions remained unanswered. For the sake of completeness, our speaker agreed to answer them later through our blog and, today, we are posting his answers!

Before providing you with the answers to your questions, however, NeuronUP would like to thank Marcos Ríos once again for his willingness and ability to answer your questions about slow processing speed.

Questions from the presentation “ Slow processing speed ”

1. Are there studies published on intellectualdisability?

I think one of the best databases to obtain this information is PubMed (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/). A search of PubMed yieldsreferencessuch as the following.This is not an exhaustive search, so I recommend you do some more specific searches by using different keywords. In any case, the following references can serve as a starting point for finding further materials and readings.

  1.  Bonifacci P, Snowling MJ. Speed of processing and reading disability: across-linguistic investigation of dyslexia and borderline intellectual functioning. Cognition. 2008 Jun;107(3):999-1017. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2007.12.006. Epub 2008 Feb 12. PubMed PMID: 18272144.
  2. Brewer N, Smith G, Kennedy L. Effects of training in monitoring accuracy onprocessing speed in mental retardation. Percept Mot Skills. 1996 Dec;83(3 Pt1):744-6. PubMed PMID: 8961311.
  3. Brewer N, Smith GA. Processing speed and mental retardation: deadlineprocedures indicate fixed and adjustable limitations. Mem Cognit. 1990Sep;18(5):443-50. PubMed PMID: 2233257.
  4. Davies D, Sperber RD, McCauley C. Intelligence-related differences in semanticprocessing speed. J Exp Child Psychol. 1981 Jun;31(3):387-402. PubMed PMID:7288357.
  5. Gnigler M, Neubauer V, Griesmaier E, Zotter S, Kager K, Kiechl-Kohlendorfer U.Very preterm children are at increased risk of reduced processing speed at 5years of age, predicted by typical complications of prematurity and prenatal smoking. Acta Paediatr. 2015 ar;104(3): e124-9. doi:10.1111/apa.12859. PubMedPMID: 25382547.
  6. Harris GJ, Fleer RE. High speed memory scanning in mental retardates: evidencefor a central processing deficit. J Exp Child Psychol. 1974 Jun;17(3):452-9.PubMed PMID: 4833292.
  7. Kail R. General slowing of information-processing by persons with mentalretardation. Am J Ment Retard. 1992 Nov;97(3):333-41. Review. PubMed PMID:1449732.
  8. Merrill EC. Differences in semantic processing speed of mentally retarded and non-retarded persons. Am J Ment Defic. 1985 Jul;90(1):71-80. PubMed PMID: 4025415.
  9. Nettelbeck T, Robson L, Walwyn T, Downing A, Jones N. Inspection time asmental speed in mildly mentally retarded adults: analysis of eye gaze, eyemovement, and orientation. Am J Ment Defic. 1986 Jul;91(1):78-91. PubMed PMID:3740119.
  10. Saccuzzo DP, Michael B. Speed of information-processing and structurallimitations by mentally retarded and dual-diagnosed retarded-schizophrenicpersons. Am J Ment Defic. 1984 Sep;89(2):187-94. PubMed PMID: 6486183.
  11. Schuiringa H, van Nieuwenhuijzen M, Orobio de Castro B, Matthys W. Executive functions and processing speed in children with mild to borderline intellectual disabilities and externalizing behavior problems. Child Neuropsychol. 2017 May;23(4):442-462. doi:10.1080/09297049.2015.1135421. Epub 2016 Jan 21. PubMedPMID: 26796344.

2. How to differentiate execution speed andprocessing speed in clinical evaluation?

I believe that the best option is to use measures of motor speed (e.g., finger tapping test) and perceptual speed (e.g., inspection time measures), while also including several neuropsychological measures involving execution time such as the Trail Making Test (TMT), the Stroop, the WAIS Digit Symbol and Symbol Search, etc. In addition, paced tasks—the pace of task performance is set by the evaluator (e.g., PASAT)—and unpaced tasks—patients set their own pace—should be taken into account as well.

With all this information, it should be possible to determine whether slow processing speed is due to motor or perceptual problems, or whether it affects some of the cognitive processes assessed in a more specific manner.

3. Do you consider processing speed (IPS) as just another cognitive process or as a by-product of the functioning of cognitive processes?

I don’t think it’s just another cognitive process. I think it is more the result of a characteristic of the processing system (white matter integrity), as well as the level of expertise of an individual on task performance (the more automatic, the more experience and the better the planning, the faster the response will be).

In any case, I do believe that IPS is sufficiently important toassess its impact on cognitive performance and activities of daily living. I believe that it may well be treatedby using both restorative and compensatory approaches.

4. Are there any studies on processing speed in dysexecutive syndromes?

In fact, any cognitive activity can be performed “faster” and “slower”. This also affects executive functions. Some individuals may be very effective in performing a task (they achieve the goal), but not all will be equally efficient (some will achieve it by investing greater time, effort, cognitive resources, etc.).

I believe, in any case, that processing speed is dissociated from the executive functions and can be evaluated separately (or the neuropsychologist can determine the relative weight of each of them in the patient’s performance), which will be very important for making decisions in the rehabilitation process.

5. Could it be said that with age we do not lose cognitive abilities, but that rather what occurs is that our IPS is affected by white matter deterioration and this has repercussions on the rest of the cognitive functions? Would this imply that aging affects communication or white matter integrity?

For some authors such as Salthouse, this is the most common cause of cognitive impairment associated with normal aging. You can read more about this in the following references:

  1. Salthouse TA. Aging and measures of processing speed. Biol Psychol. 2000Oct;54(1-3):35-54. Review. PubMed PMID: 11035219.
  2. Salthouse TA, Fristoe N, McGuthry KE, Hambrick DZ. Relation of task switching to speed, age, and fluid intelligence. Psychol Aging. 1998 Sep;13(3):445-61.PubMed PMID: 9793120.
  3. Salthouse TA. The processing-speed theory of adult age differences incognition. Psychol Rev. 1996 Jul;103(3):403-28. Review. PubMed PMID: 8759042.
  4. Salthouse TA. General and specific speed mediation of adult age differences inmemory. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 1996 Jan;51(1):P30-42. Review. PubMedPMID: 8548516.
  5. Salthouse TA, Meinz EJ. Aging, inhibition, working memory, and speed. JGerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 1995 Nov;50(6):P297-306. PubMed PMID: 7583809.
  6. Earles JL, Salthouse TA. Interrelations of age, health, and speed. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 1995 Jan;50(1):P33-P41. PubMed PMID: 7757821.

In addition, there are several neuroimaging studies in favor of this view. However, there are alternative models of aging in which speed/slowness is merely one of the elements involved.

6. Are there any current studies on processing speed and ADHD?

Yes, there are many references on this subject. A Pubmed search(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/) yields many references of interest. Here are a few if you would like to check them out:

  1. Vadnais SA, Kibby MY, Jagger-Rickels AC. Which neuropsychological functions predict various processing speed components in children with and without attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder? Dev Neuropsychol. 2018 May 2:1-16. doi: 10.1080/87565641.2018.1469135. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29718727.
  2. Thorsen AL, Meza J, Hinshaw S, Lundervold AJ. Processing Speed Mediates the Longitudinal Association between ADHD Symptoms and Preadolescent Peer Problems. Front Psychol. 2018 Feb 13;8:2154. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02154. eCollection PubMed PMID: 29487545; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5816923.
  3. Adalio CJ, Owens EB, McBurnett K, Hinshaw SP, Pfiffner LJ. Processing Speed Predicts Behavioral Treatment Outcomes in Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Predominantly Inattentive Type. J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2018 May;46(4):701-711. doi: 10.1007/s10802-017-0336-z. PubMed PMID: 28791531; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5807232.
  4. Weigard A, Huang-Pollock C. The role of speed in ADHD-related working memory deficits: A time-based resource-sharing and diffusion model account. Clin Psychol Sci. 2017 Mar;5(2):195-211. doi: 10.1177/2167702616668320. Epub 2016 Dec 21. PubMed PMID: 28533945; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5437983.
  5. Nielsen NP, Wiig EH, Bäck S, Gustafsson J. Processing speed can monitor stimulant-medication effects in adults with attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity. Nord J Psychiatry. 2017 May;71(4):296-303. doi: 10.1080/08039488.2017.1280534. Epub 2017 Feb 7. PubMed PMID: 28413936.
  6. Cook NE, Braaten EB, Surman CBH. Clinical and functional correlates of processing speed in pediatric Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Child Neuropsychol. 2018 Jul;24(5):598-616. doi: 10.1080/09297049.2017.1307952. Epub 2017 Mar 27. PubMed PMID: 28345402.
  7. Walg M, Hapfelmeier G, El-Wahsch D, Prior H. The faster internal clock in ADHD is related to lower processing speed: WISC-IV profile analyses and time estimation tasks facilitate the distinction between real ADHD and pseudo-ADHD. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2017 Oct;26(10):1177-1186. doi: 10.1007/s00787-017-0971-5. Epub 2017 Mar 10. PubMed PMID: 28283836; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5610226.
  8. Jacobson LA, Geist M, Mahone EM. Sluggish Cognitive Tempo, Processing Speed, and Internalizing Symptoms: the Moderating Effect of Age. J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2018 Jan;46(1):127-135. doi: 10.1007/s10802-017-0281-x. PubMed PMID: 28215021; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5562538.
  9. Nigg JT, Jester JM, Stavro GM, Ip KI, Puttler LI, Zucker RA. Specificity of executive functioning and processing speed problems in common psychopathology. Neuropsychology. 2017 May;31(4):448-466. doi: 10.1037/neu0000343. Epub 2017 Jan PubMed PMID: 28094999; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5408314.

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