The Dynamic Study of Task-Switching, Switch Costs, and Inhibition

As a registered nurse and IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) specializing in infant feeding and human lactation, I love studying kinesiology and other cognitive sciences on task-switching, switch costs of decreased speed and accuracy, and inhibition. These areas have all been heavily studied for many decades, and three new studies (among many new studies in these areas) are shared below.    

From time to time, lactation consultants are asked about the use of cannabis during lactation, and we frequently utilize three well-known resources in the field:  Lactmed, part of the toxicology database at the National Institutes of Health; Dr. Thomas Hale's invaluable reference handbook, Medications and Mothers' Milk (2017); and the InfantRisk Center.  

The first of three new studies mentioned here looked at vigilant attention, inhibitory control, top-down attentional control, and cognitive flexibility (aspects of executive functioning) in cannabis users and non-cannabis users.  Researchers measured salivary cortisol to assess these areas, finding altered attentional control among cannabis users compared to non-cannabis users.  These results are relevant to parenting, in that responsible parenting requires prolonged periods of alert attentiveness.  The cannabis study citation:  

Nusbaum AT, Whitney P, Cuttler C, Hinson JM, McLaughlin RJ.  Altered attentional control strategies but spared executive functioning in chronic cannabis users.  Drug and Alcohol Dependence 2017 Oct 12;181:116-123.  DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.09.019. [Epub ahead of print]

Another interesting task-switching study just out:  

H. Freyja Ólafsdóttir, Francis Carpenter, Caswell Barry. Task Demands Predict a Dynamic Switch in the Content of Awake Hippocampal Replay. Neuron 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.09.035

And the third new study on task-switching and switch costs, which is by no means the very last of new studies in this fascinating area: 

Swainson R, Martin D, Prosser L.  Task-switch costs subsequent to cue-only trials.  The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 2017 Aug;70(8):1453-1470.  DOI: 10.1080/17470218.2016.1188321  

Today's PubMed search results using the term "task-switching":  1,295

Today's PubMed search results using the term "cognitive flexibility":  4,144

Today's PubMed search results using the term "cognitive inhibition": 11,362

Infant cognition labs in graduate psychology programs often study cognitive flexibility and task-switching in infants and children, with Piaget's A-not-B Task as one of the seminal task-switching studies in the field of developmental psychology, the study of learning across the lifespan.  Going well beyond Piaget's work, the late Carolyn Rovee-Collier (1942 - 2014) was the founder of the field of infant long-term memory research.  Please see a listing of infant learning labs under the Resources section of this website.  These infant learning labs are just part of Rovee-Collier's legacy.