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Neuroscience has impacted the field of cognitive psychology

Neuroscience has impacted the field of cognitive psychology

Neuroscience has impacted the field of cognitive psychology through multiple avenues and one of the most notable is that of neuroimaging. This advancement in science has allowed for the brain to be better understood, through visualization and mapping of which regions of the brain control what aspects of the human mind (Cacioppo et al., 2008). This has not only led to a more complete understanding of the ‘normal’ human brain but has also offered a path towards being able to identify potential cognitive issues prior to them be observable through maladaptive behaviour (Diamond & Amso, 2008).

This information can definitely impact social change. With the understanding of the brain’s high plasticity and the ability to see cognitive problems even before maladaptive behaviour arises, early interventions could be implemented. Cooley’s (1902) theory of the looking-glass self notes that individual’s cognitive development is affected by the attitudes and treatment of those around them. In theory then, if it could be determined that a child has ADHD before they struggle in a classroom setting, they may not experience the feeling of teachers being frustrated with them or not fitting in with peers, which could cause low self-esteem and exacerbate any ‘problem’ behaviour, further continuing the cycle. Instead, someone with cognitive difficulties could have them identified and begin treatment before they sustain any negative social stigmatization or even trauma.

I am extremely interested in gaining a better understanding of cognitive vulnerability as it relates to trauma. Are some people more susceptible to traumatic events? Or does the experiencing of a primary traumatic event plus a susceptibility to PTSD result in a higher probability of ongoing vulnerability and therefore further trauma?

The method to best study this research question could be using magnetoencephalography (MEG) imaging, which has been shown to be able to detect biomarkers for PTSD (Zhang, 2020) or functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) which can detect regional activity in the brain (Hughes & Shin, 2011).

I would imagine if a group of individuals could be followed for close to a lifetime, with fMRI data collected from the day of their birth and throughout their lives, the brain could be assessed to see if any one particular area highlights vulnerability to trauma, even prior to an initial event of traumatization and resulting PTSD. Imaging already collected implicates multiple areas of the brain being affected by trauma – what if these same areas of the brain showed vulnerabilities (hyper or hypo activity) prior to any lived experiences. Alongside this data it would be beneficial to have case study and qualitative data, to complete the information to best exemplify both the neurological implications of the imaging with the personalization of the data from the case studies.

There is also currently some evidence to suggest that once trauma has occurred and there is a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, it is possible that there is a higher vulnerability to further or continued cognitive vulnerability (Shahar et al., 2013). This research could complement the other research, by considering the information they gathered regarding the changes in the brain that that were observed and how they tie into the likelihood of further traumatization.


Cacioppo, J. T., Berntson, C. G., & Nusbaum, H. C. (2008). Neuroimaging as a new tool in the toolbox of psychological science. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(2), 62–67.

Cooley, C.H. (1902). Human Nature and the Social Order. New York, NY: Scribners.

Diamond, A., & Amso, D. (2008). Contributions of Neuroscience to Our Understanding of Cognitive Development. Current directions in psychological science, 17(2), 136–141.

Hughes, K. C., & Shin, L. M. (2011). Functional neuroimaging studies of post-traumatic stress disorder. Expert review of neurotherapeutics, 11(2), 275–285.

Shahar, G., Noyman, G., Schnidel-Allon, I., & Gilboa-Schechtman, E. (2013). Do PTSD symptoms and trauma-related cognitions about the self constitute a vicious cycle? Evidence for both cognitive vulnerability and scarring models. Psychiatry Research, 205(1–2), 79–84.

Zhang, J. Richardson, D. & Dunkley, B.T. (2020). Classifying post-traumatic stress disorder using the magnetoencephalographic connectome and machine learning. Scientific Reports, 10(1), 1–10.


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