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Unit 9 Cognitive Psych

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Unit 9 Assignment
Introduction to Cognitive Psychology

Linda is an ex substance abuser and has experienced a few relapses. Linda is 33 and is in good health besides damage to her lungs due to smoking crack cocaine. She is concerned about her memory, since she misplaces her car keys at home and losing her car in the parking lot. Linda is also telling stories regarding her children and is later corrected for telling the story about the wrong child. Linda has no brain damage, besides the decay of her memory due to her substance abuse. When one has brain damage, or anyone uses any illicit drug, it affects the function of the brain. She believes she might be suffering from a neurological disorder. I believe the effect she is experiencing is due to her past substance use. Cocaine is known to cause several neurological disorders due to the fact that the crystalline free-base form is water insoluble which when smoking or free basing results in an instantaneous high contributing to the rapid absorption through the large pulmonary surface area and swift penetration to the brain. Cocaine can be absorbed from the mucous membrane, therefore causing neurological complications (Agarwal, 2013). Since she is healthy I would rule out that it is a neurological disorder and that it is just poor memory. Substance abuse affects the brain stem, the limbic system, and the cerebral cortex since drugs are chemicals. Cocaine causes nerve cells to release excessive amounts of natural neurotransmitters or prevent the normal recycling of these brain chemicals. This leads to an exaggerated message in the brain, ultimately wreaking havoc on the communication channels (Seikel, 2013). In which I believe explains Linda’s confusion, etc.
In regards to the information processing system, I will use Atkinson and Schifrin theory, to best explain how memories are created, stored and recalled. According to their theory they felt that the brain rehearsed the information in order to create a memory. The brain receives sensory stimuli and then decides whether or not it is important. Next it is sent to the Working Memory and stored with other similar information for long term storage (Cognitive Psychology, 2010). When one tries to recall a memory they are being reconstructed from several parts of the brain. During the recall of a memory the brain replays a pattern of neural activity that was originally generated in response to a particular event, in which is an echo of the brain’s perception of that real event. Memory retrieval therefore requires re-visiting the nerve pathways the brain formed when encoding the memory and the strength of those pathways determines how quickly the memory can be recalled. “Recall effectively returns a memory from long-term storage to short-term memory, where it can be accessed, in a kind of mirror image of the encoding process. It is then re-stored back in long-term memory, thus re-consolidating and strengthening it” (Mastin, 2010).
Since Linda’s cognitive abilities are impaired due to her substance use, she is experiencing Absent-mindedness, Misattribution and Transience. Absent-mindedness is misplacing your keys and forgetting where you park your car. Absent-mindedness occurs because of missing memory material. Transience is the decay of memory over time, as we age. I believe her past substance abuse helped speed up the process, thus fading over time due to non-use of the memory and the overflow of memories created each day does not help. Lastly, she suffers from Misattribution which is stored memories that are having trouble surfacing, they are missing key components. The memory system recalls having experienced an event without actually having the experience (Cognitive Psychology, 2010).

Some strategies I would suggest for Linda first and foremost is proper sleep, exercise, proper diet and maintain healthy relationships. Sleep has been known to aid in retaining long term memory. Exercise is important as well, not only for one’s psychical being but mental as well. If Linda is feeling particularly stressed exercise releases endorphins and this also helps one sleep better, as well as relieve stress. As for her diet, I would suggest Omega- 3s for example nuts, squash, broccoli and seafood. When it comes to socializing with friends Research shows that having meaningful relationships and a strong support system are vital not only to emotional health, but also to brain health. “In one recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health, for example, researchers found that people with the most active social lives had the slowest rate of memory decline” (Smith and Robinson, 2013).
Recent research shows that drug abuse alters cognitive activities such as decision-making and inhibition, which is likely setting the path for addiction and relapse. Most substance abuse researchers once believed that drug abuse and addiction are best explained by drugs' reinforcing effects. Pharmacological studies have long supported that view, showing that drugs of abuse powerfully affect the brain's dopamine system, which regulates emotional responses and plays a part in abuse by providing an emotional reward for continued use (Carpenter, 2001). With this being said Linda’s substance use has an impact on both her Fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence. Since cocaine is a chemical it is detrimental to her cognitive functions and affect her brain as I have stated before. Fluid intelligence refers to cognitive functions associated with general reasoning and problem-solving. Crystallized intelligence, on the other hand, refers to cognitive functions associated with previously acquired knowledge in long-term store (Cognitive Psychology, 2010). For her to mention her poor memory indicates that her fluid intelligence has been compromised since she is unable to remember where her keys are and her car. Also, in regards to her Crystallized intelligence she could possibly forget simple things she has learned in the past, for instance if she does find her keys she might not know that they are for her car, or house.
In conclusion, I find that Linda is doing the right thing about being proactive and concerned about her memory loss. I am also concerned of her relapses, but that is because the drugs replace her dopamine, which is her reward system with the need of a chemical. I would encourage her to continue on the path that she is going on getting the help that is needed. I realize how hard it is to overcome a drug addiction. It is best not to stereo type her as once an addict always an addict, because she can overcome it. It’s important for her to know that she is a strong woman and she has all the support from me and her family. I do believe once she starts to gain a stronger memory the less worried she would become. It will be a challenge but one I believe she can overcome, since she has come this far and is on the road to recovery.


Agarwal, P. (2013). Neurologic Effects of Cocaine. Medscape. Retrieved September 27, 2013, from
Carpenter, S. (2001). Cognition is central to drug addiction. American Psychological Association (APA). Retrieved September 27, 2013, from
Introduction to cognitive psychology (2010). Unpublished manuscript, Department of
Psychology, Kaplan University, Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
Mastin, L. (2010). Memory Recall/Retrieval - Memory Processes - The Human Memory. The Human Memory - what it is, how it works and how it can go wrong. Retrieved September 27, 2013, from
Seikel, S. (2013.). Addiction: “Drugs, Brains and Behavior” – Drugs and the Brain | Stacy Seikel M.D. P.A. Addiction Recovery MD. Retrieved September 27, 2013, from
Smith, M., & Robinson, L. (2013). How to Improve Your Memory. Help Guide. Retrieved September 27, 2013, from

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