The goal of the current study was to demonstrate a possible neurological deficit that underlies the inability of many chronically homeless adult individuals to make behavioral changes necessary to transition toward stability. Specifically, the medial area of prefrontal cortex (PFC), including orbital and anterior cingulate regions, is strongly associated with modulation of emotional reaction (Davidson, Putnam and Larson, 2000), "intuitive" decision-making and risk-taking (Damasio, 1994), empathy (Assington, 1993) and spontaneity (Zangwill, 1966). Neuropsychological tests designed to assess this area were administered to homeless participants.
In this study, 30 chronically homeless individuals were compared to 30 controls (matched for age, race and gender) on cognitive tests of PFC ability. The Iowa Gambling Task is the current standard for measuring medial function (e.g. Happeney, Zelazo and Stuss, 2004), through a procedure of risk-taking and strong sensory reinforcement. The Burglar's Story has been used in a number of studies to indicate the demonstration of Theory of Mind, in terms of empathy and perspective (e.g. Happe et al., 1996). Finally, the familiar Word Fluency Test ("FAS") elicits potential difficulty with spontaneity, a frontal medial function, but also semantic memory problems, an indication of frontal dorsolateral impairment, as well as more generalized cognitive deficit such as that associated with head trauma and dementia (e.g. Benton, 1968).
The results showed that, as a group, the homeless individuals performed significantly more poorly than the controls on all three tests (p <.01). Moreover, the Gambling Task was very sensitive in classifying 93.3% of the homeless participants by their risky performance (while revealing 27% of controls as risk-takers). FAS well differentiated homeless from control participants at levels of 90%. The Burglar's Story demonstrated that Theory of Mind function is well intact amongst healthy controls (90%), but possibly problematic with a significant number (40%) of the homeless.
The robust differentiation elicited by the battery of tests begs consideration of chronic homelessness as a strong indicator of potential neuropsychological deficit, and cognitive challenge as a significant precipitator and/or result of homelessness.
|School:||George Mason University|
|School Location:||United States -- Virginia|
|Source:||DAI-B 68/06, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Psychobiology, Public policy|
|Keywords:||Cognitive deficit, Homeless, Prefrontal cortical function|
Copyright in each Dissertation and Thesis is retained by the author. All Rights Reserved
The supplemental file or files you are about to download were provided to ProQuest by the author as part of a
dissertation or thesis. The supplemental files are provided "AS IS" without warranty. ProQuest is not responsible for the
content, format or impact on the supplemental file(s) on our system. in some cases, the file type may be unknown or
may be a .exe file. We recommend caution as you open such files.
Copyright of the original materials contained in the supplemental file is retained by the author and your access to the
supplemental files is subject to the ProQuest Terms and Conditions of use.
Depending on the size of the file(s) you are downloading, the system may take some time to download them. Please be