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    ABSTRACT: The idea that an NMDA receptor (NMDAR)-dependent long-term potentiation-like process in the hippocampus is the neural substrate for associative spatial learning and memory has proved to be extremely popular and influential. However, we recently reported that mice lacking NMDARs in dentate gyrus and CA1 hippocampal subfields (GluN1(ΔDGCA1) mice) acquired the open field, spatial reference memory watermaze task as well as controls, a result that directly challenges this view. Here, we show that GluN1(ΔDGCA1) mice were not impaired during acquisition of a spatial discrimination watermaze task, during which mice had to choose between two visually identical beacons, based on extramaze spatial cues, when all trials started at locations equidistant between the two beacons. They were subsequently impaired on test trials starting from close to the decoy beacon, conducted post-acquisition. GluN1(ΔDGCA1) mice were also impaired during reversal of this spatial discrimination. Thus, contrary to the widely held belief, hippocampal NMDARs are not required for encoding associative, long-term spatial memories. Instead, hippocampal NMDARs, particularly in CA1, act as part of a comparator system to detect and resolve conflicts arising when two competing, behavioural response options are evoked concurrently, through activation of a behavioural inhibition system. These results have important implications for current theories of hippocampal function.
    Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 01/2014; 369(1633):20130149.
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    ABSTRACT: Many children with specific language impairment (SLI) have persisting problems in the correct use of verb tense, but there has been disagreement as to the underlying reason. When we take into account studies using receptive as well as expressive language tasks, the data suggest that the difficulty for children with SLI is in knowing when to inflect verbs for tense, rather than how to do so. This is perhaps not surprising when we consider that tense does not have a transparent semantic interpretation, but depends on complex relationships between inflections and hierarchically organized clauses. An explanation in terms of syntactic limitations contrasts with a popular morpho-phonological account, the Words and Rules model. This model, which attributes problems to difficulties with applying a rule to generate regular inflected forms, has been widely applied to adult-acquired disorders. There are striking similarities in the pattern of errors in adults with anterior aphasia and children with SLI, suggesting that impairments in appreciation of when to mark tense may apply to acquired as well as developmental disorders.
    Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 01/2014; 369(1634):20120401.
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    ABSTRACT: Acquired disorders of language represent loss of previously acquired skills, usually with relatively specific impairments. In children with developmental disorders of language, we may also see selective impairment in some skills; but in this case, the acquisition of language or literacy is affected from the outset. Because systems for processing spoken and written language change as they develop, we should beware of drawing too close a parallel between developmental and acquired disorders. Nevertheless, comparisons between the two may yield new insights. A key feature of connectionist models simulating acquired disorders is the interaction of components of language processing with each other and with other cognitive domains. This kind of model might help make sense of patterns of comorbidity in developmental disorders. Meanwhile, the study of developmental disorders emphasizes learning and change in underlying representations, allowing us to study how heterogeneity in cognitive profile may relate not just to neurobiology but also to experience. Children with persistent language difficulties pose challenges both to our efforts at intervention and to theories of learning of written and spoken language. Future attention to learning in individuals with developmental and acquired disorders could be of both theoretical and applied value.
    Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 01/2014; 369(1634):20120403.
  • Article: Preface.
    Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 01/2014; 369(1634):20130564.
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    ABSTRACT: Lexical skills are a crucial component of language comprehension and production. This paper reviews evidence for lexical-level deficits in children and young people with developmental language impairment (LI). Across a range of tasks, LI is associated with reduced vocabulary knowledge in terms of both breadth and depth and difficulty with learning and retaining new words; evidence is emerging from on-line tasks to suggest that low levels of language skill are associated with differences in lexical competition in spoken word recognition. The role of lexical deficits in understanding the nature of LI is also discussed.
    Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 01/2014; 369(1634):20120387.
  • Nature Neuroscience 11/2013; 16(12):1715-1716.
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    ABSTRACT: Working memory and attention are intimately connected. However, understanding the relationship between the two is challenging. Currently, there is an important controversy about whether objects in working memory are maintained automatically or require resources that are also deployed for visual or auditory attention. Here we investigated the effects of loading attention resources on precision of visual working memory, specifically on correct maintenance of feature-bound objects, using a dual-task paradigm. Participants were presented with a memory array and were asked to remember either direction of motion of random dot kinematograms of different colour, or orientation of coloured bars. During the maintenance period, they performed a secondary visual or auditory task, with varying levels of load. Following a retention period, they adjusted a coloured probe to match either the motion direction or orientation of stimuli with the same colour in the memory array. This allowed us to examine the effects of an attention-demanding task performed during maintenance on precision of recall on the concurrent working memory task. Systematic increase in attention load during maintenance resulted in a significant decrease in overall working memory performance. Changes in overall performance were specifically accompanied by an increase in feature misbinding errors: erroneous reporting of nontarget motion or orientation. Thus in trials where attention resources were taxed, participants were more likely to respond with nontarget values rather than simply making random responses. Our findings suggest that resources used during attention-demanding visual or auditory tasks also contribute to maintaining feature-bound representations in visual working memory-but not necessarily other aspects of working memory.
    Quarterly journal of experimental psychology (2006) 11/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Selective attention biases the encoding and maintenance of representations in visual STM (VSTM). However, precise attentional mechanisms gating encoding and maintenance in VSTM and across development remain less well understood. We recorded EEG while adults and 10-year-olds used cues to guide attention before encoding or while maintaining items in VSTM. Known neural markers of spatial orienting to incoming percepts, that is, Early Directing Attention Negativity, Anterior Directing Attention Negativity, and Late Directing Attention Positivity, were examined in the context of orienting within VSTM. Adults elicited a set of neural markers that were broadly similar in preparation for encoding and during maintenance. In contrast, in children these processes dissociated. Furthermore, in children, individual differences in the amplitude of neural markers of prospective orienting related to individual differences in VSTM capacity, suggesting that children with high capacity are more efficient at selecting information for encoding into VSTM. Finally, retrospective, but not prospective, orienting in both age groups elicited the well-known marker of visual search (N2pc), indicating the recruitment of additional neural circuits when orienting during maintenance. Developmental and individual differences differentiate seemingly similar processes of orienting to perceptually available representations and to representations held in VSTM.
    Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 11/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Growing evidence indicates that religious belief helps individuals to cope with stress and anxiety. But is this effect specific to supernatural beliefs, or is it a more general function of belief - including belief in science? We developed a measure of belief in science and conducted two experiments in which we manipulated stress and existential anxiety. In Experiment 1, we assessed rowers about to compete (high-stress condition) and rowers at a training session (low-stress condition). As predicted, rowers in the high-stress group reported greater belief in science. In Experiment 2, participants primed with mortality (vs. participants in a control condition) reported greater belief in science. In both experiments, belief in science was negatively correlated with religiosity. Thus, some secular individuals may use science as a form of "faith" that helps them to deal with stressful and anxiety-provoking situations.
    Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 11/2013; 49(6):1210-1213.
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    ABSTRACT: Using multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA), we studied how distributed visual representations in human occipitotemporal cortex are modulated by attention and link their modulation to concurrent activity in frontal and parietal cortex. We detected similar occipitotemporal patterns during a simple visuoperceptual task and an attention-to-working-memory task in which one or two stimuli were cued before being presented among other pictures. Pattern strength varied from highest to lowest when the stimulus was the exclusive focus of attention, a conjoint focus, and when it was potentially distracting. Although qualitatively similar effects were seen inside regions relatively specialized for the stimulus category and outside, the former were quantitatively stronger. By regressing occipitotemporal pattern strength against activity elsewhere in the brain, we identified frontal and parietal areas exerting top-down control over, or reading information out from, distributed patterns in occipitotemporal cortex. Their interactions with patterns inside regions relatively specialized for that stimulus category were higher than those with patterns outside those regions and varied in strength as a function of the attentional condition. One area, the frontal operculum, was distinguished by selectively interacting with occipitotemporal patterns only when they were the focus of attention. There was no evidence that any frontal or parietal area actively inhibited occipitotemporal representations even when they should be ignored and were suppressed. Using MVPA to decode information within these frontal and parietal areas showed that they contained information about attentional context and/or readout information from occipitotemporal cortex to guide behavior but that frontal regions lacked information about category identity.
    Journal of Neuroscience 10/2013; 33(42):16443-58.
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