[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Several studies investigated the neural and functional mechanisms underlying action observation in contexts with objects. However, actions seen in everyday life are often embedded in emotional contexts. The neural systems integrating emotion cues in action observation are still poorly understood. Previous findings suggest that the processing of both action and emotion information recruits motor control areas within the cerebello-thalamo-cortical pathways. It is therefore hard to determine whether social emotional contexts influence action processing via a direct modulation of motor representations coding for the observed action or via the affective state and implicit motor preparedness elicited in observers in response to emotional contexts. Here we designed a novel fMRI task to identify neural networks engaged by the affective appraisal of a grasping action seen in two different emotional contexts, while keeping the action kinematics constant. Results confirmed that observing the same acts of grasping but in different emotional contexts modulated activity in supplementary motor area, ventrolateral thalamus, anterior cerebellum. Moreover, changes in functional connectivity between left supplementary motor area and parahippocampus in different emotional contexts suggested a direct neural pathway through which emotional contexts may drive the neural motor system. Taken together, these findings shed new light on the malleability of motor system as a function of emotional contexts.
PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(9):e75912. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Individual variability in emotion processing may be associated with genetic variation as well as with psychological predispositions such as dispositional affect styles. Our previous fMRI study demonstrated that amygdala reactivity was independently predicted by affective-cognitive styles (phobic prone or eating disorders prone) and genotype of the serotonin transporter in a discrimination task of fearful facial expressions. Since the insula is associated with the subjective evaluation of bodily states and is involved in human feelings, we explored whether its activity could also vary in function of individual differences. In the present fMRI study, the association between dispositional affects and insula reactivity has been examined in two groups of healthy participants categorized according to affective-cognitive styles (phobic prone or eating disorders prone). Images of the faces of partners and strangers, in both painful and neutral situations, were used as visual stimuli. Interaction analyses indicate significantly different activations in the two groups in reaction to a loved one's pain: the phobic prone group exhibited greater activation in the left posterior insula. These results demonstrate that affective-cognitive style is associated with insula activity in pain empathy processing, suggesting a greater involvement of the insula in feelings for a certain cohort of people. In the mapping of individual differences, these results shed new light on variability in neural networks of emotion.
PLoS ONE 01/2010; 5(12):e15268. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Previous studies have reported abnormal prefrontal and cingulate activity during attentional control processing in schizophrenia. However, it is not clear how variation in attentional control load modulates activity within these brain regions in this brain disorder. The aim of this study in schizophrenia is to investigate the impact of increasing levels of attentional control processing on prefrontal and cingulate activity. Blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) responses of 16 outpatients with schizophrenia were compared with those of 21 healthy subjects while performing a task eliciting increasing levels of attentional control during event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging at 3 T. Results showed reduced behavioral performance in patients at greater attentional control levels. Imaging data indicated greater prefrontal activity at intermediate attentional control levels in patients but greater prefrontal and cingulate responses at high attentional control demands in controls. The BOLD activity profile of these regions in controls increased linearly with increasing cognitive loads, whereas in patients, it was nonlinear. Correlation analysis consistently showed differential region and load-specific relationships between brain activity and behavior in the 2 groups. These results indicate that varying attentional control load is associated in schizophrenia with load- and region-specific modification of the relationship between behavior and brain activity, possibly suggesting earlier saturation of cognitive capacity.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Earlier imaging studies in schizophrenia have reported abnormal amygdala and prefrontal cortex activity during emotion processing. We investigated with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during emotion processing changes in activity of the amygdala and of prefrontal cortex in patients with schizophrenia during 8 weeks of olanzapine treatment. Twelve previously drug-free/naive patients with schizophrenia were treated with olanzapine for 8 weeks and underwent two fMRI scans after 4 and 8 weeks of treatment during implicit and explicit emotional processing. Twelve healthy subjects were also scanned twice to control for potential repetition effects. Results showed a diagnosis by time interaction in left amygdala and a diagnosis by time by task interaction in right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. In particular, activity in left amygdala was greater in patients than in controls at the first scan during both explicit and implicit processing, while it was lower in patients at the second relative to the first scan. Furthermore, during implicit processing, right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activity was lower in patients than controls at the first scan, while it was greater in patients at the second relative to the first scan. These results suggest that longitudinal treatment with olanzapine may be associated with specific changes in activity of the amygdala and prefrontal cortex during emotional processing in schizophrenia.
Psychiatry Research 06/2009; 173(1):31-8. · 2.46 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The "default-mode" network is an ensemble of cortical regions that are typically deactivated during demanding cognitive tasks in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies. Using functional connectivity analysis, this network can be studied as a "stand-alone" brain system whose functional role is supposed to consist in the dynamic control of intrinsic processing activities like attention focusing and task-unrelated thought generation and suppression. Independent component analysis (ICA) is the method of choice for generating a statistical image of the "default-mode" network (DMN) using a task- and seed-independent distributed model of fMRI functional connectivity without prior specification of node region extent and timing of neural activation. We used a standard graded working-memory task (n-back) to induce fMRI changes in the default-mode regions and ICA to evaluate to DMN functional connectivity in nineteen healthy volunteers. Based on the known spatial variability of the ICA-DMN maps with the task difficulty levels, we hypothesized the ICA-DMN may also correlate with the subject performances. We confirmed that the relative extent of the anterior and posterior midline spots within the DMN were oppositely (resp. positively in the anterior and negatively in the posterior cingulate cortex) correlated with the level of task difficulty and found out that the spatial distribution of DMN also correlates with the individual task performances. We conclude that the working-memory function is related to a spatial re-configuration of the DMN functional connectivity, and that the relative involvement of the cingulate regions within the DMN might function as a novel predictor of the working-memory efficiency.
Archives italiennes de biologie 04/2009; 147(1-2):11-20. · 1.43 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A common nonsynonymous single nucleotide polymorphism leading to a serine-to-cysteine substitution at amino acid 704 (Ser(704)Cys) in the DISC1 protein sequence has been recently associated with schizophrenia and with specific hippocampal abnormalities. Here, we used multimodal neuroimaging to investigate in a large sample of healthy subjects the putative association of the Ser(704)Cys DISC1 polymorphism with in vivo brain phenotypes including hippocampal formation (HF) gray matter volume and function (as assessed with functional MRI) as well as HF functional coupling with the neural network engaged during encoding of recognition memory. Individuals homozygous for DISC1 Ser allele relative to carriers of the Cys allele showed greater gray matter volume in the HF. Further, Ser/Ser subjects exhibited greater engagement of the HF together with greater HF-dorsolateral prefrontal cortex functional coupling during memory encoding, in spite of similar behavioral performance. These findings consistently support the notion that Ser(704)Cys DISC1 polymorphism is physiologically relevant. Moreover, they support the hypothesis that genetic variation in DISC1 may affect the risk for schizophrenia by modifying hippocampal gray matter and function.
European Journal of Neuroscience 12/2008; 28(10):2129-36. · 3.75 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Dopamine modulation of neuronal activity in prefrontal cortex maps to an inverted U-curve. Dopamine is also an important factor in regulation of hippocampal mediated memory processing. Here, we investigated the effect of genetic variation of dopamine inactivation via catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) and the dopamine transporter (DAT) on hippocampal activity in healthy humans during different memory conditions.
Using blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 82 subjects matched for a series of demographic and genetic variables, we studied the effect of the COMT valine (Val)(158)methionine (Met) and the DAT 3' variable number tandem repeat (VNTR) polymorphisms on function of the hippocampus during encoding of recognition memory and during working memory.
Our results consistently demonstrated a double dissociation so that DAT 9-repeat carrier alleles modulated activity in the hippocampus in the exact opposite direction of DAT 10/10-repeat alleles based on COMT Val(158)Met genotype during different memory conditions. Similar results were evident in ventrolateral and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.
These findings suggest that genetically determined dopamine signaling during memory processing maps to a nonlinear relationship also in the hippocampus. Our data also demonstrate in human brain epistasis of two genes implicated in dopamine signaling on brain activity during different memory conditions.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cognitive evaluation of emotional stimuli involves a network of brain regions including the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). However, threatening stimuli may be perceived with differential salience in different individuals. The goal of our study was to evaluate how different personality styles are associated with differential modulation of brain activity during explicit recognition of fearful and angry facial expressions. Twenty-eight healthy subjects underwent fMRI. Based on a cognitivist model, subjects were categorized according to how they attribute salience to emotional stimuli and how they regulate their emotional activation. We compared 14 phobic prone (PP) subjects, whose identity is more centered on the inner experience ("inward") and around control of environmental threat, and 14 eating disorders prone (EDP) subjects, whose identity is more centered on external referential contexts ("outward") and much less around control of threatening stimuli. During fMRI subjects either matched the identity of one of two angry and fearful faces to that of a simultaneously presented target face or identified the expression of a target face by choosing one of two simultaneously presented linguistic labels. The fMRI results indicated that PP subjects had greater mPFC activation when compared with EDP subjects during cognitive labeling of threatening stimuli. Activity in the mPFC also correlated with personality style scores. These results demonstrate that PP subjects recruit greater neuronal resources in mPFC whose activity is associated with cognitive aspects that are closely intertwined with emotional processing. These findings are consistent with the contention that cognitive evaluation and salience of emotional stimuli are associated with different personality styles.
Brain Research Bulletin 10/2007; 74(4):250-7. · 2.94 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Studies in humans and in animals have demonstrated that a network of brain regions is involved in performance of declarative and recognition memory tasks. This network includes the hippocampal formation (HF) as well as the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC). Studies in animals have suggested that the relationship between these brain regions is strongly modulated by dopamine.
Using fMRI in healthy humans matched for a series of demographic and genetic variables, we studied the effect of the COMT val158met polymorphism on function of HF and VLPFC as well as on their functional coupling during recognition memory.
The COMT Val allele was associated with: relatively poorer performance at retrieval; reduced recruitment of neuronal resources in HF and increased recruitment in VLPFC during both encoding and retrieval; and unfavorable functional coupling between these two regions at retrieval. Moreover, functional coupling during retrieval was predictive of behavioral accuracy.
These results shed new light on individual differences in responsivity and connectivity between HF and VLPFC related to genetic modulation of dopamine, a mechanism accounting at least in part for individual differences in recognition memory performance.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The "default-mode" network is an ensemble of cortical regions, which are typically deactivated during demanding cognitive tasks in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies. Using functional connectivity, this network can be conceptualized and studied as a "stand-alone" function or system. Regardless of the task, independent component analysis (ICA) produces a picture of the "default-mode" function even when the subject is performing a simple sensori-motor task or just resting in the scanner. This has boosted the use of default-mode fMRI for non-invasive research in brain disorders. Here, we studied the effect of cognitive load modulation of fMRI responses on the ICA-based pictures of the default-mode function. In a standard graded working memory study based on the n-back task, we used group-level ICA to explore the variability of the default-mode network related to the engagement in the task, in 10 healthy volunteers. The analysis of the default-mode components highlighted similarities and differences in the layout under three different cognitive loads. We found a load-related general increase of deactivation in the cortical network. Nonetheless, a variable recruitment of the cingulate regions was evident, with greater extension of the anterior and lesser extension of the posterior clusters when switching from lower to higher working memory loads. A co-activation of the hippocampus was only found under no working memory load. As a generalization of our results, the variability of the default-mode pattern may link the default-mode system as a whole to cognition and may more directly support use of the ICA model for evaluating cognitive decline in brain disorders.
Brain Research Bulletin 11/2006; 70(4-6):263-9. · 2.94 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Earlier studies with functional imaging in schizophrenia have demonstrated dysfunction of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex during working memory. Controlling for behavioral performance and for catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) Val158Met genotype, we here demonstrate in a functional magnetic resonance imaging paradigm that patients recruit greater neuronal resources in prefrontal cortex during working memory, suggesting that this phenotype is a core functional trait of the disease. We also replicated earlier findings that the Val allele of the COMT polymorphism is associated with greater engagement of the prefrontal cortex.
Psychiatry Research 11/2006; 147(2-3):221-6. · 2.46 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Functional polymorphisms in the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) and the dopamine transporter (DAT) genes modulate dopamine inactivation, which is crucial for determining neuronal signal-to-noise ratios in prefrontal cortex during working memory. We show that the COMT Met158 allele and the DAT 3' variable number of tandem repeat 10-repeat allele are independently associated in healthy humans with more focused neuronal activity (as measured with blood oxygen level-dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging) in the working memory cortical network, including the prefrontal cortex. Moreover, subjects homozygous for the COMT Met allele and the DAT 10-repeat allele have the most focused response, whereas the COMT Val and the DAT 9-repeat alleles have the least. These results demonstrate additive genetic effects of genes regulating dopamine signaling on specific neuronal networks subserving working memory.
Journal of Neuroscience 05/2006; 26(15):3918-22. · 6.91 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In the brain, processing of fearful stimuli engages the amygdala, and the variability of its activity is associated with genetic factors as well as with emotional salience. The objective of this study was to explore the relevance of personality style for variability of amygdala response.
We studied two groups (n=14 in each group) of healthy subjects categorized by contrasting cognitive styles with which they attribute salience to fearful stimuli: so-called phobic prone subjects who exaggerate potential environmental threat versus so-called eating disorders prone subjects who tend to be much less centered around fear. The two groups underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) at 3T during performance of a perceptual task of threatening stimuli and they were also matched for the genotype of the 5' variable number tandem repeat (VNTR) polymorphism in the serotonin transporter.
The fMRI results indicated that phobic prone subjects selectively recruit the amygdala to a larger extent than eating disorders prone subjects. Activity in the amygdala was also independently predicted by personality style and genotype of the serotonin transporter. Moreover, brain activity during a working memory task did not differentiate the two groups.
The results of the present study suggest that aspects of personality style are rooted in biological responses of the fear circuitry associated with processing of environmental information.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Deficits in working memory and in prefrontal cortical physiology are important outcome measures in schizophrenia, and both have been associated with dopamine dysregulation and with a functional polymorphism (Val(108/158)Met) in the catechol O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene that affects dopamine inactivation in the prefrontal cortex. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate in patients with schizophrenia the effect of COMT genotype on symptom variation, working memory performance, and prefrontal cortical physiology in response to treatment with an atypical antipsychotic drug.
Thirty patients with acute untreated schizophrenia were clinically evaluated with the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, underwent COMT Val/Met genotyping, and entered an 8-week prospective study of olanzapine treatment. Twenty patients completed two 3-T functional magnetic resonance imaging scans at 4 and 8 weeks during performance of N-back working memory tasks.
There was a significant interaction of COMT genotype and the effects of olanzapine on prefrontal cortical function. Met allele load predicted improvement in working memory performance and prefrontal physiology after 8 weeks of treatment. A similar effect was found also for negative symptoms assessed with the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale.
These results suggest that a genetically determined variation in prefrontal dopamine catabolism impacts the therapeutic profile of olanzapine.
American Journal of Psychiatry 11/2004; 161(10):1798-805. · 14.72 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Earlier cross-sectional studies with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in treated patients with schizophrenia have reported abnormalities of cortical motor processing, including reduced lateralization of primary sensory motor cortex. The objective of the present longitudinal study was to evaluate whether such cortical abnormalities represent state or trait phenomena of the disorder.
Seventeen acutely ill, previously untreated patients were studied after 4 weeks and after 8 weeks of olanzapine therapy. Seventeen matched healthy subjects served as control subjects. All subjects underwent two fMRI scans 4 weeks apart during a visually paced motor task using a simple periodic block design. Functional magnetic resonance imaging data were analyzed in Statistical Parametric Mapping (SPM99). Region of interest analyses were used to determine a laterality quotient (an index of lateralization) of motor cortical regions.
The fMRI data indicated that patients had reduced activation of the primary sensory motor cortex at 4 weeks but not at 8 weeks; however, the laterality quotient in the primary sensory motor cortex was reduced in patients at both time points.
These results suggest that some cortical abnormalities during motor processing represent state phenomena, whereas reduced functional lateralization of the primary sensory motor cortex represents an enduring trait of schizophrenia.