Laura Astolfi

Foundation Santa Lucia, Roma, Latium, Italy

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Publications (161)242.24 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Objective Motor imagery (MI) is assumed to enhance poststroke motor recovery; yet, its benefits are debatable. Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) can provide instantaneous and quantitative measure of cerebral functions modulated by MI. The efficacy of BCI-monitored MI practice as add-on intervention to usual rehabilitation care was evaluated in a randomized controlled pilot study in subacute stroke patients.Methods Twenty-eight hospitalized subacute stroke patients with severe motor deficits were randomized into 2 intervention groups: 1-month BCI-supported MI training (BCI group; n=14), and 1-month MI training without BCI support (CTRL group; n=14). Functional and neurophysiological assessments were performed before and after the interventions, including evaluation of the upper limbs by Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA; primary outcome measure) and analysis of oscillatory activity and connectivity at rest, based on high-density EEG recordings.ResultsBetter functional outcome was observed in the BCI group, including a significantly higher probability of achieving a clinically relevant increase in the FMA score (p <.03). Post-BCI training changes in EEG sensorimotor power spectra (ie, stronger desynchronization in the alpha and beta bands) occurred with greater involvement of the ipsilesional hemisphere, in response to MI of the paralyzed trained hand. Also, FMA improvements (effectiveness of FMA) correlated with the changes (ie, post-training increase) at rest in ipsilesional intrahemispheric connectivity in the same bands (p <.05).InterpretationThe introduction of BCI technology in assisting MI practice demonstrates the rehabilitative potential of MI, contributing to significantly better motor functional outcomes in subacute stroke patients with severe motor impairments. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Annals of Neurology 02/2015; 77(5). DOI:10.1002/ana.24390 · 11.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The present research investigates the neurophysiological activity elicited by fast observations of faces of real candidates during simulated political elections. We used simultaneous recording of electroencephalographic (EEG) signals as well as galvanic skin response (GSR) and heart rate (HR) as measurements of central and autonomic nervous systems. Twenty healthy subjects were asked to give judgments on dominance, trustworthiness, and a preference of vote related to the politicians' faces. We used high-resolution EEG techniques to map statistical differences of power spectral density (PSD) cortical activity onto a realistic head model as well as partial directed coherence (PDC) and graph theory metrics to estimate the functional connectivity networks and investigate the role of cortical regions of interest (ROIs). Behavioral results revealed that judgment of dominance trait is the most predictive of the outcome of the simulated elections. Statistical comparisons related to PSD and PDC values highlighted an asymmetry in the activation of frontal cortical areas associated with the valence of the judged trait as well as to the probability to cast the vote. Overall, our results highlight the existence of cortical EEG features which are correlated with the prediction of vote and with the judgment of trustworthy and dominant faces.
    Computational and Mathematical Methods in Medicine 08/2014; 2014(ID 434296). DOI:10.1155/2014/434296 · 1.02 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In clinical practice, cognitive impairment is often observed after stroke. The efficacy of rehabilitative interventions is routinely assessed by means of a neuropsychological test battery. Nowadays, more evidences indicate that the neuroplasticity which occurs after stroke can be better understood by investigating changes in brain networks. In this study we applied advanced methodologies for effective connectivity estimation in combination with graph theory approach, to define EEG derived descriptors of brain networks underlying memory tasks. In particular, we proposed such descriptors to identify substrates of efficacy of a Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) controlled neurofeedback intervention to improve cognitive function after stroke. Electroencephalographic (EEG) data were collected from two stroke patients before and after a neurofeedback-based training for memory deficits. We show that the estimated brain connectivity indices were sensitive to different training intervention outcomes, thus suggesting an effective support to the neuropsychological assessment in the evaluation of the changes induced by the BCI-based cognitive rehabilitative intervention.
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    ABSTRACT: In BCI applications for stroke rehabilitation, BCI systems are used with the aim of providing patients with an instrument that is capable of monitoring and reinforcing EEG patterns generated by motor imagery (MI). In this study we proposed an offline analysis on data acquired from stroke patients subjected to a BCI-assisted MI training in order to define an index for the evaluation of MI-BCI training session which is independent from the settings adopted for the online control and which is able to describe the properties of neuroelectrical activations across sessions. Results suggest that such index can be adopted to sort the trails within a session according to the adherence to the task.
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    ABSTRACT: The aim of the present study is to investigate the neurophysiological basis of the cognitive functions underlying the execution of joint actions, by means of the recent technique called hyperscanning. Neuroelectrical hyperscanning is based on the simultaneous recording of brain activity from multiple subjects and includes the analysis of the functional relation between the brain activity of all the interacting individuals. We recorded simultaneous high density electroencephalography (hdEEG) from 16 pairs of subjects involved in a computerized joint action paradigm, with controlled levels of cooperation. Results of cortical connectivity analysis returned significant differences, in terms of inter-brain functional causal links, between the condition of cooperative joint action and a condition in which the subjects were told they were interacting with a PC, while actually interacting with another human subject. Such differences, described by selected brain connectivity indices, point toward an integration between the two subjects' brain activity in the cooperative condition, with respect to control conditions.
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    ABSTRACT: One of the main limitations commonly encountered when dealing with the estimation of brain connectivity is the difficulty to perform a statistical assessment of significant changes in brain networks at a single-subject level. This is mainly due to the lack of information about the distribution of the connectivity estimators at different conditions. While group analysis is commonly adopted to perform a statistical comparison between conditions, it may impose major limitations when dealing with the heterogeneity expressed by a given clinical condition in patients. This holds true particularly for stroke when seeking for quantitative measurements of the efficacy of any rehabilitative intervention promoting recovery of function. The need is then evident of an assessment which may account for individual pathological network configuration associated with different level of patients' response to treatment; such network configuration is highly related to the effect that a given brain lesion has on neural networks. In this study we propose a resampling-based approach to the assessment of statistically significant changes in cortical connectivity networks at a single subject level. First, we provide the results of a simulation study testing the performances of the proposed approach under different conditions. Then, to show the sensitivity of the method, we describe its application to electroencephalographic (EEG) data recorded from two post-stroke patients who showed different clinical recovery after a rehabilitative intervention.
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    ABSTRACT: Cortical processing of sensory stimuli typically recruits multiple areas, but how each area dynamically incorporates activity from other areas is not well understood. We investigated interactions between cortical columns of bilateral primary sensory regions (S1s) in rats by recording local field potentials and multi-unit activity simultaneously in both S1s with electrodes positioned at each cortical layer. Using dynamic connectivity analysis based on Granger-causal modeling, we found that, shortly after whisker stimulation (< 10 ms), contralateral S1 (cS1) already relays activity to granular and infragranular layers of S1 in the other hemisphere, after which cS1 shows a pattern of within-column interactions that directs activity upwards toward superficial layers. This pattern of predominant upward driving was also observed in S1 ipsilateral to stimulation, but at longer latencies. In addition, we found that interactions between the two S1s most strongly target granular and infragranular layers. Taken together, the results suggest a possible mechanism for how cortical columns integrate local and large-scale neocortical computation by relaying information from deeper layers to local processing in superficial layers.
    European Journal of Neuroscience 08/2014; 40(8). DOI:10.1111/ejn.12687 · 3.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Methods based on the multivariate autoregressive (MVAR) approach are commonly used for effective connectivity estimation as they allow to include all available sources into a unique model. To ensure high levels of accuracy for high model dimensions, all the observations are used to provide a unique estimation of the model, and thus of the network and its properties. The unavailability of a distribution of connectivity values for a single experimental condition prevents to perform statistical comparisons between different conditions at a single subject level. This is a major limitation, especially when dealing with the heterogeneity of clinical conditions presented by patients. In the present paper we proposed a novel approach to the construction of a distribution of connectivity in a single subject case. The proposed approach is based on small perturbations of the networks properties and allows to assess significant changes in brain connectivity indexes derived from graph theory. Its feasibility and applicability were investigated by means of a simulation study and an application to real EEG data.
  • Clinical Neurophysiology 06/2014; 125. DOI:10.1016/S1388-2457(14)50098-3 · 2.98 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Objective. It is well known that to acquire sensorimotor (SMR)-based brain–computer interface (BCI) control requires a training period before users can achieve their best possible performances. Nevertheless, the effect of this training procedure on the cortical activity related to the mental imagery ability still requires investigation to be fully elucidated. The aim of this study was to gain insights into the effects of SMR-based BCI training on the cortical spectral activity associated with the performance of different mental imagery tasks. Approach. Linear cortical estimation and statistical brain mapping techniques were applied on high-density EEG data acquired from 18 healthy participants performing three different mental imagery tasks. Subjects were divided in two groups, one of BCI trained subjects, according to their previous exposure (at least six months before this study) to motor imagery-based BCI training, and one of subjects who were naive to any BCI paradigms. Main results. Cortical activation maps obtained for trained and naive subjects indicated different spectral and spatial activity patterns in response to the mental imagery tasks. Long-term effects of the previous SMR-based BCI training were observed on the motor cortical spectral activity specific to the BCI trained motor imagery task (simple hand movements) and partially generalized to more complex motor imagery task (playing tennis). Differently, mental imagery with spatial attention and memory content could elicit recognizable cortical spectral activity even in subjects completely naive to (BCI) training. Significance. The present findings contribute to our understanding of BCI technology usage and might be of relevance in those clinical conditions when training to master a BCI application is challenging or even not possible.
    Journal of Neural Engineering 05/2014; 11(3). DOI:10.1088/1741-2560/11/3/035010 · 3.42 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Time-varying connectivity methods are increasingly used to study directed interactions between brain regions from electrophysiological signals. These methods often show good results in simulated data but it is unclear to what extent connectivity results obtained from real data are physiologically plausible. Here we introduce a benchmark approach using multichannel somatosensory evoked potentials (SEP) measured across rat cortex, where the structural and functional connectivity is relatively simple and well-understood. Rat SEPs to whisker stimulation are exclusively initiated by contralateral primary sensory cortex (S1), at known latencies, and with activity spread from S1 to specific cortical regions. This allows for a comparison of time-varying connectivity measures according to fixed criteria. We thus evaluated the performance of time-varying Partial Directed Coherence (PDC) and the Directed Transfer Function (DTF), comparing row- and column-wise normalization and the effect of weighting by the power spectral density (PSD). The benchmark approach revealed clear differences between methods in terms of physiological plausibility, effect size and temporal resolution. The results provide a validation of time-varying directed connectivity methods in an animal model and suggest a driving role for ipsilateral S1 in the later part of the SEP. The benchmark SEP dataset is made freely available.
    NeuroImage 04/2014; 97. DOI:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.04.016 · 6.13 Impact Factor
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    Clinical EEG and neuroscience; 12/2013
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    Clinical EEG and neuroscience: official journal of the EEG and Clinical Neuroscience Society (ENCS) 12/2013; 44(4):E1-121. · 3.16 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Disorders of Consciousness (DOC) like Vegetative State (VS), and Minimally Conscious State (MCS) are clinical conditions characterized by the absence or intermittent behavioral responsiveness. A neurophysiological monitoring of parameters like Event-Related Potentials (ERPs) could be a first step to follow-up the clinical evolution of these patients during their rehabilitation phase. Eleven patients diagnosed as VS (n = 8) and MCS (n = 3) by means of the JFK Coma Recovery Scale Revised (CRS-R) underwent scalp EEG recordings during the delivery of a 3-stimuli auditory oddball paradigm, which included standard, deviant tones and the subject own name (SON) presented as a novel stimulus, administered under passive and active conditions. Four patients who showed a change in their clinical status as detected by means of the CRS-R (i.e., moved from VS to MCS), were subjected to a second EEG recording session. All patients, but one (anoxic etiology), showed ERP components such as mismatch negativity (MMN) and novelty P300 (nP3) under passive condition. When patients were asked to count the novel stimuli (active condition), the nP3 component displayed a significant increase in amplitude (p = 0.009) and a wider topographical distribution with respect to the passive listening, only in MCS. In 2 out of the 4 patients who underwent a second recording session consistently with their transition from VS to MCS, the nP3 component elicited by passive listening of SON stimuli revealed a significant amplitude increment (p < 0.05). Most relevant, the amplitude of the nP3 component in the active condition, acquired in each patient and in all recording sessions, displayed a significant positive correlation with the total scores (p = 0.004) and with the auditory sub-scores (p < 0.00001) of the CRS-R administered before each EEG recording. As such, the present findings corroborate the value of ERPs monitoring in DOC patients to investigate residual unconscious and conscious cognitive function.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 11/2013; 7:775. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00775 · 2.90 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: For the past decade, the detection and quantification of interactions within and between physiological networks has become a priority-in-common between the fields of biomedicine and computer science. Prominent examples are the interaction analysis of brain networks and of the cardiovascular-respiratory system. The aim of the study is to show how and to what extent results from time-variant partial directed coherence analysis are influenced by some basic estimator and data parameters. The impacts of the Kalman filter settings, the order of the autoregressive (AR) model, signal-to-noise ratios, filter procedures and volume conduction were investigated. These systematic investigations are based on data derived from simulated connectivity networks and were performed using a Kalman filter approach for the estimation of the time-variant multivariate AR model. Additionally, the influence of electrooculogram artefact rejection on the significance and dynamics of interactions in 29 channel electroencephalography recordings, derived from a photic driving experiment, is demonstrated. For artefact rejection, independent component analysis was used. The study provides rules to correctly apply particular methods that will aid users to achieve more reliable interpretations of the results.
    Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society A Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences 07/2013; 371(1994):20110616. DOI:10.1098/rsta.2011.0616 · 2.86 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Graph theory is a powerful mathematical tool recently introduced in neuroscience field for quantitatively describing the main properties of investigated connectivity networks. Despite the technical advancements provided in the last few years, further investigations are needed for overcoming actual limitations in the field. In fact, the absence of a common procedure currently applied for the extraction of the adjacency matrix from a connectivity pattern has been leading to low consistency and reliability of ghaph indexes among the investigated population. In this paper we proposed a new approach for adjacency matrix extraction based on a statistical threshold as valid alternative to empirical approaches, extensively used in Neuroscience field (i.e. fixing the edge density). In particular we performed a simulation study for investigating the effects of the two different extraction approaches on the topological properties of the investigated networks. In particular, the comparison was performed on two different datasets, one composed by uncorrelated random signals (null-model) and the other one by signals acquired on a mannequin head used as a phantom (EEG null-model). The results highlighted the importance to use a statistical threshold for the adjacency matrix extraction in order to describe the real existing topological properties of the investigated networks. The use of an empirical threshold led to an erroneous definition of small-world properties for the considered connectivity patterns.
    Conference proceedings: ... Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Conference 07/2013; 2013:2932-2935. DOI:10.1109/EMBC.2013.6610154
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    ABSTRACT: Partial Directed Coherence (PDC) is a spectral multivariate estimator for effective connectivity, relying on the concept of Granger causality. Even if its original definition derived directly from information theory, two modifies were introduced in order to provide better physiological interpretations of the estimated networks: i) normalization of the estimator according to rows, ii) squared transformation. In the present paper we investigated the effect of PDC normalization on the performances achieved by applying the statistical validation process on investigated connectivity patterns under different conditions of Signal to Noise ratio (SNR) and amount of data available for the analysis. Results of the statistical analysis revealed an effect of PDC normalization only on the percentages of type I and type II errors occurred by using Shuffling procedure for the assessment of connectivity patterns. No effects of the PDC formulation resulted on the performances achieved during the validation process executed instead by means of Asymptotic Statistic approach. Moreover, the percentages of both false positives and false negatives committed by Asymptotic Statistic are always lower than those achieved by Shuffling procedure for each type of normalization.
    Conference proceedings: ... Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Conference 07/2013; 2013:4346-4349. DOI:10.1109/EMBC.2013.6610508
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    ABSTRACT: Memory processes are based on large cortical networks characterized by non-stationary properties and time scales which represent a limitation to the traditional connectivity estimation methods. The recent development of connectivity approaches able to consistently describe the temporal evolution of large dimension connectivity networks, in a fully multivariate way, represents a tool that can be used to extract novel information about the processes at the basis of memory functions. In this paper, we applied such advanced approach in combination with the use of state-of-the-art graph theory indexes, computed on the connectivity networks estimated from high density electroencephalographic (EEG) data recorded in a group of healthy adults during the Sternberg Task. The results show how this approach is able to return a characterization of the main phases of the investigated memory task which is also sensitive to the increased length of the numerical string to be memorized.
    Conference proceedings: ... Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Conference 07/2013; 2013:2936-2939. DOI:10.1109/EMBC.2013.6610155
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    ABSTRACT: Recent studies have investigated changes in the human brain network organization during the normal aging. A reduction of the connectivity between brain areas was demonstrated by combining neuroimaging technologies and graph theory. Clustering, characteristic path length and small-worldness are key topological measures and they are widely used in literature. In this paper we propose a new methodology that combine advanced techniques of effective connectivity estimation, graph theoretical approach and classification by SVM method. EEG signals recording during rest condition from 20 young subjects and 20 mid-aged adults were studied. Partial Directed Coherence was computed by means of General Linear Kalman Filter and graph indexes were extracted from estimated patterns. At last small-worldness was used as feature for the SVM classifier. Results show that topological differences of brain networks exist between young and mid-aged adults: small-worldness is significantly different between the two populations and it can be used to classify the subjects with respect to age with an accuracy of 69%.
    Conference proceedings: ... Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Conference 07/2013; 2013:4350-4353. DOI:10.1109/EMBC.2013.6610509
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    ABSTRACT: The perception of the music in cochlear implanted (CI) patients is an important aspect of their quality of life. In fact, the pleasantness of the music perception by such CI patients can be analyzed through a particular analysis of EEG rhythms. Studies on healthy subjects show that exists a particular frontal asymmetry of the EEG alpha rhythm which can be correlated with pleasantness of the perceived stimuli (approach-withdrawal theory). In particular, here we describe differences between EEG activities estimated in the alpha frequency band for a monolateral CI group of children and a normal hearing one during the fruition of a musical cartoon. The results of the present analysis showed that the alpha EEG asymmetry patterns related to the normal hearing group refers to a higher pleasantness perception when compared to the cerebral activity of the monolateral CI patients. In fact, the present results support the statement that a monolateral CI group could perceive the music in a less pleasant way when compared to normal hearing children.
    Conference proceedings: ... Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Conference 07/2013; 2013:5422-5425. DOI:10.1109/EMBC.2013.6610775

Publication Stats

2k Citations
242.24 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2004–2015
    • Foundation Santa Lucia
      • Laboratory of Experimental Neurorehabilitation
      Roma, Latium, Italy
  • 2004–2014
    • Sapienza University of Rome
      • • Department of Computer Science
      • • Department of Physiology and Pharmacology "Vittorio Erspamer"
      Roma, Latium, Italy
  • 2005–2009
    • The American University of Rome
      Roma, Latium, Italy
  • 2006
    • University of Bologna
      • "Guglielmo Marconi" Department of Electrical, Electronic and Information Engineering DEI
      Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, Italy