Conor Liston

Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, United States

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Publications (14)167.65 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is an established treatment for depression, but its underlying mechanism of action remains unknown. Abnormalities in two large-scale neuronal networks-the frontoparietal central executive network (CEN) and the medial prefrontal-medial parietal default mode network (DMN)-are consistent findings in depression and potential therapeutic targets for TMS. Here, we assessed the impact of TMS on activity in these networks and their relation to treatment response. We used resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure functional connectivity within and between the DMN and CEN in 17 depressed patients, before and after a 5-week course of TMS. Motivated by prior reports, we focused on connectivity seeded from the DLPFC and the subgenual cingulate, a key region closely aligned with the DMN in depression. Connectivity was also compared with a cohort of 35 healthy control subjects. Before treatment, functional connectivity in depressed patients was abnormally elevated within the DMN and diminished within the CEN, and connectivity between these two networks was altered. Transcranial magnetic stimulation normalized depression-related subgenual hyperconnectivity in the DMN but did not alter connectivity in the CEN. Transcranial magnetic stimulation also induced anticorrelated connectivity between the DLPFC and medial prefrontal DMN nodes. Baseline subgenual connectivity predicted subsequent clinical improvement. Transcranial magnetic stimulation selectively modulates functional connectivity both within and between the CEN and DMN, and modulation of subgenual cingulate connectivity may play an important mechanistic role in alleviating depression. The results also highlight potential neuroimaging biomarkers for predicting treatment response.
    Biological psychiatry 02/2014; · 8.93 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Excessive glucocorticoid exposure during chronic stress causes synapse loss and learning impairment. Under normal physiological conditions, glucocorticoid activity oscillates in synchrony with the circadian rhythm. Whether and how endogenous glucocorticoid oscillations modulate synaptic plasticity and learning is unknown. Here we show that circadian glucocorticoid peaks promote postsynaptic dendritic spine formation in the mouse cortex after motor skill learning, whereas troughs are required for stabilizing newly formed spines that are important for long-term memory retention. Conversely, chronic and excessive exposure to glucocorticoids eliminates learning-associated new spines and disrupts previously acquired memories. Furthermore, we show that glucocorticoids promote rapid spine formation through a non-transcriptional mechanism by means of the LIM kinase-cofilin pathway and increase spine elimination through transcriptional mechanisms involving mineralocorticoid receptor activation. Together, these findings indicate that tightly regulated circadian glucocorticoid oscillations are important for learning-dependent synaptic formation and maintenance. They also delineate a new signaling mechanism underlying these effects.
    Nature Neuroscience 04/2013; · 15.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: While a tumour in or abutting primary motor cortex leads to motor weakness, how tumours elsewhere in the frontal or parietal lobes affect functional connectivity in a weak patient is less clear. We hypothesized that diminished functional connectivity in a distributed network of motor centres would correlate with motor weakness in subjects with brain masses. Furthermore, we hypothesized that interhemispheric connections would be most vulnerable to subtle disruptions in functional connectivity. We used task-free functional magnetic resonance imaging connectivity to probe motor networks in control subjects and patients with brain tumours (n = 22). Using a control dataset, we developed a method for automated detection of key nodes in the motor network, including the primary motor cortex, supplementary motor area, premotor area and superior parietal lobule, based on the anatomic location of the hand-motor knob in the primary motor cortex. We then calculated functional connectivity between motor network nodes in control subjects, as well as patients with and without brain masses. We used this information to construct weighted, undirected graphs, which were then compared to variables of interest, including performance on a motor task, the grooved pegboard. Strong connectivity was observed within the identified motor networks between all nodes bilaterally, and especially between the primary motor cortex and supplementary motor area. Reduced connectivity was observed in subjects with motor weakness versus subjects with normal strength (P < 0.001). This difference was driven mostly by decreases in interhemispheric connectivity between the primary motor cortices (P < 0.05) and between the left primary motor cortex and the right premotor area (P < 0.05), as well as other premotor area connections. In the subjects without motor weakness, however, performance on the grooved pegboard did not relate to interhemispheric connectivity, but rather was inversely correlated with connectivity between the left premotor area and left supplementary motor area, for both the left and the right hands (P < 0.01). Finally, two subjects who experienced severe weakness following surgery for their brain tumours were followed longitudinally, and the subject who recovered showed reconstitution of her motor network at follow-up. The subject who was persistently weak did not reconstitute his motor network. Motor weakness in subjects with brain tumours that do not involve primary motor structures is associated with decreased connectivity within motor functional networks, particularly interhemispheric connections. Motor networks become weaker as the subjects become weaker, and may become strong again during motor recovery.
    Brain 03/2012; 135(Pt 4):1017-26. · 9.92 Impact Factor
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    Conor Liston, Wen-Biao Gan
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    ABSTRACT: Glucocorticoids are a family of hormones that coordinate diverse physiological processes in responding to stress. Prolonged glucocorticoid exposure over weeks has been linked to dendritic atrophy and spine loss in fixed tissue studies of adult brains, but it is unclear how glucocorticoids may affect the dynamic processes of dendritic spine formation and elimination in vivo. Furthermore, relatively few studies have examined the effects of stress and glucocorticoids on spines during the postnatal and adolescent period, which is characterized by rapid synaptogenesis followed by protracted synaptic pruning. To determine whether and to what extent glucocorticoids regulate dendritic spine development and plasticity, we used transcranial two-photon microscopy to track the formation and elimination of dendritic spines in vivo after treatment with glucocorticoids in developing and adult mice. Corticosterone, the principal murine glucocorticoid, had potent dose-dependent effects on dendritic spine dynamics, increasing spine turnover within several hours in the developing barrel cortex. The adult barrel cortex exhibited diminished baseline spine turnover rates, but these rates were also enhanced by corticosterone. Similar changes occurred in multiple cortical areas, suggesting a generalized effect. However, reducing endogenous glucocorticoid activity by dexamethasone suppression or corticosteroid receptor antagonists caused a substantial reduction in spine turnover rates, and the former was reversed by corticosterone replacement. Notably, we found that chronic glucocorticoid excess led to an abnormal loss of stable spines that were established early in life. Together, these findings establish a critical role for glucocorticoids in the development and maintenance of dendritic spines in the living cortex.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 09/2011; 108(38):16074-9. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Functional neuroimaging studies have identified multiple nodes of dysfunction in frontostriatal and mesocorticolimbic networks in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Yet relatively few studies have examined how structural and functional connectivity between nodes in these networks might relate to the behavioral symptoms of ADHD. Moreover, it is unknown whether abnormalities in connectivity are a primary cause of symptoms or arise secondary to common etiologic mechanisms. We review the most recent diffusion tensor imaging and functional magnetic resonance imaging studies of connectivity in ADHD to characterize associations between frontostriatal connectivity abnormalities and the behavioral symptoms of inattention and impulsivity in ADHD. Furthermore, we examine how structural and functional connectivity measures relate to environmental and genetic pathways to ADHD. Diffusion tensor imaging studies indicate that ADHD is associated with significant irregularities in white matter microstructure, especially in frontostriatal and select corticocortical tracts. Resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging studies implicate altered connectivity within a default mode network of structures active during introspective, task-free processes and disrupted interactions between this network and frontostriatal attentional systems. Deficits in functional connectivity within frontostriatal and mesocorticolimbic networks might give rise, in part, to ADHD symptoms. Conversely, structural connectivity deficits and ADHD symptoms might arise incidentally from a common etiologic mechanism, involving altered modulation of synaptic potentiation and pruning by dopamine and other factors during development. Collectively, these studies suggest that the core symptoms of ADHD might derive from dysregulated modulation of cortical plasticity in the developing brain, resulting in altered patterns of corticocortical connectivity that might persist into adulthood.
    Biological psychiatry 06/2011; 69(12):1168-77. · 8.93 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mouse models are useful for studying genes involved in behavior, but whether they are relevant to human behavior is unclear. Here, we identified parallel phenotypes in mice and humans resulting from a common single-nucleotide polymorphism in the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene, which is involved in anxiety-related behavior. An inbred genetic knock-in mouse strain expressing the variant BDNF recapitulated the phenotypic effects of the human polymorphism. Both were impaired in extinguishing a conditioned fear response, which was paralleled by atypical frontoamygdala activity in humans. Thus, this variant BDNF allele may play a role in anxiety disorders showing impaired learning of cues that signal safety versus threat and in the efficacy of treatments that rely on extinction mechanisms, such as exposure therapy.
    Science 02/2010; 327(5967):863-6. · 31.20 Impact Factor
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    C Liston, B S McEwen, B J Casey
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    ABSTRACT: Relatively little is known about the long-term neurobiological sequelae of chronic stress, which predisposes susceptible patients to neuropsychiatric conditions affecting the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Animal models and human neuroimaging experiments provide complementary insights, yet efforts to integrate the two are often complicated by limitations inherent in drawing comparisons between unrelated studies with disparate designs. Translating from a rodent model of chronic stress where we have shown reversible disruption of PFC function, we show that psychosocial stress induces long-lasting but reversible impairments in behavioral and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measures of PFC function in humans. Twenty healthy adults, exposed to 1 month of psychosocial stress, confirmed by a validated rating scale, were scanned while performing a PFC-dependent attention-shifting task. One month later, they returned for a second scanning session after a period of reduced stress, and their performance was compared with a twice-scanned, matched group of low-stress controls. Psychosocial stress selectively impaired attentional control and disrupted functional connectivity within a frontoparietal network that mediates attention shifts. These effects were reversible: after one month of reduced stress, the same subjects showed no significant differences from controls. These results highlight the plasticity of PFC networks in healthy human subjects and suggest one mechanism by which disrupted plasticity may contribute to cognitive impairments characteristic of stress-related neuropsychiatric conditions in susceptible individuals.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2009; 106(3):912-7. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Many studies have linked the structure and function of frontostriatal circuitry to cognitive control deficits in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Few studies have examined the role of white matter tracts between these structures or the extent to which white matter tract myelination and regularity correlate in family members with the disorder. Functional imaging maps from a go/nogo task were used to identify portions of the ventral prefrontal cortex and striatum involved in suppressing an inappropriate action (i.e., cognitive control) in 30 parent-child dyads (N=60), including 20 dyads (N=40) with ADHD and 10 dyads (N=20) without ADHD. An automated fiber-tracking algorithm was used to delineate white matter fibers adjacent to these functionally defined regions based on diffusion tensor images. Fractional anisotropy, an index of white matter tract myelination and regularity derived from diffusion tensor images, was calculated to characterize the associations between white matter tracts and function. Fractional anisotropy in right prefrontal fiber tracts correlated with both functional activity in the inferior frontal gyrus and caudate nucleus and performance of a go/nogo task in parent-child dyads with ADHD, even after controlling for age. Prefrontal fiber tract measures were tightly associated between ADHD parents and their children. Collectively, these findings support previous studies suggesting heritability of frontostriatal structures among individuals with ADHD and suggest disruption in frontostriatal white matter tracts as one possible pathway to the disorder.
    American Journal of Psychiatry 12/2007; 164(11):1729-36. · 14.72 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Stressful life events have been implicated clinically in the pathogenesis of mental illness, but the neural substrates that may account for this observation remain poorly understood. Attentional impairments symptomatic of these psychiatric conditions are associated with structural and functional abnormalities in a network of prefrontal cortical structures. Here, we examine whether chronic stress-induced dendritic alterations in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and orbital frontal cortex (OFC) underlie impairments in the behaviors that they subserve. After 21 d of repeated restraint stress, rats were tested on a perceptual attentional set-shifting task, which yields dissociable measures of reversal learning and attentional set-shifting, functions that are mediated by the OFC and mPFC, respectively. Intracellular iontophoretic injections of Lucifer yellow were performed in a subset of these rats to examine dendritic morphology in layer II/III pyramidal cells of the mPFC and lateral OFC. Chronic stress induced a selective impairment in attentional set-shifting and a corresponding retraction (20%) of apical dendritic arbors in the mPFC. In stressed rats, but not in controls, decreased dendritic arborization in the mPFC predicted impaired attentional set-shifting performance. In contrast, stress was not found to adversely affect reversal learning or dendritic morphology in the lateral OFC. Instead, apical dendritic arborization in the OFC was increased by 43%. This study provides the first direct evidence that dendritic remodeling in the prefrontal cortex may underlie the functional deficits in attentional control that are symptomatic of stress-related mental illnesses.
    Journal of Neuroscience 08/2006; 26(30):7870-4. · 6.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The conflict-monitoring hypothesis posits that anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) monitors conflict in information processing and recruits dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) to resolve competition as needed. We used fMRI to test this prediction directly in the context of a task-switching paradigm, in which subjects responded to the color or the motion of a visual stimulus. Conflict was indexed in terms of the product of activities in areas specialized for color or motion processing on a trial-by-trial basis. Here, we report that ACC and posterior parietal cortex (PPC) were sensitive to distinct forms of conflict, at the level of the response and the stimulus representation, respectively. Activity in PPC preceded increased activity in DLPFC and predicted enhanced behavioral performance on subsequent trials. These findings suggest that ACC and PPC may act in concert to detect dissociable forms of conflict and signal to DLPFC the need for increased control.
    Neuron 06/2006; 50(4):643-53. · 15.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Many studies have linked activity in a frontostriatal network with the capacity to suppress inappropriate thoughts and actions, but relatively few have examined the role of connectivity between these structures. Here, we use diffusion tensor imaging to assess frontostriatal connectivity in 21 subjects (ages 7-31 years). Fifteen subjects were tested on a go/no-go task, where they responded with a button press to a visual stimulus and inhibited a response to a second infrequent stimulus. An automated fiber tracking algorithm was used to delineate white matter fibers adjacent to ventral prefrontal cortex and the striatum, and the corticospinal tract, which was not expected to contribute to control per se. Diffusion in frontostriatal and corticospinal tracts became more restricted with age. This shift was paralleled by an increase in efficiency of task performance. Frontostriatal radial diffusivities predicted faster reaction times, independent of age and accuracy, and this correlation grew stronger for trials expected to require greater control. This was not observed in the corticospinal tract. On trials matched for speed of task performance, adults were significantly more accurate, and accuracies were correlated with frontostriatal, but not corticospinal, diffusivities. These findings suggest that frontostriatal connectivity may contribute to developmental and individual differences in the efficient recruitment of cognitive control.
    Cerebral Cortex 05/2006; 16(4):553-60. · 8.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The prefrontal cortex (PFC) plays an important role in higher cognitive processes, and in the regulation of stress-induced hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) activity. Here we examined the effect of repeated restraint stress on dendritic spine number in the medial PFC. Rats were perfused after receiving 21 days of daily restraint stress, and intracellular iontophoretic injections of Lucifer Yellow were carried out in layer II/III pyramidal neurons in the anterior cingulate and prelimbic cortices. We found that stress results in a significant (16%) decrease in apical dendritic spine density in medial PFC pyramidal neurons, and confirmed a previous observation that total apical dendritic length is reduced by 20% in the same neurons. We estimate that nearly one-third of all axospinous synapses on apical dendrites of pyramidal neurons in medial PFC are lost following repeated stress. A decrease in medial PFC dendritic spines may not only be indicative of a decrease in the total population of axospinous synapses, but may impair these neurons' capacity for biochemical compartmentalization and plasticity in which dendritic spines play a major role. Dendritic atrophy and spine loss may be important cellular features of stress-related psychiatric disorders where the PFC is functionally impaired.
    Cerebral Cortex 04/2006; 16(3):313-20. · 8.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The human brain undergoes significant changes in both its structural architecture and functional organization across the life span. Advances in neuroimaging techniques over the past decade have allowed us to track these changes safely in the human in vivo. We review the imaging literature on the neurobiology of cognitive development, focusing specifically on cognitive task-dependent changes observed in brain physiology and anatomy across childhood and adolescence. The findings suggest that cortical function becomes fine-tuned with development. Brain regions associated with more basic functions such as sensory and motor processes mature first, followed by association areas involved in top-down control of behavior.
    Trends in Cognitive Sciences 04/2005; 9(3):104-10. · 16.01 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Diffusion tensor imaging is unique in its ability to noninvasively visualize white matter fiber tracts in the human brain in vivo. Diffusion is the incoherent motion of water molecules on a microscopic scale. This motion is itself dependent on the micro-structural environment that restricts the movement of the water molecules. In white matter fibers there is a pronounced directional dependence on diffusion. With white matter fiber tracking or tractography, projections among brain regions can be detected in the three-dimensional diffusion tensor dataset according to the directionality of the fibers. Examples of developmental changes in diffusion, tracking of major fiber tracts, and examples of how diffusion tensor tractography and functional magnetic resonance imaging can be combined are provided. These techniques are complimentary and allow both the identification of the eloquent areas of the brain involved in specific functional tasks, and the connections between them. The noninvasive nature of magnetic resonance imaging will allow these techniques to be used in both longitudinal developmental and diagnostic studies. An overview of the technique and preliminary applications are presented, along with its current limitations.
    Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews 02/2003; 9(3):168-77. · 3.80 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

2k Citations
167.65 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2013
    • Stanford University
      Palo Alto, California, United States
  • 2009–2011
    • Cornell University
      • • Department of Neurology and Neuroscience
      • • Department of Psychiatry
      Ithaca, NY, United States
  • 2006–2011
    • Weill Cornell Medical College
      • Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology
      New York City, New York, United States
    • The Rockefeller University
      • Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology
      New York City, NY, United States