Marco Iacoboni

Laureate Institute for Brain Research, Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States

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Publications (62)320.77 Total impact

  • Kristina Grigaityte, Marco Iacoboni
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    ABSTRACT: Giacomo Rizzolatti, Stanislas Dehaene, and Trevor Robbins were recently awarded the 2014 Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Prize for their 'pioneering research on higher brain mechanisms underpinning such complex human functions as literacy, numeracy, motivated behavior and social cognition, and for their effort to understand cognitive and behavioral disorders'. Why was their work highlighted? Is there anything that links together these seemingly disparate lines of research?
    Trends in Neurosciences 10/2014; · 13.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Evidence suggests that there are differences in the capacity for empathy between males and females. However, how deep do these differences go? Stereotypically, females are portrayed as more nurturing and empathetic, while males are portrayed as less emotional and more cognitive. Some authors suggest that observed gender differences might be largely due to cultural expectations about gender roles. However, empathy has both evolutionary and developmental precursors, and can be studied using implicit measures, aspects that can help elucidate the respective roles of culture and biology. This article reviews evidence from ethology, social psychology, economics, and neuroscience to show that there are fundamental differences in implicit measures of empathy, with parallels in development and evolution. Studies in nonhuman animals and younger human populations (infants/children) offer converging evidence that sex differences in empathy have phylogenetic and ontogenetic roots in biology and are not merely cultural byproducts driven by socialization. We review how these differences may have arisen in response to males' and females' different roles throughout evolution. Examinations of the neurobiological underpinnings of empathy reveal important quantitative gender differences in the basic networks involved in affective and cognitive forms of empathy, as well as a qualitative divergence between the sexes in how emotional information is integrated to support decision making processes. Finally, the study of gender differences in empathy can be improved by designing studies with greater statistical power and considering variables implicit in gender (e.g., sexual preference, prenatal hormone exposure). These improvements may also help uncover the nature of neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders in which one sex is more vulnerable to compromised social competence associated with impaired empathy.
    Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 09/2014; · 10.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper, we review the contribution of our research group to the study of human consciousness by quantitative electroencephalographic (EEG) techniques. We posit that EEG techniques can be extremely useful for a direct measurement of brain electrophysiological activity related to human consciousness for their unsurpassable high temporal resolution (milliseconds). This activity can be expressed in terms of event-related potentials as well as changes of EEG rhythms of interest, for example the dominant alpha rhythms (about 8-12 Hz). The results of our studies, and those of several independent groups, lead support to the hypothesis that these techniques provide important insights about the neurophysiologic mechanisms underlying cortical neural synchronization/desynchronization and the regulation of neuromodulatory systems (e.g. dopaminergic, noradrenergic, cholinergic, etc.) at the basis of brain arousal and consciousness in healthy subjects and in patients with impairment of the consciousness. A possible interaction of these mechanisms and the drugs administered to patients with consciousness disorders is discussed.
    Current pharmaceutical design 09/2013; · 4.41 Impact Factor
  • Leonardo Moore, Marco Iacoboni
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    ABSTRACT: Although we fundamentally agree with Schilbach et al., we argue here that there is still some residual utility for non-interactive scenarios in social neuroscience. They may be useful to quantify individual differences in prosocial inclination that are not influenced by concerns about reputation or social pressure.
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 08/2013; 36(4):432-3. · 18.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: It has been shown that frontocentral electroencephalographic (EEG) alpha rhythms (about 10-12 Hz) were higher in amplitude in expert golfers in successful than unsuccessful putts, possibly reflecting the idea that amplitude regulation of frontocentral alpha rhythms is a physiological mechanism implied in motor control and golfer's performance (Babiloni et al., 2008). Here, we tested the ancillary hypothesis that golfer's performance is also associated to an improved coordination of cortical activity, as reflected by functional coupling of alpha rhythms across cortical regions. To this aim, between-electrodes spectral coherence was computed from spatially enhanced EEG data of the mentioned study (i.e. right handed 12 expert golfers; augmented 10-20 system; surface Laplacian estimation). Low- (about 8-10 Hz) and high-frequency (about 10-12 Hz) alpha sub-bands were considered with reference to individual alpha frequency peak. Statistical results showed that intra-hemispheric low-frequency alpha coherence in bilateral parietal-frontal (P3-F3 and P4-F4 electrodes) and parietal-central (P3-C3 and P4-C4 electrodes) was higher in amplitude in successful than unsuccessful putts (p<0.004). The same was true for intra-hemispheric high-frequency alpha coherence in bilateral parietal-frontal regions (p<0.004). These findings suggest that intra-hemispheric functional coupling of cortical alpha rhythms between "visuo-spatial" parietal area and other cortical areas is implicated in fine motor control of golfer's performance.
    International journal of psychophysiology: official journal of the International Organization of Psychophysiology 09/2011; 82(3):260-8. · 3.05 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that compared with non-athletes, elite athletes are characterized by a reduction of reactivity of electroencephalographic (EEG) alpha rhythms (about 8-12 Hz) to eyes opening in the condition of resting state, as a possible index of spatially selective cortical activation (i.e. "neural efficiency"). EEG data (56 channels; Eb-Neuro©) were recorded in 18 elite karate athletes and 28 non-athletes during resting state eyes-closed and eyes-open conditions. The EEG data were spatially enhanced by surface Laplacian estimation. Cortical activity was indexed by task-related power decrease (TRPD), namely the alpha power during the eyes-open referenced to the eyes-closed resting condition. Low-frequency alpha TRPD (about 8-10 Hz) was lower in the elite karate athletes than in the non-athletes in frontal (p<0.00002), central (p<0.008) and right occipital (p<0.02) areas. Similarly, high-frequency alpha TRPD (about 10-12 Hz) was lower in the elite karate athletes than in the non-athletes in frontal (p<0.00009) and central (p<0.01) areas. These results suggest that athletes' brain is characterized by reduced cortical reactivity to eyes opening in the condition of resting state, in line with the "neural efficiency" hypothesis. The present study motivates future research evaluating the extent to which this general functional brain feature is related to heritable trait or intensive visuo-motor training of elite athletes.
    International journal of psychophysiology: official journal of the International Organization of Psychophysiology 09/2011; 82(3):240-7. · 3.05 Impact Factor
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    Marco Iacoboni
    Psychological Inquiry 07/2011; 22(3):217-218. · 4.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Deficits in emotional processing and empathy have commonly been observed in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The amygdala plays a central role in emotional processing and many studies have reported altered amygdala structure and function in ASD. The mirror neuron system (MNS) is believed to be connected to the amygdala via the anterior insula, allowing for an intuitive understanding of others emotions (Carr et al., 2003). In fact, empathic behavior has been related to activity in both amygdala and MNS while processing emotional (Pfeifer et al., 2008) and non-emotional facial stimuli (Schulte-Ruther et al. 2007). Both altered amygdala and MNS activity (Dapretto et al, 2006), as well as functional connectivity (Rudie et al., under review), have previously been reported in children and adolescents with ASD during an emotional facial processing task. Objectives: Here we sought to examine how the degree of functional connectivity between amygdala and MNS areas might be related to individual differences in empathic behavior in both typically-developing (TD) and ASD children and adolescents. Methods: Seventeen children with ASD and 23 TD children (matched by age, gender, IQ and head motion) passively observed faces displaying different emotions (angry, fearful, happy, sad, and neutral) while undergoing functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Using a jittered event-related design, faces were presented every 3 seconds according to an optimized random sequence, with each face being displayed for 2 sec. Each subject filled out the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), a multidimensional measure of empathy. The amygdala, as defined from the Harvard-Oxford probabilistic atlas (25% probability), was used as a seed region in a whole brain functional connectivity analysis. Covarying for age and IQ, scores from the IRI (total and subscales) were then used in multiple regression analyses using the amygdala connectivity maps. Results: A significant relationship between amygdala-MNS connectivity and empathic behavior was observed for the empathic concern subscale, irrespective of diagnosis (z > 2.3, corrected for multiple comparisons at the cluster level). Specifically, individuals who rated themselves as having higher empathic concern, as measured by the IRI, displayed stronger connectivity between the amygdala and the right pars opercularis. This relationship was evident in both TD and ASD groups. Conclusions: The present findings are consistent with a simulation model of affective empathy (Carr et al., 2003) whereby mirror neurons simulate the observed facial expressions and send signals to limbic areas, evoking neural activity that allows the observer to feel what others are feeling. Although empathic behavior, as well as MNS activity and connectivity, have been shown to be reduced in ASD as compared to neurotypical individuals, our findings indicate that the degree of coupling between limbic and MNS circuitry predict individual differences in empathic behavior in both typical and atypical development.
    International Meeting for Autism Research 2011; 05/2011
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    ABSTRACT: Background: A large number of studies – relying on a variety of neuroimaging tools and paradigms – have reported abnormalities in the so-called mirror neuron system (MNS) in individuals with autism. However, a few studies have failed to find significant group differences. These negative findings have been heralded as evidence against the hypothesis that MNS dysfunction may contribute to core deficits in autism. Objectives: The present study had two main aims. First, we aimed to replicate our prior findings of MNS dysfunction in a considerably larger and independent sample of children and adolescents with ASD. Second, we aimed to further examine how responsivity within the MNS might vary as a function of symptom severity in order to assess how relatively minor differences in sample characteristics may affect study results when comparing individuals with ASD to neurotypical controls. Methods: While undergoing two fMRI scans, a total of 40 children and adolescents with ASD and 14 typically-developing (TD) control subjects (matched by age, IQ and head motion) passively observed or imitated faces displaying different emotions (angry, fearful, happy, sad, and neutral). As in our prior study (Dapretto et al., 2006), we used a jittered event-related design, where faces were presented every 3 sec (with each face being displayed for 2 sec) according to an optimized random sequence. The order of the two scans was counterbalanced within and between groups. All participants in the larger ASD sample (ASD_ALL) had an autism diagnosis based on the ADI and best clinical judgment; on the ADOS, 14 participants met criteria for full autism (ADOS_AUT), 18 participants only met criteria for ASD (ADOS_ASD), and 8 participants did not meet criteria for either (ADI_ONLY). Results: When comparing the largest ASD sample (ASD_ALL) to TD controls, we replicated our previous findings showing significantly greater activity in the frontal component of the MNS in the TD group for both the Imitate and Observe conditions. The results held when comparing the most severely affected group (ADOS_AUT) to TD controls; however, when comparing the less affected group (ADOS_ASD and ADI_ONLY) to TD participants, significant between-group differences were observed only for the Imitate condition and at less stringent statistical thresholds. Consistent with our previous findings, a significant negative correlation was also observed between frontal MNS activity and individual scores on the Social and Communication Subscale of the ADOS such that the most impaired individuals showed the least amount of MNS activity. Conclusions: These results add to a large body of work indicating hyporesponsivity in the MNS in individuals with autism. Importantly, these findings may help explain some of the discrepant results in the literature showing that relatively small differences in symptom severity (as indexed by the ADOS) may determine whether significant group differences are observed. Overall, these findings highlight the need to carefully consider symptom severity as well as sample heterogeneity within and between studies, particularly when making sense of conflicting results.
    International Meeting for Autism Research 2011; 05/2011
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    ABSTRACT: Background: A growing body of evidence suggests that autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are related to altered communication between brain regions. Specifically, there are reports of reduced long-range connectivity across networks required for complex social behavior (e.g., Just 2004 2007; Koshino et al., 2005;Kleinhans et al., 2008; Kana et al., 2009). In an emotional facial processing task, we have previously found that, compared to typically developing children, children with ASD display increased local connectivity between different frontal regions and reduced long range connectivity between frontal and parietal cortex, as well as between amygdala and visual areas (Rudie et al. under review). Interestingly, recent work has shown that, during the course of typical development, functional brain networks show increases in long-range functional connectivity among nodes within a given network as well as reduced local (i.e., intralobar) connectivity among nodes in different networks (e.g. Fair et al 2009). Thus, the differences observed when comparing ASD and neurotypical individuals resemble the changes observed as a function of development. Objectives: Here we sought to examine the hypothesis that individuals with ASD display an “immature” (as opposed to deviant) pattern of brain connectivity by examining how age may be related to altered connectivity patterns in ASD. Methods: The data used in this study were collected in a sample of 23 high-functioning children and adolescents with ASD (mean age: 12.61, range 8.22-17.35) who passively observed faces displaying different emotions (angry, fearful, happy, sad, and neutral) while undergoing functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Here we focused our analyses on correlating chronological age in children with ASD and connectivity for two brain regions (amygdala and right pars opercularis) where we previously observed reduced long-range connectivity and increased local connectivity in this ASD sample vs. to typically-developing (TD) matched controls. Results: In regions where the ASD group showed greater local connectivity with the right pars opercularis as compared to TD controls, a significant correlation with age was observed such that younger children with ASD showed greater local connectivity (i.e., the younger the children, the more ASD-like the pattern of connectivity). Furthermore, in regions where TD controls showed greater long-range connectivity with the amygdala, a significant correlation with age was also observed such that older children with ASD showed greater connectivity between with the fusiform gyrus and occipital cortex (i.e., the older the ASD children, the more typical the pattern of connectivity). Conclusions: Within a sample of children and adolescents with ASD in which we previously observed increased local and decreased long range connectivity, we found that age was significantly related to such altered patterns. More specifically, younger ages were associated with greater local connectivity with the right pars opercularis, whereas increasing age was associated with greater long-range connectivity with the amygdala. Taken together, these findings provide support for the notion that altered functional connectivity in autism may in part reflect delayed or more immature patterns of brain connectivity.
    International Meeting for Autism Research 2011; 05/2011
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    ABSTRACT: It has been shown that elite pistol shooters are characterized by a power increase of wide cortical electroencephalographic (EEG) alpha (about 8-12 Hz) and beta (about 14-35 Hz) rhythms during the preparation of air pistol shots, possibly related to selective attentional and "neural efficiency" processes [Del Percio C, Babiloni C, Bertollo M, Marzano N, Iacoboni M, Infarinato F, Lizio R, Stocchi M, Robazza C, Cibelli G, Comani S, Eusebi F (2009a) Hum Brain Mapp 30(11):3527-3540; Del Percio C, Babiloni C, Marzano N, Iacoboni M, Infarinato F, Vecchio F, Lizio R, Aschieri P, Fiore A, Toràn G, Gallamini M, Baratto M, Eusebi F (2009b) Brain Res Bull 79(3-4):193-200]. Here, we tested the hypothesis that such processes are associated with an enhanced functional coupling of posterior cortical regions involved in task-relevant attentional processes and visuo-motor transformations. To this aim, between-electrodes spectral coherence was computed from spatially enhanced EEG data collected during a previous study (i.e. right handed 18 elite air pistol shooters and 10 matched non-athletes; augmented 10-20 system; surface Laplacian estimation). Theta (about 4-6 Hz), low-frequency alpha (about 8-10 Hz), high-frequency alpha (about 10-12 Hz), low-frequency beta (14-22 Hz), high-frequency beta (23-35 Hz), and gamma (36-44 Hz) bands were considered. Statistical results showed that intra-hemispheric low-frequency alpha (parietal-temporal and parietal-occipital regions), high-frequency alpha (parietal-temporal and parietal-occipital regions), high-frequency beta, and gamma (parietal-temporal regions) coherence values were stable in amplitude in the elite athletes but not in the non-athletes during the preparation of pistol shots. The same applies to inter-hemispheric low-frequency alpha (parietal regions), high-frequency alpha (parietal regions), high-frequency beta and gamma coherence values. These findings suggest that under the present experimental conditions, elite athletes are characterized by the stabilization of functional coupling of preparatory EEG rhythms between "visuo-spatial" parietal area and other posterior cortical areas.
    Neuroscience 02/2011; 175:198-211. · 3.12 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Converging evidence from neuroimaging and neurobiological studies of autism has led some to propose that autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) result from a failure of coordinated neural activity across long-range networks required for complex reciprocal social behavior (see Geschwind & Levitt, 2007, for review). In addition, dysfunction in the mirror neuron system (MNS), which rely on “long-range” fronto-parietal circuits subserving sensorimotor integration, has been linked to social communication deficits observed in ASD (see Oberman & Ramachandran, 2007, for review). We have previously shown that high-functioning children with ASD display less MNS activity in the right pars opercularis of the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) compared to typically-developing (TD) controls while observing and imitating emotional expressions. Objectives: We sought to further test the hypothesis that individuals with ASD have diminished functional connectivity across long-range networks that underlie complex social behavior. Specifically, we were interested in examining functional connectivity within the MNS. In order to test this hypothesis, we used a seed based functional connectivity analysis to characterize differences in connectivity in the MNS between TD and ASD children. Methods: Twenty-three high-functioning children with ASDs and twenty-five typically developing children (matched by age, gender, IQ and head motion) passively observed faces displaying different emotions (angry, fearful, happy, sad, and neutral) while undergoing functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Using an event-related design, each face was presented for two seconds according to an optimized random sequence. In order to minimize connectivity between regions simply due to task-related activity, we removed task effects by using the residuals from the general linear model that included the stimuli timings convolved with a double gamma-HRF. The right pars opercularis, as defined from the Harvard-Oxford probabilistic atlas (25% probability), was used as a seed region in our whole brain functional connectivity analysis. Results: Direct contrasts of whole-brain corrected connectivity maps showed that in TD children, activity in the right pars opercularis was more strongly correlated with other long-range mirror neuron regions, including contralateral IFG and bilateral inferior parietal lobule. Children with ASD showed stronger local connectivity with anterior cingulate and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. While we regressed out the task effects, these “pseudoresting state” networks may still reflect enhanced correlations in networks involved in processing facial expressions. Conclusions: Building on our previous findings of significant between-group differences in the frontal component of the MNS, the current results found during the observation of facial expressions provide supporting evidence of a relationship between deficits in ASD and the MNS. Additionally, increased connectivity with the anterior cingulate in participants with ASD is interesting in light of recent studies showing hyperactivity or the inability to deactivate the anterior cingulate cortex in individuals with ASD (Tesink 2009, Dichter 2009). The present findings highlight the importance of functional connectivity approaches in autism neuroimaging research and add to the literature implicating dysfunction in long-range networks in ASD etiology.
    International Meeting for Autism Research 2010; 05/2010
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    ABSTRACT: The "neural efficiency" hypothesis posits that neural activity is reduced in experts. Here we tested the hypothesis that compared with non-athletes, elite athletes are characterized by a reduced cortical activation during simple voluntary movement and that this is reflected by the modulation of dominant alpha rhythms (8-12 Hz). EEG data (56 channels; EB-Neuro) were continuously recorded in the following right-handed subjects: 10 elite karate athletes and 12 non-athletes. During the EEG recordings, they performed brisk voluntary wrist extensions of the right or left hand (right movement and left movement). The EEG cortical sources were estimated by standardized low-resolution brain electromagnetic tomography (sLORETA) freeware. With reference to a baseline period, the power decrease of alpha rhythms during the motor preparation and execution indexed the cortical activation (event-related desynchronization, ERD). During both preparation and execution of the right movements, the low- (about 8-10 Hz) and high-frequency alpha ERD (about 10-12 Hz) was lower in amplitude in primary motor area, in lateral and medial premotor areas in the elite karate athletes than in the non-athletes. For the left movement, only the high-frequency alpha ERD during the motor execution was lower in the elite karate athletes than in the non-athletes. These results confirmed that compared with non-athletes, elite athletes are characterized by a reduced cortical activation during simple voluntary movement. Cortical alpha rhythms are implicated in the "neural efficiency" of athletes' motor systems.
    Clinical neurophysiology: official journal of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology 04/2010; 121(4):482-91. · 3.12 Impact Factor
  • International Journal of Psychophysiology - INT J PSYCHOPHYSIOL. 01/2010; 77(3):214-215.
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    ABSTRACT: Here we tested two working hypotheses on spatially selective cortical activation ("neural efficiency") in experts: (i) compared to non-athletes, elite karate athletes are characterized by a reduced cortical activation during the judgment of karate actions; (ii) compared to non-athletes and elite karate athletes, amateur karate athletes are characterized by an intermediate cortical activation during the judgment of karate actions. Electroencephalographic (EEG) data were recorded in 16 elite karate athletes, 15 amateur athletes and 17 non-athletes. They observed a series of 120 karate videos. At the end of each video, the subjects had to judge the technical/athletic level of the exercise by a scale from 0 to 10. The mismatch between their judgment and that of the coach indexed the degree of action judgment. The EEG cortical sources were estimated by sLORETA. With reference to a pre-stimulus period, the power decrease of alpha (8-12 Hz) rhythms during the video indexed the cortical activation (event-related desynchronization, ERD). Regarding the hypothesis of reduced activity in elite karate athletes, low- and high-frequency alpha ERD was less pronounced in dorsal and "mirror" pathways in the elite karate athletes than in the non-athletes. Regarding the hypothesis of intermediate cortical activity in amateur karate athletes, low- and high-frequency alpha ERD was less pronounced in dorsal pathways across the non-athletes, the amateur karate athletes, and the elite karate athletes. In conclusion, athletes' judgment of observed sporting actions is related to less pronounced alpha ERD, as a possible index of "neural efficiency" in experts engaged in social cognition.
    Behavioural brain research 11/2009; 207(2):466-75. · 3.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The present electroencephalographic (EEG) study tested the working hypothesis that the amplitude of resting state cortical EEG rhythms (especially alpha, 8-12 Hz) was higher in elite athletes compared with amateur athletes and non-athletes, as a reflection of the efficiency of underlying back-ground neural synchronization mechanisms. Eyes closed resting state EEG data were recorded in 16 elite karate athletes, 20 amateur karate athletes, and 25 non-athletes. The EEG rhythms of interest were delta (2-4 Hz), theta (4-8 Hz), alpha 1 (8-10.5 Hz), alpha 2 (10.5-13 Hz), beta 1 (13-20 Hz), and beta 2 (20-30 Hz). EEG cortical sources were estimated by low-resolution brain electromagnetic tomography (LORETA). Statistical results showed that the amplitude of parietal and occipital alpha 1 sources was significantly higher in the elite karate athletes than in the non-athletes and karate amateur athletes. Similar results were observed in parietal and occipital delta sources as well as in occipital theta sources. Finally, a control confirmatory experiment showed that the amplitude of parietal and occipital delta and alpha 1 sources was stronger in 8 elite rhythmic gymnasts compared with 14 non-athletes. These results supported the hypothesis that cortical neural synchronization at the basis of eyes-closed resting state EEG rhythms is enhanced in elite athletes than in control subjects.
    Brain research bulletin 10/2009; 81(1):149-56. · 2.97 Impact Factor
  • NeuroImage 07/2009; 47. · 6.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: "Neural efficiency" hypothesis posits that neural activity is reduced in experts. Here we tested the hypothesis that compared with non-athletes, elite athletes are characterized by a reduction of cortical activation during an engaging upright standing. EEG (56 channels; Be-plus Eb-Neuro and stabilogram (RGM) data were simultaneously recorded in 10 elite karate, 10 elite fencing athletes, and 12 non-athletes during a simple bipodalic (standard Romberg) and a more engaging monopodalic upright standing. Balance was indexed by body "sway area". The EEG data were spatially enhanced by surface Laplacian estimation. Cortical activity was indexed by task-related power decrease (TRPD) of EEG alpha power (8-12Hz) during monopodalic referenced to bipodalic condition. The body "sway area" was larger during the monopodalic than bipodalic upright standing in all groups. Low-frequency alpha TRPD (about 8-10Hz) was lower in amplitude in the karate and fencing athletes than in the non-athletes at left central, right central, middle parietal, and right parietal areas (p<0.01). Similarly, the amplitude of high-frequency alpha TRPD (10-12Hz) was lower in the karate and fencing athletes than in the non-athletes at right frontal, left central, right central, and middle parietal areas (p<0.03). These results suggest that during monopodalic referenced to less engaging bipodalic condition, the power decrease (i.e. the desynchronization) of cortical activity at alpha rhythms is largely reduced in elite athletes than in non-athletes, in line with the "neural efficiency" hypothesis. The present study extends our understanding of the physiological mechanisms at the basis of the "neural efficiency" for engaging upright standing in elite athletes.
    Brain research bulletin 06/2009; 79(3-4):193-200. · 2.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background: The social deficits observed in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have been linked to dysfunction in the mirror neuron system (MNS; see Oberman & Ramachandran, 2007, for review). For instance, we previously showed that high-functioning children with ASD showed less MNS activity than typically-developing controls while observing emotional expressions, and that the level of mirror-related activity seen in children with ASD was negatively related to symptom severity in the social domain (as measured by both ADI-R and ADOS-G; Dapretto et al., 2006). According to the social motivation hypothesis of autism, social stimuli such as faces may not be attended to by individuals with autism as they may not find them ‘rewarding.’ Surprisingly, activity in reward-related circuits in response to social stimuli has been largely unexplored in individuals with autism (Scott at al., under review). Objectives: In this study, we used fMRI to further characterize the relationship between core autism deficits and activity in both MNS and reward circuitry. We used parental reports on the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), a validated measure of clinically significant autism traits, and examined how scores on this scale would relate to neural activity in a priori regions of interest including MNS (right IFG), limbic (amygdala, insula), and reward-related areas (ventral striatum) as well as other ‘social brain’ regions (e.g., medial prefrontal cortex). Methods: Twenty high-functioning children with autism (19 males; mean age: 12.35) completed an fMRI task involving passive observation of faces displaying different emotions (angry, fearful, happy, sad, and neutral). Using an event-related design, each face was presented for two seconds according to an optimized random sequence, which included null events (fixation crosses) and temporal jittering. Multiple regression analyses (controlling for the effects of IQ) were conducted to relate neural activity during this task to SRS total scores, as well as scores on the SRS treatment subscales (Social Motivation, Social Communication, Social Cognition, Social Awareness, and Autistic Mannerisms). Results: Analyses revealed significant negative correlations between the SRS total score and activity in the right IFG, insula, and amygdala, as well as in the ventral striatum and medial prefrontal/anterior cingular cortex. Separate regressions with the treatment subscales of the SRS showed a similar pattern of results with the strongest correlations observed for the Social Motivation subscale. Somewhat surprisingly, the Autistic Mannerisms subscale also showed strong correlations within these networks, followed by weaker correlations with the Social Communication and Social Cognition subscales. Interestingly, no significant correlations were observed for the Social Awareness subscale which taps sensory aspects of reciprocal social behaviors. Conclusions: These findings provide further evidence of a relationship between deficits in the MNS and severity of autism symptomatology, including aspects that have not been previously tied to MNS dysfunction such as restricted interest and stereotypical behaviors. Furthermore, the strong correlations observed between scores on the Social Motivation subscale and activity in both MNS and reward circuitry lend support to the social motivation hypothesis of autism and suggest that the social motivation deficits characteristics of autism might be related to MNS dysfunction.
    International Meeting for Autism Research 2009; 05/2009
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    ABSTRACT: This study tested the two following hypotheses: (i) compared with non-athletes, elite athletes are characterized by a reduced cortical activation during the preparation of precise visuo-motor performance; (ii) in elite athletes, an optimal visuo-motor performance is related to a low cortical activation. To this aim, electroencephalographic (EEG; 56 channels; Be Plus EB-Neuro) data were recorded in 18 right-handed elite air pistol shooters and 10 right-handed non-athletes. All subjects performed 120 shots. The EEG data were spatially enhanced by surface Laplacian estimation. With reference to a baseline period, power decrease/increase of alpha rhythms during the preshot period indexed the cortical activation/deactivation (event-related desynchronization/synchronization, ERD/ERS). Regarding the hypothesis (i), low- (about 8-10 Hz) and high-frequency (about 10-12 Hz) alpha ERD was lower in amplitude in the elite athletes than in the non-athletes over the whole scalp. Regarding the hypothesis (ii), the elite athletes showed high-frequency alpha ERS (about 10-12 Hz) larger in amplitude for high score shots (50%) than for low score shots; this was true in right parietal and left central areas. A control analysis confirmed these results with another indicator of cortical activation (beta ERD, about 20 Hz). The control analysis also showed that the amplitude reduction of alpha ERD for the high compared with low score shots was not observed in the non-athletes. The present findings globally suggest that in elite athletes (experts), visuo-motor performance is related to a global decrease of cortical activity, as a possible index of spatially selective cortical processes ("neural efficiency").
    Human Brain Mapping 05/2009; 30(11):3527-40. · 6.88 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

3k Citations
320.77 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2008–2014
    • Laureate Institute for Brain Research
      Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States
    • Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
      • Department of Neuropsychology
      Leipzig, Saxony, Germany
  • 1996–2013
    • University of California, Los Angeles
      • • Brain Research Institute
      • • Department of Psychology
      • • Department of Neurology
      Los Angeles, CA, United States
    • Università degli Studi di Brescia
      Brescia, Lombardy, Italy
  • 1991–2013
    • Sapienza University of Rome
      • • Department of Physiology and Pharmacology "Vittorio Erspamer"
      • • Department of Anatomical, Histological, Forensic Medicine and Orthopedic Science
      Roma, Latium, Italy
  • 2008–2011
    • Università degli studi di Foggia
      • Department of Biomedical Science
      Foggia, Apulia, Italy
  • 1997–2011
    • University of Southern California
      • • Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
      • • Department of Neurology
      Los Angeles, CA, United States
  • 2009
    • IRCCS Centro San Giovanni di Dio, Fatebenefratelli, Brescia
      Brescia, Lombardy, Italy
  • 1999–2000
    • Pacific Neuropsychiatric Institute
      Seattle, Washington, United States
  • 1995
    • Children's Hospital Los Angeles
      • DIvision of Neurology
      Los Angeles, California, United States