[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Spontaneous brain activity is spatially and temporally organized in the absence of any stimulation or task in networks of cortical and subcortical regions that appear largely segregated when imaged at slow temporal resolution with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). When imaged at high temporal resolution with magneto-encephalography (MEG), these resting-state networks (RSNs) show correlated fluctuations of band-limited power in the beta frequency band (14-25 Hz) that alternate between epochs of strong and weak internal coupling. This study presents 2 novel findings on the fundamental issue of how different brain regions or networks interact in the resting state. First, we demonstrate the existence of multiple dynamic hubs that allow for across-network coupling. Second, dynamic network coupling and related variations in hub centrality correspond to increased global efficiency. These findings suggest that the dynamic organization of across-network interactions represents a property of the brain aimed at optimizing the efficiency of communication between distinct functional domains (memory, sensory-attention, motor). They also support the hypothesis of a dynamic core network model in which a set of network hubs alternating over time ensure efficient global communication in the whole brain.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Fundamental problems in neuroscience today are understanding how patterns of ongoing spontaneous activity are modified by task performance and whether/how these intrinsic patterns influence task-evoked activation and behavior. We examined these questions by comparing instantaneous functional connectivity (IFC) and directed functional connectivity (DFC) changes in two networks that are strongly correlated and segregated at rest: the visual (VIS) network and the dorsal attention network (DAN). We measured how IFC and DFC during a visuospatial attention task, which requires dynamic selective rerouting of visual information across hemispheres, changed with respect to rest. During the attention task, the two networks remained relatively segregated, and their general pattern of within-network correlation was maintained. However, attention induced a decrease of correlation in the VIS network and an increase of the DAN→VIS IFC and DFC, especially in a top-down direction. In contrast, within the DAN, IFC was not modified by attention, whereas DFC was enhanced. Importantly, IFC modulations were behaviorally relevant. We conclude that a stable backbone of within-network functional connectivity topography remains in place when transitioning between resting wakefulness and attention selection. However, relative decrease of correlation of ongoing "idling" activity in visual cortex and synchronization between frontoparietal and visual cortex were behaviorally relevant, indicating that modulations of resting activity patterns are important for task performance. Higher order resting connectivity in the DAN was relatively unaffected during attention, potentially indicating a role for simultaneous ongoing activity as a "prior" for attention selection.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 06/2015; 112(26). DOI:10.1073/pnas.1415439112 · 9.67 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Athletes such as skaters or surfers maintain their balance on very unstable platforms. Remarkably, the most skilled athletes seem to execute these feats almost effortlessly. However, the dynamics that lead to the acquisition of a defined and efficient postural strategy are incompletely known. To understand the posture reorganization process due to learning and expertise, we trained twelve participants in a demanding balance/posture maintenance task for 4 months and measured their muscular activity before and after a (predictable) disturbance cued by an auditory signal. The balance training determined significant delays in the latency of participants' muscular activity: from largely anticipatory muscular activity (prior to training) to a mixed anticipatory-compensatory control strategy (after training). After training, the onset of activation was delayed for all muscles, and the sequence of activation systematically reflected the muscle position in the body from top to bottom: neck/upper body muscles were recruited first and in an anticipatory fashion, whereas leg muscles were recruited after the disturbance onset, producing compensatory adjustments. The resulting control strategy includes a mixture of anticipatory and compensatory postural adjustments, with a systematic sequence of muscular activation reflecting the different demands of neck and leg muscles. Our results suggest that subjects learned the precise timing of the disturbance onset and used this information to deploy postural adjustments just-in-time and to transfer at least part of the control of posture from anticipatory to less-demanding feedback-based strategies. In turn, this strategy shift increases the cost-efficiency of muscular activity, which is a key signature of skilled performance.
Experimental Brain Research 04/2015; 233(7). DOI:10.1007/s00221-015-4281-1 · 2.04 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Spatial patterns of coherent activity across different brain areas have been identified during the resting-state fluctuations of the brain. However, recent studies indicate that resting-state activity is not stationary, but shows complex temporal dynamics. We were interested in the spatiotemporal dynamics of the phase interactions among resting-state fMRI BOLD signals from human subjects. We found that the global phase synchrony of the BOLD signals evolves on a characteristic ultra-slow (<0.01Hz) time scale, and that its temporal variations reflect the transient formation and dissolution of multiple communities of synchronized brain regions. Synchronized communities reoccurred intermittently in time and across scanning sessions. We found that the synchronization communities relate to previously defined functional networks known to be engaged in sensory-motor or cognitive function, called resting-state networks (RSNs), including the default mode network, the somato-motor network, the visual network, the auditory network, the cognitive control networks, the self-referential network, and combinations of these and other RSNs. We studied the mechanism originating the observed spatiotemporal synchronization dynamics by using a network model of phase oscillators connected through the brain's anatomical connectivity estimated using diffusion imaging human data. The model consistently approximates the temporal and spatial synchronization patterns of the empirical data, and reveals that multiple clusters that transiently synchronize and desynchronize emerge from the complex topology of anatomical connections, provided that oscillators are heterogeneous.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To progress toward understanding of the mechanisms underlying the functional organization of the human brain, either a bottom-up or a top-down approach may be adopted. The former starts from the study of the detailed functioning of a small number of neuronal assemblies, while the latter tries to decode brain functioning by considering the brain as a whole. This review discusses the top-down approach and the use of magnetoencephalography (MEG) to describe global brain properties. The main idea behind this approach is that the concurrence of several areas is required for the brain to instantiate a specific behavior/functioning. A central issue is therefore the study of brain functional connectivity and the concept of brain networks as ensembles of distant brain areas that preferentially exchange information. Importantly, the human brain is a dynamic device, and MEG is ideally suited to investigate phenomena on behaviorally relevant timescales, also offering the possibility of capturing behaviorally-related brain connectivity dynamics.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background/aims:
Several components of social cognition are compromised in schizophrenia (SCZ) from the early stage of the illness. In this study we first investigated whether mirror neuron-driven embodied simulation (mnES) is altered in first-episode SCZ. Second, we tested whether emotional cues impact on the mnES in SCZ patients.
Twenty-two SCZ patients and 22 healthy controls (HCs) observed goal-related actions in either a neutral or emotional context during functional magnetic resonance imaging scanning.
Observation of neutral action elicited a lower activity in the frontoparietal network in SCZ patients, as compared to HCs. Particularly, activation in the left inferior parietal lobule in response to the same condition negatively correlated with patients' self-experience disturbances. Moreover, observation of an action performed by an angry agent produced poorer neural activity in the right anterior insula in SCZ patients as compared to HCs. This difference was mostly due to the negative β-values shown by SCZ patients, which positively correlated with their empathy scores. No differences were found contingent upon the observation of an action performed by a happy agent.
Our results show that emotional cues allow SCZ patients to partially recover mnES. However, their understanding of the emotional components of the actions of others will likely remain deficient.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Several neuroimaging studies reported that a common set of regions are recruited during action observation and execution and it has been proposed that the modulation of the μ rhythm, in terms of oscillations in the alpha and beta bands might represent the electrophysiological correlate of the underlying brain mechanisms. However, the specific functional role of these bands within the μ rhythm is still unclear. Here, we used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to analyze the spectral and temporal properties of the alpha and beta bands in healthy subjects during an action observation and execution task. We associated the modulation of the alpha and beta power to a broad action observation network comprising several parieto-frontal areas previously detected in fMRI studies. Of note, we observed a dissociation between alpha and beta bands with a slow-down of beta oscillations compared to alpha during action observation. We hypothesize that this segregation is linked to a different sequence of information processing and we interpret these modulations in terms of internal models (forward and inverse). In fact, these processes showed opposite temporal sequences of occurrence: anterior-posterior during action (both in alpha and beta bands) and roughly posterior-anterior during observation (in the alpha band). The observed differentiation between alpha and beta suggests that these two bands might pursue different functions in the action observation and execution processes.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Psychogenic erectile dysfunction (ED) is defined as a male sexual dysfunction characterized by a persistent or recurrent inability to attain adequate penile erection due predominantly or exclusively to psychological or interpersonal factors. Previous fMRI studies were based on the common occurrence in the male sexual behaviour represented by the sexual arousal and penile erection related to viewing of erotic movies. However, there is no experimental evidence of altered brain networks in psychogenic ED patients (EDp). Some studies showed that fMRI activity collected during non sexual movie viewing can be analyzed in a reliable manner with independent component analysis (ICA) and that the resulting brain networks are consistent with previous resting state neuroimaging studies. In the present study, we investigated the modification of the brain networks in EDp compared to healthy controls (HC), using whole-brain fMRI during free viewing of an erotic video clip. Sixteen EDp and nineteen HC were recruited after RigiScan evaluation, psychiatric, and general medical evaluations. The performed ICA showed that visual network (VN), default-mode network (DMN), fronto-parietal network (FPN) and salience network (SN) were spatially consistent across EDp and HC. However, between-group differences in functional connectivity were observed in the DMN and in the SN. In the DMN, EDp showed decreased connectivity values in the inferior parietal lobes, posterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex, whereas in the SN decreased and increased connectivity was observed in the right insula and in the anterior cingulate cortex respectively. The decreased levels of intrinsic functional connectivity principally involved the subsystem of DMN relevant for the self relevant mental simulation that concerns remembering of past experiences, thinking to the future and conceiving the viewpoint of the other's actions. Moreover, the between group differences in the SN nodes suggested a decreased recognition of autonomical and sexual arousal changes in EDp.
PLoS ONE 08/2014; 9(8):e105336. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0105336 · 3.23 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The spontaneous activity of the brain shows different features at different scales. On one hand, neuroimaging studies show that long-range correlations are highly structured in spatiotemporal patterns, known as resting-state networks, on the other hand, neurophysiological reports show that short-range correlations between neighboring neurons are low, despite a large amount of shared presynaptic inputs. Different dynamical mechanisms of local decorrelation have been proposed, among which is feedback inhibition. Here, we investigated the effect of locally regulating the feedback inhibition on the global dynamics of a large-scale brain model, in which the long-range connections are given by diffusion imaging data of human subjects. We used simulations and analytical methods to show that locally constraining the feedback inhibition to compensate for the excess of long-range excitatory connectivity, to preserve the asynchronous state, crucially changes the characteristics of the emergent resting and evoked activity. First, it significantly improves the model's prediction of the empirical human functional connectivity. Second, relaxing this constraint leads to an unrealistic network evoked activity, with systematic coactivation of cortical areas which are components of the default-mode network, whereas regulation of feedback inhibition prevents this. Finally, information theoretic analysis shows that regulation of the local feedback inhibition increases both the entropy and the Fisher information of the network evoked responses. Hence, it enhances the information capacity and the discrimination accuracy of the global network. In conclusion, the local excitation-inhibition ratio impacts the structure of the spontaneous activity and the information transmission at the large-scale brain level.
The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 06/2014; 34(23):7886-7898. DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5068-13.2014 · 6.34 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Anticipating sensorimotor events allows adaptive reactions to environment with crucial implications for self-protection and survival. Here we review several studies of our group that aimed to test the hypothesis that the cortical processes preparing the elaboration of sensorimotor interaction is reflected by the reduction of anticipatory electroencephalographic alpha power (about 8-12Hz; event-related desynchronization, ERD), as an index that regulate task-specific sensorimotor processes, accounted by high-alpha sub-band (10-12Hz), rather than a general tonic alertness, accounted by low-alpha sub-band (8-10Hz). In this line, we propose a model for human cortical processes anticipating warned sensorimotor interactions. Overall, we reported a stronger high-alpha ERD before painful than non-painful somatosensory stimuli that is also predictive of the subjective evaluation of pain intensity. Furthermore, we showed that anticipatory high-alpha ERD increased before sensorimotor interactions between non-painful or painful stimuli and motor demands involving opposite hands. In contrast, sensorimotor interactions between painful somatosensory and sensorimotor demands involving the same hand decreased anticipatory high-alpha ERD, due to a sort of sensorimotor "gating" effect. In conclusion, we suggest that anticipatory cortical high-alpha rhythms reflect the central interference and/or integration of ascending (sensory) and descending (motor) signals relative to one or two hands before non-painful and painful sensorimotor interactions.
Clinical neurophysiology: official journal of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology 05/2014; 125(10). DOI:10.1016/j.clinph.2014.04.021 · 3.10 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Previous studies on perceptual decision-making have often emphasized a tight link between decisions and motor intentions. Human decisions, however, also depend on memories or experiences that are not closely tied to specific motor responses. Recent neuroimaging findings have suggested that, during episodic retrieval, parietal activity reflects the accumulation of evidence for memory decisions. It is currently unknown, however, whether these evidence accumulation signals are functionally linked to signals for motor intentions coded in frontoparietal regions and whether activity in the putative memory accumulator tracks the amount of evidence for only previous experience, as reflected in "old" reports, or for both old and new decisions, as reflected in the accuracy of memory judgments. Here, human participants used saccadic-eye and hand-pointing movements to report recognition judgments on pictures defined by different degrees of evidence for old or new decisions. A set of cortical regions, including the middle intraparietal sulcus, showed a monotonic variation of the fMRI BOLD signal that scaled with perceived memory strength (older > newer), compatible with an asymmetrical memory accumulator. Another set, including the hippocampus and the angular gyrus, showed a nonmonotonic response profile tracking memory accuracy (higher > lower evidence), compatible with a symmetrical accumulator. In contrast, eye and hand effector-specific regions in frontoparietal cortex tracked motor intentions but were not modulated by the amount of evidence for the effector outcome. We conclude that item recognition decisions are supported by a combination of symmetrical and asymmetrical accumulation signals largely segregated from motor intentions.
The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 05/2014; 34(20):6993-7006. DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3911-13.2014 · 6.34 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Anterior temporal lobectomy is an effective treatment for drug-resistant epilepsy of temporal origin, although new language impairment may develop after surgery. Since correlations between functional connectivity (FC) MRI of the language network and verbal-IQ performance before surgery have recently been reported, we investigated the existence of correlations between the preoperative FC of the language network and post-operative verbal-IQ decline. FC between nodes of the language network of the two hemispheres (Interhemispheric-FC) and within nodes of the left hemisphere (LH-FC) and language lateralization indexes were estimated in five right-handed patients with non-tumoral left temporal lobe epilepsy undergoing anterior temporal lobectomy. Correlations between preoperative FC measures and lateralization indexes, and the post-operative (12 months) neuropsychological verbal-IQ decline were investigated. Verbal-IQ decline was inversely correlated with the degree of left lateralization and directly correlated with the strength of Interhemispheric-FC. No significant correlation was found between LH-FC and post-operative verbal-IQ change. The results from this limited number of patients suggest that a stronger preoperative connectivity between homologue regions, associated with the absence of a definite hemispheric lateralization, appears to be an unfavorable prognostic biomarker.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In the literature concerning the study of emotional effect on cognition, several researches highlight the mechanisms of reasoning ability and the influence of emotions on this ability. However, up to now, no neuroimaging study was specifically devised to directly compare the influence on reasoning performance of visual task-unrelated with semantic task-related emotional information.
In the present functional fMRI study, we devised a novel paradigm in which emotionally negative vs. neutral visual stimuli (context) were used as primes, followed by syllogisms composed of propositions with emotionally negative vs. neutral contents respectively. Participants, in the MR scanner, were asked to assess the logical validity of the syllogisms. We have therefore manipulated the emotional state and arousal induced by the visual prime as well as the emotional interference exerted by the syllogism content.
fMRI data indicated a medial prefrontal cortex deactivation and lateral/dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activation in conditions with negative context. Furthermore, a lateral/dorsolateral prefrontal cortex modulation caused by syllogism content was observed. Finally, behavioral data confirmed the influence of emotional task-related stimuli on reasoning ability, since the performance was worse in conditions with syllogisms involving negative emotions. Therefore, on the basis of these data, we conclude that emotional states can impair the performance in reasoning tasks by means of the delayed general reactivity, whereas the emotional content of the target may require a larger amount of top-down resources to be processed.
Brain and Cognition 04/2014; 87:153–160. · 2.48 Impact Factor