[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. · 3.53 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.
[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; · 3.12 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.
Journal of Neuroscience 05/2014; 34(20):6993-7006. · 6.91 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.
The neuroradiology journal. 04/2014; 27(2):158-62.
[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. · 2.82 Impact Factor
[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; 87C:153-160. · 2.82 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Anticipating the sensorimotor consequences of an action for both self and other is fundamental for action coordination when individuals socially interact. Somatosensation constitutes an elementary component of social cognition and sensorimotor prediction, but its functions in active social behavior remain unclear. We hypothesized that the somatosensory system contributes to social haptic behavior as evidenced by specific anticipatory activation patterns when touching an animate target (human hand) compared with an inanimate target (fake hand). fMRI scanning was performed during a paradigm that allowed to isolate the anticipatory representations of active interpersonal touch while controlling for nonsocial sensorimotor processes and possible confounds because of interpersonal relationships or socioemotional valence. Active interpersonal touch was studied both as skin-to-skin contact and as object-mediated touch. The results showed weaker deactivation in primary somatosensory cortex and medial pFC and stronger activation in cerebellum for the animate target, compared with the inanimate target, when intending to touch it with one's own hand. Differently, in anticipation of touching the human hand with an object, anterior inferior parietal lobule and lateral occipital-temporal cortex showed stronger activity. When actually touching a human hand with one's own hand, activation was stronger in medial pFC but weaker in primary somatosensory cortex. The findings provide new insight on the contribution of simulation and sensory prediction mechanisms to active social behavior. They also suggest that literally getting in touch with someone and touching someone by using an object might be approached by an agent as functionally distinct conditions.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 03/2014; · 4.49 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This paper provides an overview on the basic principles and applications of magnetoencephalography (MEG), a technique that requires the use of many SQUIDs and thus represents one of the most important applications of superconducting electronics. Since the development of the first SQUID magnetometers, it was clear that these devices could be used to measure the ultra-low magnetic signals associated with the bioelectric activity of the neurons of the human brain. Forty years on from the first measurement of magnetic alpha rhythm by David Cohen, MEG has become a fundamental tool for the investigation of brain functions. The simple localization of cerebral sources activated by sensory stimulation performed in the early years has been successively expanded to the identification of the sequence of neuronal pool activations, thus decrypting information of the hierarchy underlying cerebral processing. This goal has been achieved thanks to the development of complex instrumentation, namely whole head MEG systems, allowing simultaneous measurement of magnetic fields all over the scalp with an exquisite time resolution. The latest trends in MEG, such as the study of brain networks, i.e. how the brain organizes itself in a coherent and stable way, are discussed. These sound applications together with the latest technological developments aimed at implementing systems able to record MEG signals and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the head with the same set-up pave the way to high performance systems for brain functional investigation in the healthy and the sick population.
Superconductor Science and Technology 03/2014; 27(4):044004. · 2.76 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Raynaud's phenomenon (RP) is a vasospastic disorder of small arteries, pre-capillary arteries, and cutaneous arteriovenous shunts of the extremities, typically induced by cold exposure and emotional stress. RP is either primary (PRP) or secondary to connective tissue diseases such as systemic sclerosis (SSc). Early differential diagnosis is crucial in order to set the proper therapeutic strategy. To this goal, thermal infrared imaging data from 18 healthy controls (HCs) and 48 RP patients (20 PRP, 28 SSc) were processed through a model for a second-order time-invariant system with exponential critically damped dynamic response. Subject classification on the basis of the model parameters provides 100% true-positive discrimination for RP patients (PRP and SSc) and healthy, and 90% of correct classification within the group of patients. The proposed method may provide useful hints for early differential diagnosis in the assessment of RP disease.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: During simple perceptual decisions, sensorimotor neurons in monkey fronto-parietal cortex represent a decision variable that guides the transformation of sensory evidence into a motor response, supporting the view that mechanisms for decision-making are closely embedded within sensorimotor structures. Within these structures, however, decision signals can be dissociated from motor signals, thus indicating that sensorimotor neurons can play multiple and independent roles in decision-making and action selection/planning. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine whether response-selective human brain areas encode signals for decision-making or action planning during a task requiring an arbitrary association between face pictures (male vs. female) and specific actions (saccadic eye vs. hand pointing movements). The stimuli were gradually unmasked to stretch the time necessary for decision, thus maximising the temporal separation between decision and action planning. Decision-related signals were measured in parietal and motor/premotor regions showing a preference for the planning/execution of saccadic or pointing movements. In a parietal reach region, decision-related signals were specific for the stimulus category associated with its preferred pointing response. By contrast, a saccade-selective posterior intraparietal sulcus region carried decision-related signals even when the task required a pointing response. Consistent signals were observed in the motor/premotor cortex. Whole-brain analyses indicated that, in our task, the most reliable decision signals were found in the same neural regions involved in response selection. However, decision- and action-related signals within these regions can be dissociated. Differences between the parietal reach region and posterior intraparietal sulcus plausibly depend on their functional specificity rather than on the task structure.
European Journal of Neuroscience 03/2014; · 3.75 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Pointing gesture allows children to communicate their intentions before the acquisition of language. In particular, two main purposes seem to underlie the gesture: to request a desired object (imperative pointing) or to share attention on that object (declarative pointing). Since the imperative pointing has an instrumental goal and the declarative has an interpersonal one, only the latter gesture is thought to signal the infant's awareness of the communicative partner as a mental agent. The present study examined the neural responses of adult subjects with the aim to test the hypothesis that declarative rather than imperative pointing reflects mentalizing skills. Fourteen subjects were measured in a magnetoencephalographic environment including four conditions, based on the goal of the pointing - imperative or declarative - and the role of the subject - sender or receiver of pointing. Time-frequency modulations of brain activity in each condition (declarative production and comprehension, imperative production and comprehension) were analyzed. Both low beta and high beta power were stronger during declarative than imperative condition in anterior cingulated cortex and right posterior superior temporal sulcus, respectively. Furthermore, high gamma activity was higher in right temporo-parietal junction during the sender than receiving condition. This suggests that communicative pointing modulated brain regions previously described in neuroimaging research as linked to social cognitive skills and that declarative pointing is more capable of eliciting that activation than imperative. Our results contribute to the understanding of the roles of brain rhythm dynamics in social cognition, thus supporting neural research on that topic during developmental both in typical and atypical conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder. In particular, the identification of relevant regions in a mature brain may stimulate a future work on the developmental changes of neural activation in the same regions.
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 01/2014; 8:36. · 2.91 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Request and emblematic gestures, despite being both communicative gestures, do differ in terms of social valence. Indeed, only the former are used to initiate/maintain/terminate an actual interaction. If such a difference is at stake, a relevant social cue, i.e. eye contact, should have different impacts on the neuronal underpinnings of the two types of gesture. We measured blood oxygen level-dependent signals, using functional magnetic resonance imaging, while participants watched videos of an actor, either blindfolded or not, performing emblems, request gestures, or meaningless control movements. A left-lateralized network was more activated by both types of communicative gestures than by meaningless movements, regardless of the accessibility of the actor's eyes. Strikingly, when eye contact was taken into account as a factor, a right-lateralized network was more strongly activated by emblematic gestures performed by the non-blindfolded actor than by those performed by the blindfolded actor. Such modulation possibly reflects the integration of information conveyed by the eyes with the representation of emblems. Conversely, a wider right-lateralized network was more strongly activated by request gestures performed by the blindfolded than by those performed by the non-blindfolded actor. This probably reflects the effect of the conflict between the observed action and its associated contextual information, in which relevant social cues are missing.
European Journal of Neuroscience 12/2013; · 3.75 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: So far inferences on early moral development and higher order self conscious emotions have mostly been based on behavioral data. Emotions though, as far as arguments support, are multidimensional notions. Not only do they involve behavioral actions upon perception of an event, but they also carry autonomic physiological markers. The current study aimed to examine and characterise physiological signs that underlie self-conscious emotions in early childhood, while grounding them on behavioral analyses. For this purpose, the ''mishap paradigm'' was used as the most reliable method for evoking feelings of ''guilt'' in children and autonomic facial temperature variation were detected by functional Infrared Imaging (fIRI). Fifteen children (age: 39–42 months) participated in the study. They were asked to play with a toy, falsely informed that it was the experimenter's ''favourite'', while being unaware that it was pre-planned to break. Mishap of the toy during engagement caused sympathetic arousal as shown by peripheral nasal vasoconstriction leading to a marked temperature drop, compared to baseline. Soothing after the mishap phase induced an increase in nose temperature, associated with parasympathetic activity suggesting that the child's distress was neutralized, or even overcompensated. Behavioral analyses reported signs of distress evoked by the paradigm, backing up the thermal observation. The results suggest that the integration of physiological elements should be crucial in research concerning socio-emotional development. fIRI is a non invasive and non contact method providing a powerful tool for inferring early moral emotional signs based on physiological observations of peripheral vasoconstriction, while preserving an ecological and natural context.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Self-experience anomalies are elementary features of schizophrenic pathology. Such deficits can have a profound impact on self-other relationship, but how they are related through aberrant brain function remains poorly understood. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we provide new evidence for a cortical link between aberrant self-experience and social cognition in first-episode schizophrenia (FES). As identified in previous studies, ventral premotor cortex (vPMC) and posterior insula (pIC) are candidate brain regions underlying disturbances in both self-experience and self-other relationship due to their processing of predominantly externally guided (vPMC; goal-oriented behavior) and internally guided (pIC; interoception) stimuli. Results from functional interaction analysis in a sample of 24 FES patients and 22 healthy controls show aberrant functional interactions (background/intrinsic connectivity) of right vPMC and bilateral pIC with posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), a midline region that has been shown central in mediating self-experience. More specifically, our results show increased functional coupling between vPMC and PCC, which positively correlated with basic symptoms (subjective self-experience disturbances). pIC showed reduced functional coupling with PCC and postcentral gyrus and increased functional interactions with anterior insula. Taken together, our results suggest an imbalance in the processing between internally and externally guided information and its abnormal integration with self-referential processing as mediated by PCC. Due to our correlation findings, we suggest this imbalance to be closely related to basic symptoms in FES and thus anomalous self-experience. The findings further disentangle the cortical basis of how self-experience anomalies may pervade the social domain.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We investigated the functional properties of a previously described cingulo-opercular network (CON) putatively involved in cognitive control. Analyses of common fMRI task-evoked activity during perceptual and episodic memory search tasks that differently recruited the dorsal attention (DAN) and default mode network (DMN) established the generality of this network. Regions within the CON (anterior insula/frontal operculum and anterior cingulate/presupplementary cortex) displayed sustained signals during extended periods in which participants searched for behaviorally relevant information in a dynamically changing environment or from episodic memory in the absence of sensory stimulation. The CON was activated during all phases of both tasks, which involved trial initiation, target detection, decision, and response, indicating its consistent involvement in a broad range of cognitive processes. Functional connectivity analyses showed that the CON flexibly linked with the DAN or DMN regions during perceptual or memory search, respectively. Aside from the CON, only a limited number of regions, including the lateral pFC, showed evidence of domain-general, sustained activity, although in some cases the common activations may have reflected the functional-anatomical variability of domain-specific regions rather than a true domain generality. These additional regions also showed task-dependent functional connectivity with the DMN and DAN, suggesting that this feature is not a specific marker of cognitive control. Finally, multivariate clustering analyses separated the CON from other frontoparietal regions previously associated with cognitive control, indicating a unique fingerprint. We conclude that the CON's functional properties and interactions with other brain regions support a broad role in cognition, consistent with its characterization as a task control network.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 10/2013; · 4.49 Impact Factor