Bettina Sorger

Maastricht University, Maestricht, Limburg, Netherlands

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Publications (35)143.04 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The goal of neurofeedback training is to provide participants with relevant information on their ongoing brain processes in order to enable them to change these processes in a meaningful way. Under the assumption of an intrinsic brain-behavior link, neurofeedback can be a tool to guide a participant towards a desired behavioral state, such as a healthier state in the case of patients. Current research in clinical neuroscience regarding the most robust indicators of pathological brain processes in psychiatric and neurological disorders indicates that fMRI-based functional connectivity measures may be among the most important biomarkers of disease. The present study therefore investigated the general potential of providing fMRI neurofeedback based on functional correlations, computed from short-window time course data at the level of single task periods. The ability to detect subtle changes in task performance with block-wise functional connectivity measures was evaluated based on imaging data from healthy participants performing a simple motor task, which was systematically varied along two task dimensions representing two different aspects of task difficulty. The results demonstrate that fMRI-based functional connectivity measures may provide a better indicator for an increase in overall (motor) task difficulty than activation level-based measures. Windowed functional correlations thus seem to provide relevant and unique information regarding ongoing brain processes, which is not captured equally well by standard activation level-based neurofeedback measures. Functional connectivity markers, therefore, may indeed provide a valuable tool to enhance and monitor learning within an fMRI neurofeedback setup.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(1):e85929. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Neuroimaging biomarkers of depression have potential to aid diagnosis, identify individuals at risk and predict treatment response or course of illness. Nevertheless none have been identified so far, potentially because no single brain parameter captures the complexity of the pathophysiology of depression. Multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) may overcome this issue as it can identify patterns of voxels that are spatially distributed across the brain. Here we present the results of an MVPA to investigate the neuronal patterns underlying passive viewing of positive, negative and neutral pictures in depressed patients. A linear support vector machine (SVM) was trained to discriminate different valence conditions based on the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data of nine unipolar depressed patients. A similar dataset obtained in nine healthy individuals was included to conduct a group classification analysis via linear discriminant analysis (LDA). Accuracy scores of 86% or higher were obtained for each valence contrast via patterns that included limbic areas such as the amygdala and frontal areas such as the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. The LDA identified two areas (the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and caudate nucleus) that allowed group classification with 72.2% accuracy. Our preliminary findings suggest that MVPA can identify stable valence patterns, with more sensitivity than univariate analysis, in depressed participants and that it may be possible to discriminate between healthy and depressed individuals based on differences in the brain's response to emotional cues.
    NeuroImage : clinical. 01/2013; 2:675-83.
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    Emerging Theory and Practice in Neuroprosthetics, Edited by Ganesh R Naik, 01/2013; IGIGLOBAL.
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    ABSTRACT: A substantial number of patients who survive severe brain injury progress to a nonresponsive state of wakeful unawareness, referred to as a vegetative state (VS). They appear to be awake, but show no signs of awareness of themselves, or of their environment in repeated clinical examinations. However, recent neuroimaging research demonstrates that some VS patients can respond to commands by willfully modulating their brain activity according to instruction. Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) may allow such patients to circumvent the barriers imposed by their behavioral limitations and communicate with the outside world. However, although such devices would undoubtedly improve the quality of life for some patients and their families, developing BCI systems for behaviorally nonresponsive patients presents substantial technical and clinical challenges. Here we review the state of the art of BCI research across noninvasive neuroimaging technologies, and propose how such systems should be developed further to provide fully fledged communication systems for behaviorally nonresponsive populations. Ann Neurol 2012;72:312-323.
    Annals of Neurology 09/2012; 72(3):312-23. · 11.19 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Since the successful demonstration of “brain reading” of fMRI BOLD signals using multivoxel pattern classification (MVPA) techniques, the neuroimaging community has made vigorous attempts to exploit the technique in order to identify the signature patterns of brain activities associated with different cognitive processes or mental states. In the current study, we tested whether the valence and arousal dimensions of the affective information could be used to successfully predict individual’s active affective states. Using a whole-brain MVPA approach, together with feature elimination procedures, we are able to discriminate between brain activation patterns associated with the processing of positive or negative valence and cross validate the discriminant function with an independent data set. Arousal information, on the other hand, failed to provide such discriminating power. With an independent sample, we test further whether the MVPA identified brain network could be used for inter-individual classification. Although the inter-subject classification success was only marginal, we found correlations with individual differences in affective processing. We discuss the implications of our findings for future attempts to classify patients based on their responses to affective stimuli.
    Translational Neuroscience. 09/2012; 3(3):278-287.
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    ABSTRACT: Human communication entirely depends on the functional integrity of the neuromuscular system. This is devastatingly illustrated in clinical conditions such as the so-called locked-in syndrome (LIS), in which severely motor-disabled patients become incapable to communicate naturally--while being fully conscious and awake. For the last 20 years, research on motor-independent communication has focused on developing brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) implementing neuroelectric signals for communication (e.g., [2-7]), and BCIs based on electroencephalography (EEG) have already been applied successfully to concerned patients. However, not all patients achieve proficiency in EEG-based BCI control. Thus, more recently, hemodynamic brain signals have also been explored for BCI purposes. Here, we introduce the first spelling device based on fMRI. By exploiting spatiotemporal characteristics of hemodynamic responses, evoked by performing differently timed mental imagery tasks, our novel letter encoding technique allows translating any freely chosen answer (letter-by-letter) into reliable and differentiable single-trial fMRI signals. Most importantly, automated letter decoding in real time enables back-and-forth communication within a single scanning session. Because the suggested spelling device requires only little effort and pretraining, it is immediately operational and possesses high potential for clinical applications, both in terms of diagnostics and establishing short-term communication with nonresponsive and severely motor-impaired patients.
    Current biology: CB 06/2012; 22(14):1333-8. · 10.99 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Many patients show no or incomplete responses to current pharmacological or psychological therapies for depression. Here we explored the feasibility of a new brain self-regulation technique that integrates psychological and neurobiological approaches through neurofeedback with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In a proof-of-concept study, eight patients with depression learned to upregulate brain areas involved in the generation of positive emotions (such as the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) and insula) during four neurofeedback sessions. Their clinical symptoms, as assessed with the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HDRS), improved significantly. A control group that underwent a training procedure with the same cognitive strategies but without neurofeedback did not improve clinically. Randomised blinded clinical trials are now needed to exclude possible placebo effects and to determine whether fMRI-based neurofeedback might become a useful adjunct to current therapies for depression.
    PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(6):e38115. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Patients with striate cortex damage and clinical blindness retain the ability to process certain visual properties of stimuli that they are not aware of seeing. Here we investigated the neural correlates of residual visual perception for dynamic whole-body emotional actions. Angry and neutral emotional whole-body actions were presented in the intact and blind visual hemifield of a cortically blind patient with unilateral destruction of striate cortex. Comparisons of angry vs. neutral actions performed separately in the blind and intact visual hemifield showed in both cases increased activation in primary somatosensory, motor, and premotor cortices. Activations selective for intact hemifield presentation of angry compared with neutral actions were located subcortically in the right lateral geniculate nucleus and cortically in the superior temporal sulcus, prefrontal cortex, precuneus, and intraparietal sulcus. Activations specific for blind hemifield presentation of angry compared with neutral actions were found in the bilateral superior colliculus, pulvinar nucleus of the thalamus, amygdala, and right fusiform gyrus. Direct comparison of emotional modulation in the blind vs. intact visual hemifield revealed selective activity in the right superior colliculus and bilateral pulvinar for angry expressions, thereby showing a selective involvement of these subcortical structures in nonconscious visual emotion perception.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 09/2011; 108(39):16188-93. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In natural environments, a sound can be heard as stable despite the presence of other occasionally louder sounds. For example, when a portion in a voice is replaced by masking noise, the interrupted voice may still appear illusorily continuous. Previous research found that continuity illusions of simple interrupted sounds, such as tones, are accompanied by weaker activity in the primary auditory cortex (PAC) during the interruption than veridical discontinuity percepts of these sounds. Here, we studied whether continuity illusions of more natural and more complex sounds also emerge from this mechanism. We used psychophysics and functional magnetic resonance imaging in humans to measure simultaneously continuity ratings and blood oxygenation level-dependent activity to vowels that were partially replaced by masking noise. Consistent with previous results on tone continuity illusions, we found listeners' reports of more salient vowel continuity illusions associated with weaker activity in auditory cortex (compared with reports of veridical discontinuity percepts of physically identical stimuli). In contrast to the reduced activity to tone continuity illusions in PAC, this reduction was localized in the right anterolateral Heschl's gyrus, a region that corresponds more to the non-PAC. Our findings suggest that the ability to hear differently complex sounds as stable during other louder sounds may be attributable to a common suppressive mechanism that operates at different levels of sound representation in auditory cortex.
    Journal of Neuroscience 01/2011; 31(4):1479-88. · 6.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To describe cortical reorganization after classic hypoglossal-facial nerve anastomosis (HFA) (four patients), hypoglossal-facial nerve jump anastomosis (HFJA) (three patients), and facial nerve interpositional graft (FNIG) (three patients). Prospective case series. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was performed during lip and tongue movement using a block or an event-related design. Despite the presence of some intersubject variability, the following general brain activation patterns were revealed: As expected, lip movements after FNIG led to selective brain activation in the original facial motor cortex, and lip movements after HFA were associated with activation in the hypoglossal motor cortex. Following HFJA, lip movements resulted in overlapping activation encompassing both the original facial and the hypoglossal motor cortex, but tongue movements led solely to strong activation within the original hypoglossal motor cortex. In contrast, tongue movements after HFA were associated with strong activation in the original hypoglossal motor cortex and weaker activation in the facial motor cortex. Direct facial nerve repair (FNIG) leads to restoration of the original cortical activation. A cross nerve suture (HFA or HFJA) changes cortical activation and leads to different patterns of cortical activation during lip and tongue movements.
    The Laryngoscope 01/2011; 121(4):699-706. · 1.98 Impact Factor
  • Journal of Vision - J VISION. 01/2010; 4(8):134-134.
  • Journal of Vision - J VISION. 01/2010; 7(9):627-627.
  • Journal of Vision - J VISION. 01/2010; 6(6):429-429.
  • Journal of Vision - J VISION. 01/2010; 7(9):625-625.
  • Rainer Goebel, Anna Zilverstand, Bettina Sorger
    Imaging in Medicine. 01/2010; 2(4):407-415.
  • Journal of Vision - J VISION. 01/2010; 4(8):899-899.
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    ABSTRACT: We casually observe many interactions that do not really concern us. Yet sometimes we need to be able to rapidly appraise whether an interaction between two people represents a real threat for one of them rather than an innocent tease. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we investigated whether small differences in the body language of two interacting people are picked up by the brain even if observers are performing an unrelated task. Fourteen participants were scanned while watching 3-s movies (192 trials and 96 scrambles) showing a male person either threatening or teasing a female one. In one task condition, observers categorized the interaction as threatening or teasing, and in the other, they monitored randomly appearing dots and categorized the color. Our results clearly show that right amygdala responds more to threatening than to teasing situations irrespective of the observers' task. When observers' attention is not explicitly directed to the situation, this heightened amygdala activation goes together with increased activity in body sensitive regions in fusiform gyrus, extrastriate body area-human motion complex and superior temporal sulcus and is associated with a better behavioral performance of the participants during threatening situations. In addition, regions involved in action observation (inferior frontal gyrus, temporoparietal junction, and inferior parietal lobe) and preparation (premotor, putamen) show increased activation for threat videos. Also regions involved in processing moral violations (temporoparietal junction, hypothalamus) reacted selectively to the threatening interactions. Taken together, our results show which brain regions react selectively to witnessing a threatening interaction even if the situation is not attended because the observers perform an unrelated task.
    NeuroImage 10/2009; 49(2):1717-27. · 6.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We report a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) adaptation study of two well-described patients, DF and PS, who present face identity recognition impairments (prosopagnosia) following brain-damage. Comparing faces to non-face objects elicited activation in all visual areas of the cortical face processing network that were spared subsequent to brain damage. The common brain lesion in the two patients was in the right inferior occipital cortex, in the territory of the right “occipital face area” (‘OFA’), which strengthens the critical role of this region in processing faces. Despite the lesion to the right ‘OFA’, there was normal range of sensitivity to faces in the right “fusiform face area” (‘FFA’) in both patients, supporting a non-hierarchical model of face processing at the cortical level. At the same time, however, sensitivity to individual face representations, as indicated by release from adaptation to identity, was abnormal in the right ‘FFA’ of both patients. This suggests that the right ‘OFA’ is necessary to individualize faces, perhaps through reentrant interactions with other cortical face sensitive areas. The lateral occipital area (LO) is damaged bilaterally in patient DF, who also shows visual object agnosia. However, in patient PS, in whom LO was spared, sensitivity to individual representations of non-face objects was still found in this region, as in the normal brain, consistent with her preserved object recognition abilities. Taken together, these observations, which fruitfully combine functional imaging and neuropsychology, place strong constraints on the possible functional organization of the cortical areas mediating face processing in the human brain.
    Neuropsychologia 10/2009; · 3.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Previous research showed that force control in a visually guided continuous tracking task is influenced by feedback accuracy and force-varying rate. More specifically it was found that higher feedback accuracy and greater force-varying rate led to decreased task performance. Here we studied the neural signature of these effects using functional MRI. We hypothesised that performance costs were due to increased task demand and reflected by increased activations in the visuomotor network. Using the fMRI-BOLD response as an indirect measure of enhanced brain activity we found that the task induced activations in the visuomotor network. The different task conditions thereby modulated the BOLD response such that those conditions with poorest performance showed highest activation levels and vice versa. This indicates a parametric modulation of the BOLD response according to task difficulty and force production. The effects point towards the interdependent and parallel control of visual feedback information and force output rate, which is probably achieved through a joint neural network.
    Neuroscience Letters 07/2009; 457(2):61-5. · 2.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The impact of inversion on the extraction of relational and featural face information was investigated in two fMRI experiments. Unlike previous studies, the contribution of horizontal and vertical spatial relations were considered separately since they have been shown to be differentially vulnerable to face inversion (Goffaux & Rossion, 2007). Hence, inversion largely affects the perception of vertical relations (e.g. eye or mouth height) while the processing of features (e.g. eye shape and surface) and of horizontal relations (e.g. inter-ocular distance) is affected to a far lesser extent. Participants viewed pairs of faces that differed either at the level of one local feature (i.e. the eyes) or of the spatial relations of this feature with adjacent features. Changes of spatial relations were divided into two conditions, depending on the vertical or horizontal axis of the modifications. These stimulus conditions were presented in separate blocks in the first (block) experiment while they were presented in a random order in the second event-related (ER) experiment. Face-preferring voxels located in the right-lateralized middle fusiform gyrus (rMFG) largely decreased their activity with inversion. Inversion-related decreases were more moderate in left-lateralized middle fusiform gyrus (lMFG). ER experiment revealed that inversion affected rMFG and lMFG activity in distinct stimulus conditions. Whereas inversion affected lMFG processing only in featural condition, inversion selectively affected the processing of vertical relations in rMFG. Correlation analyses further indicated that the inversion effect (IE) observed in rMFG and right inferior occipital gyrus (rIOG) reliably predicted the large behavioural IE observed for the processing of vertical relations. In contrast, lMFG IE correlated with the weak behavioural IE observed for the processing of horizontal relations. Our findings suggest that face configuration is mostly encoded in rMFG, whereas more local aspects of face information, such as features and horizontal spatial relations drive lMFG processing. These findings corroborate the view that the vulnerability of face perception to inversion stems mainly from the disrupted processing of vertical face relations in the right-lateralized network of face-preferring regions (rMFG, rIOG).
    Journal of Neuropsychology 03/2009; 3(Pt 1):45-67. · 2.44 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

775 Citations
143.04 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2003–2013
    • Maastricht University
      • Department of Cognitive Neuroscience
      Maestricht, Limburg, Netherlands
  • 2012
    • Cardiff University
      • Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences
      Cardiff, WLS, United Kingdom
  • 2011
    • University of Liège
      • Coma Science Group
      Liège, WAL, Belgium
  • 2009
    • University of Surrey
      • School of Psychology
      Guildford, ENG, United Kingdom
  • 2008
    • Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
      • Institute of Psychology
      Frankfurt am Main, Hesse, Germany
    • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
      • Laboratory of Brain And Cognition
      Bethesda, MD, United States
  • 2006–2008
    • Catholic University of Louvain
      Walloon Region, Belgium
  • 2007
    • University of Southampton
      Southampton, England, United Kingdom