A major motivation in designing the new infant and child magnetoencephalography (MEG) system described in this manuscript is the premise that electrophysiological signatures (resting activity and evoked responses) may serve as biomarkers of neurodevelopmental disorders, with neuronal abnormalities in conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) potentially detectable early in development. Whole-head MEG systems are generally optimized/sized for adults. Since magnetic field produced by neuronal currents decreases as a function of distance(2) and infants and young children have smaller head sizes (and thus increased brain-to-sensor distance), whole-head adult MEG systems do not provide optimal signal-to-noise in younger individuals. This spurred development of a whole-head infant and young child MEG system - Artemis 123.
In addition to describing the design of the Artemis 123, the focus of this manuscript is the use of Artemis 123 to obtain auditory evoked neuromagnetic recordings and resting-state data in young children. Data were collected from a 14-month-old female, an 18-month-old female, and a 48-month-old male. Phantom data are also provided to show localization accuracy.
Examination of Artemis 123 auditory data showed generalizability and reproducibility, with auditory responses observed in all participants. The auditory MEG measures were also found to be manipulable, exhibiting sensitivity to tone frequency. Furthermore, there appeared to be a predictable sensitivity of evoked components to development, with latencies decreasing with age. Examination of resting-state data showed characteristic oscillatory activity. Finally, phantom data showed that dipole sources could be localized with an error less than 0.5 cm.
Artemis 123 allows efficient recording of high-quality whole-head MEG in infants four years and younger. Future work will involve examining the feasibility of obtaining somatosensory and visual recordings in similar-age children as well as obtaining recordings from younger infants. Thus, the Artemis 123 offers the promise of detecting earlier diagnostic signatures in such neurodevelopmental disorders.
We screened for the presence of inborn errors of metabolism (IEM) in 187 children (105 males; 82 females, ages 4-14 years old) who presented with confirmed features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Twelve patients (7%) manifested increased 3-hydroxyisovaleric acid (3-OH-IVA) excretion in urine, and minor to significant improvement in autistic features was observed in seven patients following supplementation with biotin. Five diagnoses included: Lesch Nyhan syndrome (2), succinic semialdehyde dehydrogenase (SSADH) deficiency (2), and phenylketonuria (1) (2.7%). Additional metabolic disturbances suggestive of IEMs included two patients whose increased urine 3-OH-IVA was accompanied by elevated methylcitrate and lactate in sera, and 30 patients that showed abnormal glucose-loading tests. In the latter group, 16/30 patients manifested increased sera beta hydroxybutyrate (b-OH-b) production and 18/30 had a paradoxical increase of sera lactate. Six patients with elevated b-OH-b in sera showed improved autistic features following implementation of a ketogenic diet (KD). Five patients showed decreased serum ketone body production with glucose loading. Twelve of 187 patients demonstrated non-specific MRI pathology, while 25/187 had abnormal electroencephalogram (EEG) findings. Finally, family history was positive for 22/187 patients (1st or 2nd degree relative with comparable symptomatology) and consanguinity was documented for 12/187 patients. Our data provide evidence for a new biomarker (3-OH-IVA) and novel treatment approaches in ASD patients. Concise 1 sentence take-home message: Detailed metabolic screening in a Greek cohort of ASD patients revealed biomarkers (urine 3-hydroxyisovaleric acid and serum b-OH-b) in 7% (13/187) of patients for whom biotin supplementation or institution of a KD resulted in mild to significant clinical improvement in autistic features.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays an important role in neuroplasticity and promotes axonal growth, but its secretion, regulated by a BDNF gene, declines with age. The low-activity (met) allele of common polymorphism BDNF val66met is associated with reduced production of BDNF. We examined whether age-related reduction in the integrity of cerebral white matter (WM) depends on the BDNF val66met genotype. Forty-one middle-aged and older adults participated in the study. Regional WM integrity was assessed by fractional anisotropy (FA) computed from manually drawn regions of interest in the genu and splenium of the corpus callosum on diffusion tensor imaging scans. After controlling for effects of sex and hypertension, we found that only the BDNF 66met carriers displayed age-related declines in the splenium FA, whereas no age-related declines were shown by BDNF val homozygotes. No genotype-related differences were observed in the genu of the corpus callosum. This finding is consistent with a view that genetic risk for reduced BDNF affects posterior regions that otherwise are considered relatively insensitive to normal aging. Those individuals with a genetic predisposition for decreased BDNF expression may not be able to fully benefit from BDNF-based plasticity and repair mechanisms.
A systematic review of the effectiveness of rehabilitation for persons with unilateral neglect (UN) after stroke was conducted by searching the computerized databases from 1997 through 2012. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of neglect treatment strategies for stroke patients which used the Behavioral Inattention Test (BIT) as the primary outcome measure were eligible for inclusion. Out of 201 studies initially identified, 12 RCTs covering 277 participants were selected for analysis. All had the same weakness of low power with smaller samples and limitation in the blinding of the design. Prism Adaptation (PA) was the most commonly used intervention while continuous Theta-burst stimulation (cTBS) appeared to be a new approach. Meta-analysis showed that for immediate effects, the BIT conventional subscore had a significant and large mean effect size (ES = 0.76; 95% CI 0.28-1.23; p = 0.002) whereas the BIT total score showed a modestly significant mean ES (ES = 0.55; 95% CI 0.16-0.94; p = 0.006). No significant mean ES in sensitivity analysis was found for long-lasting effects across all BIT outcomes. PA appeared to be the most effective intervention based on the results of pooled analysis. More rigorous studies should be done on repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) before it can be concluded that it is a promising treatment for UN.
In 2012, Guida, Gobet, Tardieu and Nicolas proposed a two-stage framework to explain how cognitive changes due to practice could shape experts' brain physiologically and thus explain neuroimaging data of expertise acquisition. In this paper, after presenting the motivations for such a framework and the framework itself, we examine the idea that functional cerebral reorganization (FCR) could be used as a signature for expertise.
The timing of motor imagery has recently received attention from a number of researchers, culminating in a comprehensive review by Guillot and colleagues. This paper aims to further explore this issue, building upon the said review to suggest a number of other important timing-related issues. Specifically, we consider the possible role of bio-informational theory (Lang, 1979, 1985) and the recent proposal of "behavioral matching" in conjunction with the PETTLEP model (Holmes and Collins, 2001) of motor imagery. Furthermore, we explore the possibility that timing has important implications for motivational aspects of imagery. We then discuss the potential role of rhythm, an important but often overlooked aspect of skilled motor performance, and its links to the timing issue. Finally, we conclude by offering suggestions for future imagery timing research to examine this relatively under-researched area of imagery.
In 2008, Lesley University Professors Geoffrey Koetsch and Ellen Schön conducted an informal survey of New England artists to ascertain the degree to which recent work in neuroscience had impacted the visual arts. The two curators mounted an exhibition (MINDmatters May-June, 2008) at the Laconia Gallery in Boston in which they showcased the work of artists who had chosen mental processes as their primary subject. These artists were reacting to the new vision of the mind revealed by science; their inquiry was subjective, sensory, and existential, not empirical. They approached consciousness from several vantage points. Some of the artists had had personal experience with pathologies of the brain such as dementia or cancer and were puzzling out the phenomenon consuming the mind of a loved one. They looked to neuroscience for clarity and understanding. Some artists were personally involved with new techniques of cognitive psychotherapy. Others were inspired by the sheer physical beauty of the brain as revealed by new imaging technologies. Two of the artists explored the links between meditation, mindfulness practice and neuroscience. Issues such as the "boundary" and "binding" problems were approached, as well as the challenge of creating visual metaphors for neural processes. One artist visualized the increasing transparency of the body as researchers introduce more and more invasive technologies.
Schizophrenia is postulated to be the prototypical dysconnection disorder, in which hallucinations are the core symptom. Due to high heterogeneity in methodology across studies and the clinical phenotype, it remains unclear whether the structural brain dysconnection is global or focal and if clinical symptoms result from this dysconnection. In the present work, we attempt to clarify this issue by studying a population considered as a homogeneous genetic sub-type of schizophrenia, namely the 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11.2DS). Cerebral MRIs were acquired for 46 patients and 48 age and gender matched controls (aged 6-26, respectively mean age = 15.20 ± 4.53 and 15.28 ± 4.35 years old). Using the Connectome mapper pipeline (connectomics.org) that combines structural and diffusion MRI, we created a whole brain network for each individual. Graph theory was used to quantify the global and local properties of the brain network organization for each participant. A global degree loss of 6% was found in patients' networks along with an increased Characteristic Path Length. After identifying and comparing hubs, a significant loss of degree in patients' hubs was found in 58% of the hubs. Based on Allen's brain network model for hallucinations, we explored the association between local efficiency and symptom severity. Negative correlations were found in the Broca's area (p < 0.004), the Wernicke area (p < 0.023) and a positive correlation was found in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) (p < 0.014). In line with the dysconnection findings in schizophrenia, our results provide preliminary evidence for a targeted alteration in the brain network hubs' organization in individuals with a genetic risk for schizophrenia. The study of specific disorganization in language, speech and thought regulation networks sharing similar network properties may help to understand their role in the hallucination mechanism.
Neural plasticity in the amygdala is necessary for the acquisition and storage of memory in Pavlovian fear conditioning, but most neuroimaging studies have focused only on stimulus-evoked responses during the conditioning session. This study examined changes in the resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) of the amygdala before and after Pavlovian fear conditioning, an emotional learning task. Behavioral results from the conditioning session revealed that participants learned normally and fMRI data recorded during learning identified a number of stimulus-evoked changes that were consistent with previous work. A direct comparison between the pre- and post-conditioning amygdala connectivity revealed a region of dorsal prefrontal cortex (PFC) in the superior frontal gyrus that showed a significant increase in connectivity following the conditioning session. A behavioral measure of explicit memory performance was positively correlated with the change in amygdala connectivity within a neighboring region in the superior frontal gyrus. Additionally, an implicit autonomic measure of conditioning was positively correlated with the change in connectivity between the amygdala and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). The resting-state data show that amygdala connectivity is altered following Pavlovian fear conditioning and that these changes are also related to behavioral outcomes. These alterations may reflect the operation of a consolidation process that strengthens neural connections to support memory after the learning event.
Our current understanding of neuroanatomical abnormalities in neuropsychiatric diseases is based largely on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and post mortem histological analyses of the brain. Further advances in elucidating altered brain structure in these human conditions might emerge from combining MRI and histological methods. We propose a multistage method for registering 3D volumes reconstructed from histological sections to corresponding in vivo MRI volumes from the same subjects: (1) manual segmentation of white matter (WM), gray matter (GM) and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) compartments in histological sections, (2) alignment of consecutive histological sections using 2D rigid transformation to construct a 3D histological image volume from the aligned sections, (3) registration of reconstructed 3D histological volumes to the corresponding 3D MRI volumes using 3D affine transformation, (4) intensity normalization of images via histogram matching, and (5) registration of the volumes via intensity based large deformation diffeomorphic metric (LDDMM) image matching algorithm. Here we demonstrate the utility of our method in the transfer of cytoarchitectonic information from histological sections to identify regions of interest in MRI scans of nine adult macaque brains for morphometric analyses. LDDMM improved the accuracy of the registration via decreased distances between GM/CSF surfaces after LDDMM (0.39 +/- 0.13 mm) compared to distances after affine registration (0.76 +/- 0.41 mm). Similarly, WM/GM distances decreased to 0.28 +/- 0.16 mm after LDDMM compared to 0.54 +/- 0.39 mm after affine registration. The multistage registration method may find broad application for mapping histologically based information, for example, receptor distributions, gene expression, onto MRI volumes.
Current theories of the pathophysiology of schizophrenia have focused on abnormal temporal coordination of neural activity. Oscillations in the gamma-band range (>25 Hz) are of particular interest as they establish synchronization with great precision in local cortical networks. However, the contribution of high gamma (>60 Hz) oscillations toward the pathophysiology is less established. To address this issue, we recorded magnetoencephalographic (MEG) data from 16 medicated patients with chronic schizophrenia and 16 controls during the perception of Mooney faces. MEG data were analysed in the 25-150 Hz frequency range. Patients showed elevated reaction times and reduced detection rates during the perception of upright Mooney faces while responses to inverted stimuli were intact. Impaired processing of Mooney faces in schizophrenia patients was accompanied by a pronounced reduction in spectral power between 60-120 Hz (effect size: d = 1.26) which was correlated with disorganized symptoms (r = -0.72). Our findings demonstrate that deficits in high gamma-band oscillations as measured by MEG are a sensitive marker for aberrant cortical functioning in schizophrenia, suggesting an important aspect of the pathophysiology of the disorder.
Convergent evidence suggests that individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) exhibit exaggerated avoidance behaviors as well as abnormalities in Pavlonian fear conditioning. However, the link between the two features of this disorder is not well understood. In order to probe the brain basis of aberrant extinction learning in PTSD, we administered a multimodal classical fear conditioning/extinction paradigm that incorporated affectively relevant information from two sensory channels (visual and tactile) while participants underwent fMRI scanning. The sample consisted of fifteen OEF/OIF veterans with PTSD. In response to conditioned cues and contextual information, greater avoidance symptomatology was associated with greater activation in amygdala, hippocampus, vmPFC, dmPFC, and insula, during both fear acquisition and fear extinction. Heightened responses to previously conditioned stimuli in individuals with more severe PTSD could indicate a deficiency in safety learning, consistent with PTSD symptomatology. The close link between avoidance symptoms and fear circuit activation suggests that this symptom cluster may be a key component of fear extinction deficits in PTSD and/or may be particularly amenable to change through extinction-based therapies.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is characterized by altered intrinsic functional connectivity within (intra-iFC) intrinsic connectivity networks (ICNs), such as the Default Mode- (DMN), Salience- (SN) and Central Executive Network (CEN). It has been proposed that aberrant switching between DMN-mediated self-referential and CEN-mediated goal-directed cognitive processes might contribute to MDD, possibly explaining patients' difficulties to disengage the processing of self-focused, often negatively biased thoughts. Recently, it has been shown that the right anterior insula (rAI) within the SN is modulating DMN/CEN interactions. Since structural and functional alterations within the AI have been frequently reported in MDD, we hypothesized that aberrant intra-iFC in the SN's rAI is associated with both aberrant iFC between DMN and CEN (inter-iFC) and severity of symptoms in MDD. Twenty-five patients with MDD and 25 healthy controls were assessed using resting-state fMRI (rs-fMRI) and psychometric examination. High-model-order independent component analysis (ICA) of rs-fMRI data was performed to identify ICNs including DMN, SN, and CEN. Intra-iFC within and inter-iFC between distinct subsystems of the DMN, SN, and CEN were calculated, compared between groups and correlated with the severity of symptoms. Patients with MDD showed (1) decreased intra-iFC within the SN's rAI, (2) decreased inter-iFC between the DMN and CEN, and (3) increased inter-iFC between the SN and DMN. Moreover, decreased intra-iFC in the SN's rAI was associated with severity of symptoms and aberrant DMN/CEN interactions, with the latter losing significance after correction for multiple comparisons. Our results provide evidence for a relationship between aberrant intra-iFC in the salience network's rAI, aberrant DMN/CEN interactions and severity of symptoms, suggesting a link between aberrant salience mapping, abnormal coordination of DMN/CEN based cognitive processes and psychopathology in MDD.
Neuroimaging studies of major depressive disorder (MDD) have consistently observed functional and structural changes of the hippocampus (HP) and amygdale (AY). Thus, these brain regions appear to be critical elements of the pathophysiology of MDD. The HP and AY directly interact and show broad and overlapping intrinsic functional connectivity (iFC) to other brain regions. Therefore, we hypothesized the HP and AY would show a corresponding pattern of aberrant intrinsic connectivity in MDD. Resting-state functional MRI was acquired from 21 patients with MDD and 20 healthy controls. ß-Maps of region-of-interest-based FC for bilateral body of the HP and basolateral AY were used as surrogates for iFC of the HP and AY. Analysis of variance was used to compare ß-maps between MDD and healthy control groups, and included covariates for age and gender as well as gray matter volume of the HP and AY. The HP and AY of MDD patient's showed an overlapping pattern of reduced FC to the dorsomedial-prefrontal cortex and fronto-insular operculum. Both of these regions are known to regulate the interactions among intrinsic networks (i.e., default mode, central executive, and salience networks) that are disrupted in MDD. These results provide the first evidence of overlapping aberrant HP and AY intrinsic connectivity in MDD. Our findings suggest that aberrant HP and AY connectivity may interact with dysfunctional intrinsic network activity in MDD.
Schizophrenia is a devastating illness characterized by disturbances in multiple domains. The cerebellum is involved in both motor and non-motor functions, and the "cognitive dysmetria" and "dysmetria of thought" models propose that abnormalities of the cerebellum may contribute to schizophrenia signs and symptoms. The cerebellum and cerebral cortex are reciprocally connected via a modular, closed-loop network architecture, but few schizophrenia neuroimaging studies have taken into account the topographical and functional heterogeneity of the cerebellum. In this study, using a previously defined 17-network cerebral cortical parcellation system as the basis for our functional connectivity seeds, we systematically investigated connectivity abnormalities within the cerebellum of 44 schizophrenia patients and 28 healthy control participants. We found selective alterations in cerebro-cerebellar functional connectivity. Specifically, schizophrenia patients showed decreased cerebro-cerebellar functional connectivity in higher level association networks (ventral attention, salience, control, and default mode networks) relative to healthy control participants. Schizophrenia patients also showed increased cerebro-cerebellar connectivity in somatomotor and default mode networks, with the latter showing no overlap with the regions found to be hypoconnected within the same default mode network. Finally, we found evidence to suggest that somatomotor and default mode networks may be inappropriately linked in schizophrenia. The relationship of these dysconnectivities to schizophrenia symptoms, such as neurological soft signs and altered sense of agency, is discussed. We conclude that the cerebellum ought to be considered for analysis in all future studies of network abnormalities in SZ, and further suggest the cerebellum as a potential target for further elucidation, and possibly treatment, of the underlying mechanisms and network abnormalities producing symptoms of schizophrenia.
Systematic differences in functional connectivity MRI metrics have been consistently observed in autism, with predominantly decreased cortico-cortical connectivity. Previous attempts at single subject classification in high-functioning autism using whole brain point-to-point functional connectivity have yielded about 80% accurate classification of autism vs. control subjects across a wide age range. We attempted to replicate the method and results using the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange (ABIDE) including resting state fMRI data obtained from 964 subjects and 16 separate international sites.
For each of 964 subjects, we obtained pairwise functional connectivity measurements from a lattice of 7266 regions of interest covering the gray matter (26.4 million "connections") after preprocessing that included motion and slice timing correction, coregistration to an anatomic image, normalization to standard space, and voxelwise removal by regression of motion parameters, soft tissue, CSF, and white matter signals. Connections were grouped into multiple bins, and a leave-one-out classifier was evaluated on connections comprising each set of bins. Age, age-squared, gender, handedness, and site were included as covariates for the classifier.
Classification accuracy significantly outperformed chance but was much lower for multisite prediction than for previous single site results. As high as 60% accuracy was obtained for whole brain classification, with the best accuracy from connections involving regions of the default mode network, parahippocampaland fusiform gyri, insula, Wernicke Area, and intraparietal sulcus. The classifier score was related to symptom severity, social function, daily living skills, and verbal IQ. Classification accuracy was significantly higher for sites with longer BOLD imaging times.
Multisite functional connectivity classification of autism outperformed chance using a simple leave-one-out classifier, but exhibited poorer accuracy than for single site results. Attempts to use multisite classifiers will likely require improved classification algorithms, longer BOLD imaging times, and standardized acquisition parameters for possible future clinical utility.
There is a need for identifying biomarkers that predict chronic speech fluency/language impairment and improvement after stroke. We previously showed that the Arcuate Fasciculus lesion load (AF-LL), a combined variable of lesion site and size, predicted speech fluency in chronic aphasic patients. In the current study, we compared lesion loads of such a structural map (i.e., AF-LL) with those of a functional map (i.e., the functional grey matter lesion load (fGM-LL)) in their ability to predict speech fluency and naming performance in a large group of patients. The fGM map was constructed from functional brain images acquired during an overt speaking task in a group of healthy elderly controls. The AF map was reconstructed from high-resolution diffusion tensor images also from a group of healthy elderly controls. In addition to these two canonical maps, a combined AF-fGM was derived from summing fGM and AF maps. Each canonical map was overlaid with individual lesion masks of 50 chronic aphasic patients with varying degrees of impairment in speech production and fluency to calculate a functional and structural lesion load value for each patient, and to regress these values with measures of speech fluency and naming. We found that both AF-LL and fGM-LL independently predicted speech fluency and naming ability; however, AF lesion load explained most of the variance for both measures. The combined AF-fGM lesion load did not have a higher predictability than either AF-LL or fGM-LL alone. Clustering and classification methods confirmed that AF lesion load was best at stratifying patients into severe and non-severe outcome groups with 96% accuracy for speech fluency and 90% accuracy for naming. An AF-LL of greater than 4cc was the critical threshold that determined poor fluency and naming outcomes, and constitutes the severe outcome group. Thus, surrogate markers of impairments have the potential to predict outcomes and can be used as a stratifier in experimental studies.
Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a childhood onset disorder of motor and vocal tics. The neural networks underlying TS overlap with those of saccade eye movements. Thus, deviations on saccadic tasks can provide important information about psychopathology of TS. Tourette syndrome often coexists with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Hence, we manipulated various components of a saccade task to measure its effects on saccades of children with TS-only, TS+ADHD, TS+ADHD+OCD and healthy controls. Children looked toward (prosaccade) or in the opposite direction (antisaccade) of a peripheral target as soon as it appeared. The prosaccade and antisaccade tasks were presented in three conditions. In the Gap200 condition, the fixation dot disappeared 200 ms prior to the appearance of the peripheral target, In the Gap800 condition, the fixation dot disappeared 800 ms prior to the appearance of the peripheral target and in Overlap200 the fixation dot disappeared 200 ms after the appearance of the peripheral target. Fixation-offset manipulations had different effects on each group's antisaccades. The TS+ADHD+OCD group's antisaccade latencies and error rates remained relatively unchanged in the three conditions and displayed a pattern of eye movements that can be interpreted as enhanced. Alternatively, the TS+ADHD group displayed an overall pattern of longer saccadic latencies. Findings corroborate the hypothesis that the combination of tic disorder and ADHD results in unique behavioral profiles. It is plausible that a subgroup of children with TS develop an adaptive ability to control their tics which generalizes to enhanced volitional control of saccadic behavior as well. Supporting evidence and other findings are discussed.
The ability to entrain movements to music is arguably universal, but it is unclear how specialized training may influence this. Previous research suggests that percussionists have superior temporal precision in perception and production tasks. Such superiority may be limited to temporal sequences that resemble real music or, alternatively, may generalize to musically implausible sequences. To test this, percussionists and nonpercussionists completed two tasks that used rhythmic sequences varying in musical plausibility. In the beat tapping task, participants tapped with the beat of a rhythmic sequence over 3 stages: finding the beat (as an initial sequence played), continuation of the beat (as a second sequence was introduced and played simultaneously), and switching to a second beat (the initial sequence finished, leaving only the second). The meters of the two sequences were either congruent or incongruent, as were their tempi (minimum inter-onset intervals). In the rhythm reproduction task, participants reproduced rhythms of four types, ranging from high to low musical plausibility: Metric simple rhythms induced a strong sense of the beat, metric complex rhythms induced a weaker sense of the beat, nonmetric rhythms had no beat, and jittered nonmetric rhythms also had no beat as well as low temporal predictability. For both tasks, percussionists performed more accurately than nonpercussionists. In addition, both groups were better with musically plausible than implausible conditions. Overall, the percussionists' superior abilities to entrain to, and reproduce, rhythms generalized to musically implausible sequences.
Disruption of structural and functional neural connectivity has been widely reported in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) but there is a striking lack of research attempting to integrate analysis of functional and structural connectivity in the same study population, an approach that may provide key insights into the specific neurobiological underpinnings of altered functional connectivity in autism. The aims of this study were (1) to determine whether functional connectivity abnormalities were associated with structural abnormalities of white matter (WM) in ASD and (2) to examine the relationships between aberrant neural connectivity and behavior in ASD. Twenty-two individuals with ASD and 22 age, IQ-matched controls completed a high-angular-resolution diffusion MRI scan. Structural connectivity was analysed using constrained spherical deconvolution (CSD) based tractography. Regions for tractography were generated from the results of a previous study, in which 10 pairs of brain regions showed abnormal functional connectivity during visuospatial processing in ASD. WM tracts directly connected 5 of the 10 region pairs that showed abnormal functional connectivity; linking a region in the left occipital lobe (left BA19) and five paired regions: left caudate head, left caudate body, left uncus, left thalamus, and left cuneus. Measures of WM microstructural organization were extracted from these tracts. Fractional anisotropy (FA) reductions in the ASD group relative to controls were significant for WM connecting left BA19 to left caudate head and left BA19 to left thalamus. Using a multimodal imaging approach, this study has revealed aberrant WM microstructure in tracts that directly connect brain regions that are abnormally functionally connected in ASD. These results provide novel evidence to suggest that structural brain pathology may contribute (1) to abnormal functional connectivity and (2) to atypical visuospatial processing in ASD.
Tourette syndrome (TS) is a childhood-onset chronic disorder characterized by the presence of multiple motor and vocal tics. This study investigated spontaneous low-frequency fluctuations in TS patients during resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) scans. We obtained rs-fMRI scans from 17 drug-naïve TS children and 15 demographically matched healthy children. We computed the amplitude of low-frequency fluctuation (ALFF) and fractional ALFF (fALFF) of rs-fMRI data to measure spontaneous brain activity, and assessed the between-group differences in ALFF/fALFF and the relationship between ALFF/fALFF and tic severity scores. Our results showed that the children with TS exhibited significantly decreased ALFF in the posterior cingulate gyrus/precuneus and bilateral parietal gyrus. fALFF was decreased in TS children in the anterior cingulated cortex, bilateral middle and superior frontal cortices and superior parietal lobule, and increased in the left putamen and bilateral thalamus. Moreover, we found significantly positive correlations between fALFF and tic severity scores in the right thalamus. Our study provides empirical evidence for abnormal spontaneous neuronal activity in TS patients, which may implicate the underlying neurophysiological mechanism in TS and demonstrate the possibility of applying ALFF/fALFF for clinical TS studies.
Several functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies of acute stroke have reported that patients with behavioral deficits show abnormal signal in intact regions of the damaged hemisphere close to the lesion border relative to homologous regions of the patient's intact hemisphere (causing an interhemispheric imbalance) as well as analogous regions in healthy controls. These effects have been interpreted as demonstrating a causal relationship between the abnormal fMRI signal and the pathological behavior. Here we explore an alternative explanation: perhaps the abnormal Blood-Oxygenation Level Dependent (BOLD) fMRI signal is merely a function of distance from the acute lesion. To investigate this hypothesis, we examined three patients with an acute right hemisphere cortical stroke who did not show any overt behavioral deficits, as well as nine healthy elderly controls. We acquired fMRI data while the participants performed a simple visual orientation judgment task. In patients, we observed an abnormal interhemispheric balance consisting of lower levels of percent signal change in perilesional areas of the damaged hemisphere relative to homologous areas in neurologically healthy controls. This suggests that the physiological changes and corresponding interhemispheric imbalance detected by fMRI BOLD in acute stroke observed close to the lesion border may not necessarily reflect changes in the neural function, nor necessarily influence the individuals' (e.g., attentional) behavior.
Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who can speak often exhibit abnormal voice quality and speech prosody, but the exact nature and underlying mechanisms of these abnormalities, as well as their diagnostic power are currently unknown. Here we quantified speech abnormalities in terms of the properties of the long-term average spectrum (LTAS) and pitch variability in speech samples of 83 children (41 with ASD, 42 controls) ages 4-6.5 years, recorded while they named a sequence of daily life pictures for 60 s. We found a significant difference in the group's average spectra, with ASD spectra being shallower and exhibiting less harmonic structure. Contrary to the common impression of monotonic speech in autism, the ASD children had a significantly larger pitch range and variability across time. A measure of this variability, optimally tuned for the sample, yielded 86% success (90% specificity, 80% sensitivity) in classifying ASD in the sample. These results indicate that speech abnormalities in ASD are reflected in its spectral content and pitch variability. This variability could imply abnormal processing of auditory feedback or elevated noise and instability in the mechanisms that control pitch. The current results are a first step toward developing speech spectrum-based bio-markers for early diagnosis of ASD.
Although disturbed sleep is a prominent feature of schizophrenia, its relation to the pathophysiology, signs, and symptoms of schizophrenia remains poorly understood. Sleep disturbances are well known to impair cognition in healthy individuals. Yet, in spite of its ubiquity in schizophrenia, abnormal sleep has generally been overlooked as a potential contributor to cognitive deficits. Amelioration of cognitive deficits is a current priority of the schizophrenia research community, but most efforts to define, characterize, and quantify cognitive deficits focus on cross-sectional measures. While this approach provides a valid snapshot of function, there is now overwhelming evidence that critical aspects of learning and memory consolidation happen offline, both over time and with sleep. Initial memory encoding is followed by a prolonged period of consolidation, integration, and reorganization, that continues over days or even years. Much of this evolution of memories is mediated by sleep. This article briefly reviews (i) what is known about abnormal sleep in schizophrenia, (ii) sleep-dependent memory consolidation in healthy individuals, (iii) recent findings of impaired sleep-dependent memory consolidation in schizophrenia, and (iv) implications of impaired sleep-dependent memory consolidation in schizophrenia. This literature suggests that abnormal sleep in schizophrenia disrupts attention and impairs sleep-dependent memory consolidation and task automation. We conclude that these sleep-dependent impairments may contribute substantially to generalized cognitive deficits in schizophrenia. Understanding this contribution may open new avenues to ameliorating cognitive dysfunction and thereby improve outcome in schizophrenia.
It has been proposed that synchronous and convergent afferent input arising from repetitive motor tasks may play an important role in driving the maladaptive cortical plasticity seen in focal hand dystonia (FHD). This hypothesis receives support from several sources. First, it has been reported that in subjects with FHD, paired associative stimulation produces an abnormal increase in corticospinal excitability, which was not confined to stimulated muscles. These findings provide support for the role of excessive plasticity in FHD. Second, the genetic contribution to the dystonias is increasingly recognized indicating that repetitive, stereotyped afferent inputs may lead to late-onset dystonia, such as FHD, more rapidly in genetically susceptible individuals. It can be postulated, according to the two factor hypothesis that dystonia is triggered and maintained by the concurrence of environmental factors such as repetitive training and subtle abnormal mechanisms of plasticity within somatosensory loop. In the present review, we examine the contribution of sensory-motor integration in the pathophysiology of primary dystonia. In addition, we will discuss the role of non-invasive brain stimulation as therapeutic approach in FHD.
Schizophrenia is characterized by cortical circuit abnormalities, which might be reflected in gamma-frequency (30-100 Hz) oscillations in the electroencephalogram. Here we used a computational model of cortical circuitry to examine the effects that neural circuit abnormalities might have on gamma generation and network excitability. The model network consisted of 1000 leaky integrate-and-fire neurons with realistic connectivity patterns and proportions of neuron types [pyramidal cells (PCs), regular-spiking inhibitory interneurons, and fast-spiking interneurons (FSIs)]. The network produced a gamma oscillation when driven by noise input. We simulated reductions in: (1) recurrent excitatory inputs to PCs; (2) both excitatory and inhibitory inputs to PCs; (3) all possible connections between cells; (4) reduced inhibitory output from FSIs; and (5) reduced NMDA input to FSIs. Reducing all types of synaptic connectivity sharply reduced gamma power and phase synchrony. Network excitability was reduced when recurrent excitatory connections were deleted, but the network showed disinhibition effects when inhibitory connections were deleted. Reducing FSI output impaired gamma generation to a lesser degree than reducing synaptic connectivity, and increased network excitability. Reducing FSI NMDA input also increased network excitability, but increased gamma power. The results of this study suggest that a multimodal approach, combining non-invasive neurophysiological and structural measures, might be able to distinguish between different neural circuit abnormalities in schizophrenia patients. Computational modeling may help to bridge the gaps between post-mortem studies, animal models, and experimental data in humans, and facilitate the development of new therapies for schizophrenia and neuropsychiatric disorders in general.
Functional neuroimaging studies of pathological gambling (PG) demonstrate alterations in frontal and subcortical regions of the mesolimbic reward system. However, most investigations were performed using tasks involving reward processing or executive functions. Little is known about brain network abnormalities during task-free resting state in PG. In the present study, graph-theoretical methods were used to investigate network properties of resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging data in PG. We compared 19 patients with PG to 19 healthy controls (HCs) using the Graph Analysis Toolbox (GAT). None of the examined global metrics differed between groups. At the nodal level, pathological gambler showed a reduced clustering coefficient in the left paracingulate cortex and the left juxtapositional lobe (supplementary motor area, SMA), reduced local efficiency in the left SMA, as well as an increased node betweenness for the left and right paracingulate cortex and the left SMA. At an uncorrected threshold level, the node betweenness in the left inferior frontal gyrus was decreased and increased in the caudate. Additionally, increased functional connectivity between fronto-striatal regions and within frontal regions has also been found for the gambling patients. These findings suggest that regions associated with the reward system demonstrate reduced segregation but enhanced integration while regions associated with executive functions demonstrate reduced integration. The present study makes evident that PG is also associated with abnormalities in the topological network structure of the brain during rest. Since alterations in PG cannot be explained by direct effects of abused substances on the brain, these findings will be of relevance for understanding functional connectivity in other addictive disorders.
Background: Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are developmental conditions of uncertain etiology which have now affected more than 1% of the school-age population of children in many developed nations. Transcranial ultrasonography (TUS) via the temporal bone appeared to be a potential window of investigation to determine the presence of both cortical abnormalities and increased extra-axial fluid (EAF).
Methods: TUS was accomplished using a linear probe (10–5 MHz). Parents volunteered ASD subjects (N = 23; males 18, females 5) for evaluations (mean = 7.46 years ± 3.97 years), and 15 neurotypical siblings were also examined (mean = 7.15 years ± 4.49 years). Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS2®) scores were obtained and the ASD score mean was 48.08 + 6.79 (Severe).
Results: Comparisons of the extra-axial spaces indicated increases in the ASD subjects. For EAF we scored based on the gyral summit distances between the arachnoid membrane and the cortical pia layer (subarachnoid space): (1) <0.05 cm, (2) 0.05–0.07 cm, (3) 0.08–0.10 cm, (4) >0.10 cm. All of the neurotypical siblings scored 1, whereas the ASD mean score was 3.41 ± 0.67. We also defined cortical dysplasia as the following: hypoechoic lesions within the substance of the cortex, or disturbed layering within the gray matter. For cortical dysplasia we scored: (1) none observed, (2) rare hypoechogenic lesions and/or mildly atypical cortical layering patterns, (3) more common, but separated areas of cortical hypoechogenic lesions, (4) very common or confluent areas of cortical hypoechogenicity. Again all of the neurotypical siblings scored 1, while the ASD subjects’ mean score was 2.79 ± 0.93.
Conclusion: TUS may be a useful screening technique for children at potential risk of ASDs which, if confirmed with repeated studies and high resolution MRI, provides rapid, non-invasive qualification of EAF, and cortical lesions.
Background: Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is the term coined for the neurodegenerative disease often suspected in athletes with histories of repeated concussion and progressive dementia. Histologically, CTE is defined as a tauopathy with a distribution of tau-positive neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) that is distinct from other tauopathies, and usually shows an absence of beta-amyloid deposits, in contrast to Alzheimer's disease (AD). Although the connection between repeated concussions and CTE-type neurodegeneration has been recently proposed, this causal relationship has not yet been firmly established. Also, the prevalence of CTE among athletes with multiple concussions is unknown.
Methods: We performed a consecutive case series brain autopsy study on six retired professional football players from the Canadian Football League (CFL) with histories of multiple concussions and significant neurological decline.
Results: All participants had progressive neurocognitive decline prior to death; however, only 3 cases had post-mortem neuropathological findings consistent with CTE. The other 3 participants had pathological diagnoses of AD, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Parkinson's disease (PD). Moreover, the CTE cases showed co-morbid pathology of cancer, vascular disease, and AD.
Discussion: Our case studies highlight that not all athletes with history of repeated concussions and neurological symptomology present neuropathological changes of CTE. These preliminary findings support the need for further research into the link between concussion and CTE as well as the need to expand the research to other possible causes of taupathy in athletes. They point to a critical need for prospective studies with good sampling methods to allow us to understand the relationship between multiple concussions and the development of CTE.
To dissociate a choice from its antecedent neural states, motivation associated with the expected outcome must be captured in the absence of choice. Yet, the neural mechanisms that mediate behavioral idiosyncrasies in motivation, particularly with regard to complex economic preferences, are rarely examined in situations without overt decisions. We employed functional magnetic resonance imaging in a large sample of participants while they anticipated earning rewards from two different modalities: monetary and candy rewards. An index for relative motivation toward different reward types was constructed using reaction times to the target for earning rewards. Activation in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and anterior insula (aINS) predicted individual variation in relative motivation between our reward modalities. NAcc activation, however, mediated the effects of aINS, indicating the NAcc is the likely source of this relative weighting. These results demonstrate that neural idiosyncrasies in reward efficacy exist even in the absence of explicit choices, and extend the role of NAcc as a critical brain region for such choice-free motivation.
The cognitive and neural representation of abstract words is still an open question for theories of embodied cognition. Generally, it is proposed that abstract words are grounded in the activation of sensorimotor or at least experiential properties, exactly as concrete words. Further behavioral theories propose multiple representations evoked by abstract and concrete words. We conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study to investigate the neural correlates of concrete and abstract multi-word expressions in an action context. Participants were required to read simple sentences which combined each concrete noun with an adequate concrete verb and an adequate abstract verb, as well as an adequate abstract noun with either kind of verbs previously used. Thus, our experimental design included a continuum from pure concreteness to mere abstractness. As expected, comprehension of both concrete and abstract language content activated the core areas of the sensorimotor neural network namely the left lateral (precentral gyrus) and medial (supplementary motor area) premotor cortex. While the purely concrete multi-word expressions elicited activations within the left inferior frontal gyrus (pars triangularis) and two foci within the left inferior parietal cortex, the purely abstract multi-word expressions were represented in the anterior part of left middle temporal gyrus that is part of the language processing system. Although the sensorimotor neural network is engaged in both concrete and abstract language contents, the present findings show that concrete multi-word processing relies more on the sensorimotor system, and abstract multi-word processing relies more on the linguistic system.
The role of the motor system in the perception of visual art remains to be better understood. Earlier studies on the visual perception of abstract art (from Gestalt theory, as in Arnheim, 1954 and 1988, to balance preference studies as in Locher and Stappers, 2002, and more recent work by Locher et al., 2007; Redies, 2007, and Taylor et al., 2011), neglected the question, while the field of neuroesthetics (Ramachandran and Hirstein, 1999; Zeki, 1999) mostly concentrated on figurative works. Much recent work has demonstrated the multimodality of vision, encompassing the activation of motor, somatosensory, and viscero-motor brain regions. The present study investigated whether the observation of high-resolution digitized static images of abstract paintings by Lucio Fontana is associated with specific cortical motor activation in the beholder's brain. Mu rhythm suppression was evoked by the observation of original art works but not by control stimuli (as in the case of graphically modified versions of these works). Most interestingly, previous visual exposure to the stimuli did not affect the mu rhythm suppression induced by their observation. The present results clearly show the involvement of the cortical motor system in the viewing of static abstract art works.
A fundamental question of cognitive neuroscience concerns the role of sensory and motor information in representing the conceptual knowledge in the brain. Indeed, the extent to which conceptual representations are held to be grounded in sensory and motor systems has yielded different hypotheses as to how conceptual knowledge is organized. On the one hand, the embodied hypothesis promotes the idea that conceptual representations are modality-dependent and built from sensory and motor experiences, that is by re-enacting sensorimotor memories acquired through experience (Barsalou, 1999; Pulvermuller et al., 1999; Barsalou et al., 2003; Gallese and Lakoff, 2005). Thus, recognizing objects, actions and words is accomplished by re-enacting sensorimotor memories that have been previously acquired (this is also called motor simulation). On the opposite extreme, the disembodied hypothesis holds that conceptual representations are abstract (symbolic) and modality-independent (amodal), separated from sensorimotor information, e.g., (Fodor, 1983; Caramazza et al., 1990; Tyler and Moss, 2001). To reconcile these two extreme views, the grounding by interaction hypothesis proposes that what we know about words, for instance, is meant to benefit from the contribution of both abstract content and sensory and motor systems (Mahon and Caramazza, 2008; Bedny and Caramazza, 2011).
In this study, we combined the behavioral and objective approach in the field of empirical aesthetics. First, we studied the perception of beauty by investigating shifts in evaluation on perceived beauty of abstract artworks (Experiment 1). Because the participants showed heterogeneous individual preferences for the paintings, we divided them into seven clusters for the test. The experiment revealed a clear pattern of perceptual contrast. The perceived beauty of abstract paintings increased after exposure to paintings that were rated as less beautiful, and it decreased after exposure to paintings that were rated as more beautiful. Next, we searched for correlations of beauty ratings and perceptual contrast with statistical properties of abstract artworks (Experiment 2). The participants showed significant preferences for particular image properties. These preferences differed between the clusters of participants. Strikingly, next to color measures like hue, saturation, value and lightness, the recently described Pyramid of Histograms of Orientation Gradients (PHOG) self-similarity value seems to be a predictor for aesthetic appreciation of abstract artworks. We speculate that the shift in evaluation in Experiment 1 was, at least in part, based on low-level adaptation to some of the statistical image properties analyzed in Experiment 2. In conclusion, our findings demonstrate that the perception of beauty in abstract artworks is altered after exposure to beautiful or non-beautiful images and correlates with particular image properties, especially color measures and self-similarity.
Current grounding theories propose that sensory-motor brain systems are not only modulated by the comprehension of concrete but also partly of abstract language. In order to investigate whether concrete or abstract language elicits similar or distinct brain activity, neuronal synchronization patterns were investigated by means of long-range EEG coherence analysis. Participants performed a semantic judgment task with concrete and abstract sentences. EEG coherence between distant electrodes was analyzed in various frequencies before and during sentence processing using a bivariate AR-model with time-varying parameters. The theta frequency band (3-7 Hz) reflected common and different synchronization networks related to working memory processes and memory-related lexico-semantic retrieval during processing of both sentence types. In contrast, the beta1 band (13-18 Hz) showed prominent differences between both sentence types, whereby concrete sentences were associated with higher coherence implicating a more widespread range and intensity of mental simulation processes. The gamma band (35-40 Hz) reflected the sentences' congruency and indicated the more difficult integration of incongruent final nouns into the sentence context. Most importantly, findings support the notion that different cognitive operations during sentence processing are associated with multiple brain oscillations.
Music perception builds on expectancy in harmony, melody, and rhythm. Neural responses to the violations of such expectations are observed in event-related potentials (ERPs) measured using electroencephalography. Most previous ERP studies demonstrating sensitivity to musical violations used stimuli that were temporally regular and musically structured, with less-frequent deviant events that differed from a specific expectation in some feature such as pitch, harmony, or rhythm. Here, we asked whether expectancies about Western musical scale are strong enough to elicit ERP deviance components. Specifically, we explored whether pitches inconsistent with an established scale context elicit deviant components even though equally rare pitches that fit into the established context do not, and even when their timing is unpredictable. We used Markov chains to create temporally irregular pseudo-random sequences of notes chosen from one of two diatonic scales. The Markov pitch-transition probabilities resulted in sequences that favored notes within the scale, but that lacked clear melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic structure. At the random positions, the sequence contained probe tones that were either within the established scale or were out of key. Our subjects ignored the note sequences, watching a self-selected silent movie with subtitles. Compared to the in-key probes, the out-of-key probes elicited a significantly larger P2 ERP component. Results show that random note sequences establish expectations of the "first-order" statistical property of musical key, even in listeners not actively monitoring the sequences.
Two views on the semantics of concrete words are that their core mental representations are feature-based or are reconstructions of sensory experience. We argue that neither of these approaches is capable of representing the semantics of abstract words, which involve the representation of possibly hypothetical physical and mental states, the binding of entities within a structure, and the possible use of embedding (or recursion) in such structures. Brain based evidence in the form of dissociations between deficits related to concrete and abstract semantics corroborates the hypothesis. Neuroimaging evidence suggests that left lateral inferior frontal cortex supports those processes responsible for the representation of abstract words.
The realm of numbers constitutes just one of many fields of mathematical cognition, but arguably a pivotal one. It is also among those core domains of knowledge that—while being prepared for unfolding in the human species (Feigenson et al., 2004; Hyde, 2011)—nonetheless requires cultural mediation to unfold to its full potential: Not only is the availability of a conventionalized counting sequence essential for accurate counting and calculating (Gordon, 2004; Pica et al., 2004; Frank et al., 2008; Spaepen et al., 2011), acquiring a counting sequence in the first place is also crucial in more fundamental ways: for grasping the concept of precise quantities, for comprehending the ordinal and cardinal nature of numbers, or for learning the algorithms of basic arithmetics that then pave the way for higher levels of mathematics.
Learning to count also promotes acquaintance with some of the more general principles that characterize mathematics such as abstractness. In fact, one of the first principles to be learned in this process is that numbers are abstract—all kinds of entities can be counted with the same number words (Gelman and Gallistel, 1978; but see also Cohen Kadosh and Walsh, 2009). But not all counting sequences seem to reflect this principle. A substantial number of Oceanic languages, for instance, have counting sequences whose usage is restricted to specific objects, while other objects are counted otherwise (Bender and Beller, 2006a,b).
This pattern of counting different things differently seems to directly contradict the abstractness principle and has thus been taken as an earlier stage in the evolution of numerical thinking (e.g., Klix, 1993). While the latter assumption was refuted elsewhere (Beller and Bender, 2008), the question remains open of how (if at all) such apparently non-abstract counting sequences may foster abstract numerical cognition. Here, we defend the position that the Oceanic counting sequences are not only compatible with an abstract understanding of numbers, but may even promote such an understanding. To this end, we propose to conceive of these sequences as the verbal components of the mathematical code, which provide the symbols that people use to represent and manipulate abstract mathematical concepts. Analyzing how the specific properties of these symbol systems affect the processing of numerical information will help us to understand better how abstract mathematical thinking emerges.
How does expertise influence the perception of representational and abstract paintings? We asked 20 experts on art history and 20 laypersons to explore and evaluate a series of paintings ranging in style from representational to abstract in five categories. We compared subjective esthetic judgments and emotional evaluations, gaze patterns, and electrodermal reactivity between the two groups of participants. The level of abstraction affected esthetic judgments and emotional valence ratings of the laypersons but had no effect on the opinions of the experts: the laypersons' esthetic and emotional ratings were highest for representational paintings and lowest for abstract paintings, whereas the opinions of the experts were independent of the abstraction level. The gaze patterns of both groups changed as the level of abstraction increased: the number of fixations and the length of the scanpaths increased while the duration of the fixations decreased. The viewing strategies - reflected in the target, location, and path of the fixations - however indicated that experts and laypersons paid attention to different aspects of the paintings. The electrodermal reactivity did not vary according to the level of abstraction in either group but expertise was reflected in weaker responses, compared with laypersons, to information received about the paintings.
Childhood maltreatment is a severe stressor that can lead to the development of behaviour problems and affect brain structure and function. This review summarizes the current evidence for the effects of early childhood maltreatment on behavior, cognition and the brain in adults and children. Neuropsychological studies suggest an association between child abuse and deficits in IQ, memory, executive function and emotion discrimination. Structural neuroimaging studies provide evidence for deficits in brain volume, grey and white matter of several regions, most prominently the dorsolateral and ventromedial prefrontal cortex but also hippocampus, amygdala, and corpus callosum. Diffusion tensor imaging studies show evidence for deficits in structural interregional connectivity between these areas, suggesting neural network abnormalities. Functional imaging studies support this evidence by reporting atypical activation in the same brain regions during executive function and emotion processing. There are, however, several limitations of the abuse research literature which are discussed, most prominently the lack of control for co-morbid psychiatric disorders, which make it difficult to disentangle which of the above effects are due to maltreatment, the associated psychiatric conditions or a combination or interaction between both. Overall, the better controlled studies that show a direct correlation between childhood abuse and brain measures suggest that the most prominent deficits associated with early childhood abuse are in the function and structure of lateral and ventromedial fronto-limbic brain areas and networks that mediate behavioural and affect control. Future, large scale multimodal neuroimaging studies in medication-naïve subjects, however, are needed that control for psychiatric co-morbidities in order to elucidate the structural and functional brain sequelae that are associated with early environmental adversity, independently of secondary co-morbid conditions.
Breakfast consumption is associated with positive outcomes for diet quality, micronutrient intake, weight status and lifestyle factors. Breakfast has been suggested to positively affect learning in children in terms of behavior, cognitive, and school performance. However, these assertions are largely based on evidence which demonstrates acute effects of breakfast on cognitive performance. Less research which examines the effects of breakfast on the ecologically valid outcomes of academic performance or in-class behavior is available. The literature was searched for articles published between 1950-2013 indexed in Ovid MEDLINE, Pubmed, Web of Science, the Cochrane Library, EMBASE databases, and PsychINFO. Thirty-six articles examining the effects of breakfast on in-class behavior and academic performance in children and adolescents were included. The effects of breakfast in different populations were considered, including undernourished or well-nourished children and adolescents from differing socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds. The habitual and acute effects of breakfast and the effects of school breakfast programs (SBPs) were considered. The evidence indicated a mainly positive effect of breakfast on on-task behavior in the classroom. There was suggestive evidence that habitual breakfast (frequency and quality) and SBPs have a positive effect on children's academic performance with clearest effects on mathematic and arithmetic grades in undernourished children. Increased frequency of habitual breakfast was consistently positively associated with academic performance. Some evidence suggested that quality of habitual breakfast, in terms of providing a greater variety of food groups and adequate energy, was positively related to school performance. However, these associations can be attributed, in part, to confounders such as SES and to methodological weaknesses such as the subjective nature of the observations of behavior in class.
Recent theories on how listeners maintain perceptual invariance despite variation in the speech signal allocate a prominent role to imitation mechanisms. Notably, these simulation accounts propose that motor mechanisms support perception of ambiguous or noisy signals. Indeed, imitation of ambiguous signals, e.g., accented speech, has been found to aid effective speech comprehension. Here, we explored the possibility that imitation in speech benefits perception by increasing activation in speech perception and production areas. Participants rated the intelligibility of sentences spoken in an unfamiliar accent of Dutch in a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging experiment. Next, participants in one group repeated the sentences in their own accent, while a second group vocally imitated the accent. Finally, both groups rated the intelligibility of accented sentences in a post-test. The neuroimaging results showed an interaction between type of training and pre- and post-test sessions in left Inferior Frontal Gyrus, Supplementary Motor Area, and left Superior Temporal Sulcus. Although alternative explanations such as task engagement and fatigue need to be considered as well, the results suggest that imitation may aid effective speech comprehension by supporting sensorimotor integration.
Foreign-accented speech often presents a challenging listening condition. In addition to deviations from the target speech norms related to the inexperience of the nonnative speaker, listener characteristics may play a role in determining intelligibility levels. We have previously shown that an implicit visual bias for associating East Asian faces and foreignness predicts the listeners' perceptual ability to process Korean-accented English audiovisual speech (Yi et al., 2013). Here, we examine the neural mechanism underlying the influence of listener bias to foreign faces on speech perception. In a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, native English speakers listened to native- and Korean-accented English sentences, with or without faces. The participants' Asian-foreign association was measured using an implicit association test (IAT), conducted outside the scanner. We found that foreign-accented speech evoked greater activity in the bilateral primary auditory cortices and the inferior frontal gyri, potentially reflecting greater computational demand. Higher IAT scores, indicating greater bias, were associated with increased BOLD response to foreign-accented speech with faces in the primary auditory cortex, the early node for spectrotemporal analysis. We conclude the following: (1) foreign-accented speech perception places greater demand on the neural systems underlying speech perception; (2) face of the talker can exaggerate the perceived foreignness of foreign-accented speech; (3) implicit Asian-foreign association is associated with decreased neural efficiency in early spectrotemporal processing.
The lexical representation of complex words in Indo-European languages is generally assumed to depend on semantic compositionality. This study investigated whether semantically compositional and noncompositional derivations are accessed via their constituent units or as whole words. In an overt visual priming experiment (300 ms stimulus onset asynchrony, SOA), event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded for verbs (e.g., ziehen, "pull") that were preceded by purely semantically related verbs (e.g., zerren, "drag"), by morphologically related and semantically compositional verbs (e.g., zuziehen, "pull together"), by morphologically related and semantically noncompositional verbs (e.g., erziehen, "educate"), by orthographically similar verbs (e.g., zielen, "aim"), or by unrelated verbs (e.g., tarnen, "mask"). Compared to the unrelated condition, which evoked an N400 effect with the largest amplitude at centro-parietal recording sites, the N400 was reduced in all other conditions. The rank order of N400 amplitudes turned out as follows: morphologically related and semantically compositional ≈ morphologically related and semantically noncompositional < purely semantically related < orthographically similar < unrelated. Surprisingly, morphologically related primes produced similar N400 modulations-irrespective of their semantic compositionality. The control conditions with orthographic similarity confirmed that these morphological effects were not the result of a simple form overlap between primes and targets. Our findings suggest that the lexical representation of German complex verbs refers to their base form, regardless of meaning compositionality. Theories of the lexical representation of German words need to incorporate this aspect of language processing in German.
Because memory retrieval often requires overt responses, it is difficult to determine to what extend forgetting occurs as a problem in explicit accessing of long-term memory traces. In this study, we used eye-tracking measures in combination with a behavioral task that favored high forgetting rates to investigate the existence of memory traces from long-term memory in spite of failure in accessing them consciously. In two experiments, participants were encouraged to encode a large set of sound-picture-location associations. In a later test, sounds were presented and participants were instructed to visually scan, before a verbal memory report, for the correct location of the associated pictures in an empty screen. We found the reactivation of associated memories by sound cues at test biased oculomotor behavior towards locations congruent with memory representations, even when participants failed to consciously provide a memory report of it. These findings reveal the emergence of a memory-guided behavior that can be used to map internal representations of forgotten memories from long-term memory.
In adulthood, the isocortex of several species is characterized by a gradient in neurons per unit of cortical surface area with fewer neurons per unit of cortical surface area in the rostral pole relative to the caudal pole. A gradient in neurogenesis timing predicts differences in neurons across the isocortex: neurons per unit of cortical surface area are fewer rostrally, where neurogenesis duration is short, and higher caudally where neurogenesis duration is longer. How species differences in neurogenesis duration impact cortical progenitor cells across its axis is not known. I estimated progenitor cells per unit of ventricular area across the rostro-caudal axis of the isocortex in cats (Felis catus) and in dogs (Canis familiaris) mostly before layers VI-II neurons are generated. I also estimated the ventricular length across the rostro-caudal axis at various stages of development in both species. These two species were chosen because neurogenesis duration in dogs is extended compared with cats. Caudally, cortical progenitors expand more tangentially and in numbers in dogs compared with cats. Rostrally, the cortical proliferative zone expands more tangentially in dogs compared with cats. However, the tangential expansion in the rostral cortical proliferative zone occurs without a concomitant increase in progenitor cell numbers. The tangential expansion of the ventricular surface in the rostral cortex is mediated by a reduction in cell density. These different developmental growth patterns account for the disproportionate expansion of the rostral (i.e., frontal cortex) and caudal cortex (e.g., primary visual cortex) when neurogenesis duration lengthens in evolution.