Laura Astolfi

Sapienza University of Rome, Roma, Latium, Italy

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Publications (185)263.95 Total impact

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    Full-text · Dataset · Jan 2016
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    ABSTRACT: Visual stimuli quickly activate a broad network of brain areas that often show reciprocal structural connections between them. Activity at short latencies (<100 ms) is thought to represent a feed-forward activation of widespread cortical areas, but fast activation combined with reciprocal connectivity between areas in principle allows for two-way, recurrent interactions to occur at short latencies after stimulus onset. Here we combined EEG source-imaging and Granger-causal modeling with high temporal resolution to investigate whether recurrent and top-down interactions between visual and attentional brain areas can be identified and distinguished at short latencies in humans. We investigated the directed interactions between widespread occipital, parietal and frontal areas that we localized within participants using fMRI. The connectivity results showed two-way interactions between area MT and V1 already at short latencies. In addition, the results suggested a large role for lateral parietal cortex in coordinating visual activity that may be understood as an ongoing top-down allocation of attentional resources. Our results support the notion that indirect pathways allow early, evoked driving from MT to V1 to highlight spatial locations of motion transients, while influence from parietal areas is continuously exerted around stimulus onset, presumably reflecting task-related attentional processes.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · Scientific Reports
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    ABSTRACT: In science and engineering mathematical modeling serves as a tool for the understanding of processes and systems and as a testing bed for several hypotheses, e.g., concerning the testing (prediction) of functional limits by simulations. A brief overview of current modeling strategies in brain research is given, spatial scales ranging from single neuron to large scale activity of and between brain regions are considered. The models are mainly time-invariant. Three time-variant modeling strategies, which enable a model-based signal analysis, are described and applied to large scale signals. The first is derived from adaptive filter theory and covers linear system and linear as well as nonlinear process models. The second is based on modeled brain source signals, i.e., the inverse problem must be solved. The third strategy consists of a generalization of Dynamic Causal Modeling (DCM); DCM is frequently used for analysis of directed interactions between brain structures. Examples are derived from neonatal electroencephalography (EEG) monitoring of preterm and fullterm newborns. A further example is based on high-density recordings of event-related potentials (ERPs) and shows the combination of a time-variant ERP-based source model, as a part of a realistic head model, with a multivariate process model to analyze the time evolution of interactions between source processes before and during the execution of a complex motoric task. In two other examples hemodynamic signals (functional magnetic resonance imaging—fMRI) are utilized for analysis of interactions between brain regions, where nonlinear, multivariate models are used.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2015 · Proceedings of the IEEE
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    ABSTRACT: An episode of complete failure to respond during an attentive task accompanied by behavioural signs of sleep is called a behavioural microsleep. We proposed a combination of high-resolution EEG and an advanced method for time-varying effective connectivity estimation for reconstructing the temporal evolution of the causal relations between cortical regions when microsleeps occur during a continuous visuomotor task. We found connectivity patterns involving left-right frontal, left-right parietal, and left-frontal/right-parietal connections commencing in the interval [-500;-250] ms prior to the onset of microsleeps and disappearing at the end of the microsleeps. Our results from global graph indices derived from effective connectivity analysis have revealed EEG-based biomarkers of all stages of microsleeps (preceding, onset, pre-recovery, recovery). In particular, this raises the possibility of being able to predict microsleeps in real-world tasks and initiate a 'wake-up' intervention to avert the microsleeps and, hence, prevent injurious and even multi-fatality accidents.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · NeuroImage
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    ABSTRACT: Objective Motor imagery (MI) is assumed to enhance poststroke motor recovery; yet, its benefits are debatable. Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) can provide instantaneous and quantitative measure of cerebral functions modulated by MI. The efficacy of BCI-monitored MI practice as add-on intervention to usual rehabilitation care was evaluated in a randomized controlled pilot study in subacute stroke patients.Methods Twenty-eight hospitalized subacute stroke patients with severe motor deficits were randomized into 2 intervention groups: 1-month BCI-supported MI training (BCI group; n=14), and 1-month MI training without BCI support (CTRL group; n=14). Functional and neurophysiological assessments were performed before and after the interventions, including evaluation of the upper limbs by Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA; primary outcome measure) and analysis of oscillatory activity and connectivity at rest, based on high-density EEG recordings.ResultsBetter functional outcome was observed in the BCI group, including a significantly higher probability of achieving a clinically relevant increase in the FMA score (p <.03). Post-BCI training changes in EEG sensorimotor power spectra (ie, stronger desynchronization in the alpha and beta bands) occurred with greater involvement of the ipsilesional hemisphere, in response to MI of the paralyzed trained hand. Also, FMA improvements (effectiveness of FMA) correlated with the changes (ie, post-training increase) at rest in ipsilesional intrahemispheric connectivity in the same bands (p <.05).InterpretationThe introduction of BCI technology in assisting MI practice demonstrates the rehabilitative potential of MI, contributing to significantly better motor functional outcomes in subacute stroke patients with severe motor impairments. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2015 · Annals of Neurology
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    ABSTRACT: The present research investigates the neurophysiological activity elicited by fast observations of faces of real candidates during simulated political elections. We used simultaneous recording of electroencephalographic (EEG) signals as well as galvanic skin response (GSR) and heart rate (HR) as measurements of central and autonomic nervous systems. Twenty healthy subjects were asked to give judgments on dominance, trustworthiness, and a preference of vote related to the politicians' faces. We used high-resolution EEG techniques to map statistical differences of power spectral density (PSD) cortical activity onto a realistic head model as well as partial directed coherence (PDC) and graph theory metrics to estimate the functional connectivity networks and investigate the role of cortical regions of interest (ROIs). Behavioral results revealed that judgment of dominance trait is the most predictive of the outcome of the simulated elections. Statistical comparisons related to PSD and PDC values highlighted an asymmetry in the activation of frontal cortical areas associated with the valence of the judged trait as well as to the probability to cast the vote. Overall, our results highlight the existence of cortical EEG features which are correlated with the prediction of vote and with the judgment of trustworthy and dominant faces.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · Computational and Mathematical Methods in Medicine
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    ABSTRACT: In BCI applications for stroke rehabilitation, BCI systems are used with the aim of providing patients with an instrument that is capable of monitoring and reinforcing EEG patterns generated by motor imagery (MI). In this study we proposed an offline analysis on data acquired from stroke patients subjected to a BCI-assisted MI training in order to define an index for the evaluation of MI-BCI training session which is independent from the settings adopted for the online control and which is able to describe the properties of neuroelectrical activations across sessions. Results suggest that such index can be adopted to sort the trails within a session according to the adherence to the task.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2014
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    ABSTRACT: One of the main limitations commonly encountered when dealing with the estimation of brain connectivity is the difficulty to perform a statistical assessment of significant changes in brain networks at a single-subject level. This is mainly due to the lack of information about the distribution of the connectivity estimators at different conditions. While group analysis is commonly adopted to perform a statistical comparison between conditions, it may impose major limitations when dealing with the heterogeneity expressed by a given clinical condition in patients. This holds true particularly for stroke when seeking for quantitative measurements of the efficacy of any rehabilitative intervention promoting recovery of function. The need is then evident of an assessment which may account for individual pathological network configuration associated with different level of patients' response to treatment; such network configuration is highly related to the effect that a given brain lesion has on neural networks. In this study we propose a resampling-based approach to the assessment of statistically significant changes in cortical connectivity networks at a single subject level. First, we provide the results of a simulation study testing the performances of the proposed approach under different conditions. Then, to show the sensitivity of the method, we describe its application to electroencephalographic (EEG) data recorded from two post-stroke patients who showed different clinical recovery after a rehabilitative intervention.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2014
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    ABSTRACT: The aim of the present study is to investigate the neurophysiological basis of the cognitive functions underlying the execution of joint actions, by means of the recent technique called hyperscanning. Neuroelectrical hyperscanning is based on the simultaneous recording of brain activity from multiple subjects and includes the analysis of the functional relation between the brain activity of all the interacting individuals. We recorded simultaneous high density electroencephalography (hdEEG) from 16 pairs of subjects involved in a computerized joint action paradigm, with controlled levels of cooperation. Results of cortical connectivity analysis returned significant differences, in terms of inter-brain functional causal links, between the condition of cooperative joint action and a condition in which the subjects were told they were interacting with a PC, while actually interacting with another human subject. Such differences, described by selected brain connectivity indices, point toward an integration between the two subjects' brain activity in the cooperative condition, with respect to control conditions.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2014
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    ABSTRACT: In clinical practice, cognitive impairment is often observed after stroke. The efficacy of rehabilitative interventions is routinely assessed by means of a neuropsychological test battery. Nowadays, more evidences indicate that the neuroplasticity which occurs after stroke can be better understood by investigating changes in brain networks. In this study we applied advanced methodologies for effective connectivity estimation in combination with graph theory approach, to define EEG derived descriptors of brain networks underlying memory tasks. In particular, we proposed such descriptors to identify substrates of efficacy of a Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) controlled neurofeedback intervention to improve cognitive function after stroke. Electroencephalographic (EEG) data were collected from two stroke patients before and after a neurofeedback-based training for memory deficits. We show that the estimated brain connectivity indices were sensitive to different training intervention outcomes, thus suggesting an effective support to the neuropsychological assessment in the evaluation of the changes induced by the BCI-based cognitive rehabilitative intervention.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2014
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    ABSTRACT: Cortical processing of sensory stimuli typically recruits multiple areas, but how each area dynamically incorporates activity from other areas is not well understood. We investigated interactions between cortical columns of bilateral primary sensory regions (S1s) in rats by recording local field potentials and multi-unit activity simultaneously in both S1s with electrodes positioned at each cortical layer. Using dynamic connectivity analysis based on Granger-causal modeling, we found that, shortly after whisker stimulation (< 10 ms), contralateral S1 (cS1) already relays activity to granular and infragranular layers of S1 in the other hemisphere, after which cS1 shows a pattern of within-column interactions that directs activity upwards toward superficial layers. This pattern of predominant upward driving was also observed in S1 ipsilateral to stimulation, but at longer latencies. In addition, we found that interactions between the two S1s most strongly target granular and infragranular layers. Taken together, the results suggest a possible mechanism for how cortical columns integrate local and large-scale neocortical computation by relaying information from deeper layers to local processing in superficial layers.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · European Journal of Neuroscience
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    ABSTRACT: Methods based on the multivariate autoregressive (MVAR) approach are commonly used for effective connectivity estimation as they allow to include all available sources into a unique model. To ensure high levels of accuracy for high model dimensions, all the observations are used to provide a unique estimation of the model, and thus of the network and its properties. The unavailability of a distribution of connectivity values for a single experimental condition prevents to perform statistical comparisons between different conditions at a single subject level. This is a major limitation, especially when dealing with the heterogeneity of clinical conditions presented by patients. In the present paper we proposed a novel approach to the construction of a distribution of connectivity in a single subject case. The proposed approach is based on small perturbations of the networks properties and allows to assess significant changes in brain connectivity indexes derived from graph theory. Its feasibility and applicability were investigated by means of a simulation study and an application to real EEG data.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2014

  • No preview · Article · Jun 2014 · Clinical Neurophysiology
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: It is well known that to acquire sensorimotor (SMR)-based brain-computer interface (BCI) control requires a training period before users can achieve their best possible performances. Nevertheless, the effect of this training procedure on the cortical activity related to the mental imagery ability still requires investigation to be fully elucidated. The aim of this study was to gain insights into the effects of SMR-based BCI training on the cortical spectral activity associated with the performance of different mental imagery tasks. Approach: Linear cortical estimation and statistical brain mapping techniques were applied on high-density EEG data acquired from 18 healthy participants performing three different mental imagery tasks. Subjects were divided in two groups, one of BCI trained subjects, according to their previous exposure (at least six months before this study) to motor imagery-based BCI training, and one of subjects who were naive to any BCI paradigms. Main results: Cortical activation maps obtained for trained and naive subjects indicated different spectral and spatial activity patterns in response to the mental imagery tasks. Long-term effects of the previous SMR-based BCI training were observed on the motor cortical spectral activity specific to the BCI trained motor imagery task (simple hand movements) and partially generalized to more complex motor imagery task (playing tennis). Differently, mental imagery with spatial attention and memory content could elicit recognizable cortical spectral activity even in subjects completely naive to (BCI) training. Significance: The present findings contribute to our understanding of BCI technology usage and might be of relevance in those clinical conditions when training to master a BCI application is challenging or even not possible.
    No preview · Article · May 2014 · Journal of Neural Engineering
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    ABSTRACT: Time-varying connectivity methods are increasingly used to study directed interactions between brain regions from electrophysiological signals. These methods often show good results in simulated data but it is unclear to what extent connectivity results obtained from real data are physiologically plausible. Here we introduce a benchmark approach using multichannel somatosensory evoked potentials (SEP) measured across rat cortex, where the structural and functional connectivity is relatively simple and well-understood. Rat SEPs to whisker stimulation are exclusively initiated by contralateral primary sensory cortex (S1), at known latencies, and with activity spread from S1 to specific cortical regions. This allows for a comparison of time-varying connectivity measures according to fixed criteria. We thus evaluated the performance of time-varying Partial Directed Coherence (PDC) and the Directed Transfer Function (DTF), comparing row- and column-wise normalization and the effect of weighting by the power spectral density (PSD). The benchmark approach revealed clear differences between methods in terms of physiological plausibility, effect size and temporal resolution. The results provide a validation of time-varying directed connectivity methods in an animal model and suggest a driving role for ipsilateral S1 in the later part of the SEP. The benchmark SEP dataset is made freely available.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2014 · NeuroImage
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    ABSTRACT: This chapter describes the methodological advancements developed during the last 20 years in the field of effective connectivity based on Granger causality and linear autoregressive modeling. At first we introduce the concept of Granger causality and its application to the connectivity field. Then, a detailed description of both stationary and time-varying versions of Partial Directed Coherence (PDC) estimator for effective connectivity will be given. The General Linear Kalman Filter (GLKF) approach is described an algorithm, recently introduced for estimating the temporal evolution of the parameters of adaptive multivariate model, able to overcome the limits of existing time-varying approaches. Then a detailed description of the graph theory approach and of possible indexes which could be defined is given. At the end, the potentiality of the described methodologies is demonstrated in an application aiming at investigating the neurophysiological basis of motor imagery processes.
    No preview · Chapter · Jan 2014
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    ABSTRACT: Disorders of Consciousness (DOC) like Vegetative State (VS) and Minimally Conscious State (MCS) are clinical conditions characterized by the absence or intermittent behavioural responsiveness. A neurophysiological monitoring of parameters like Event-Related Potentials (ERPs) could be a first step to follow-up the clinical evolution of these patients during their rehabilitation phase. Eleven patients diagnosed as VS (n= 8) and MCS (n= 3) by means of the JFK Coma Recovery Scale Revised (CRS-R) underwent scalp EEG recordings during the delivery of a 3-stimuli auditory oddball paradigm, which included standard, deviant tones and the subject own name (SON) presented as a novel stimulus, administered under passive and active conditions. Four patients who showed a change in their clinical status as detected by means of the CRS-R (i.e moved from VS to MCS), were subjected to a second EEG recording session. All patients, but one (anoxic etiology), showed ERP components such as mismatch negativity (MMN) and novelty P300 (nP3) under passive condition. When patients were asked to count the novel stimuli (active condition), the nP3 component displayed a significant increase in amplitude (p = .009) and a wider topographical distribution with respect to the passive listening, only in MCS. In 2 out of the 4 patients who underwent a second recording session consistently with their transition from VS to MCS, the nP3 component elicited by passive listening of SON stimuli revealed a significant amplitude increment (p
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2013 · Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
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    Full-text · Conference Paper · Sep 2013
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    Full-text · Conference Paper · Sep 2013
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    ABSTRACT: For the past decade, the detection and quantification of interactions within and between physiological networks has become a priority-in-common between the fields of biomedicine and computer science. Prominent examples are the interaction analysis of brain networks and of the cardiovascular-respiratory system. The aim of the study is to show how and to what extent results from time-variant partial directed coherence analysis are influenced by some basic estimator and data parameters. The impacts of the Kalman filter settings, the order of the autoregressive (AR) model, signal-to-noise ratios, filter procedures and volume conduction were investigated. These systematic investigations are based on data derived from simulated connectivity networks and were performed using a Kalman filter approach for the estimation of the time-variant multivariate AR model. Additionally, the influence of electrooculogram artefact rejection on the significance and dynamics of interactions in 29 channel electroencephalography recordings, derived from a photic driving experiment, is demonstrated. For artefact rejection, independent component analysis was used. The study provides rules to correctly apply particular methods that will aid users to achieve more reliable interpretations of the results.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2013 · Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society A Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences

Publication Stats

2k Citations
263.95 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2004-2015
    • Sapienza University of Rome
      • • Department of Computer Science
      • • Department of Physiology and Pharmacology "Vittorio Erspamer"
      Roma, Latium, Italy
    • Foundation Santa Lucia
      • Laboratory of Experimental Neurorehabilitation
      Roma, Latium, Italy
  • 2009
    • The American University of Rome
      Roma, Latium, Italy