The D'Esposito Lab is a cognitive neuroscience research laboratory within the
Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute
and the Department of Psychology.

Recent Publications

Riddle, J, Hwang K, Cellier D, Dhanani S, D'Esposito M.  2019.  Causal Evidence for the Role of Neuronal Oscillations in Top-Down and Bottom-Up Attention., 2019 Feb 06. Journal of cognitive neuroscience. :1-12. Abstract

Beta and gamma frequency neuronal oscillations have been implicated in top-down and bottom-up attention. In this study, we used rhythmic TMS to modulate ongoing beta and gamma frequency neuronal oscillations in frontal and parietal cortex, while human participants performed a visual search task that manipulates bottom-up and top-down attention (single feature and conjunction search). Both task conditions will engage bottom-up attention processes, whereas the conjunction search condition will require more top-down attention. Gamma frequency TMS to superior precentral sulcus (sPCS) slowed saccadic RTs during both task conditions and induced a response bias to the contralateral visual field. In contrary, beta frequency TMS to sPCS and intraparietal sulcus decreased search accuracy only during the conjunction search condition that engaged more top-down attention. Furthermore, beta frequency TMS increased trial errors specifically when the target was in the ipsilateral visual field for the conjunction search condition. These results indicate that beta frequency TMS to sPCS and intraparietal sulcus disrupted top-down attention, whereas gamma frequency TMS to sPCS disrupted bottom-up, stimulus-driven attention processes. These findings provide causal evidence suggesting that beta and gamma oscillations have distinct functional roles for cognition.

Berry, AS, White RL, Furman DJ, Naskolnakorn JR, Shah VD, D'Esposito M, Jagust WJ.  2019.  Dopaminergic mechanisms underlying normal variation in trait anxiety., 2019 Feb 08. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. Abstract

Trait anxiety has been associated with altered activity within corticolimbic pathways connecting the amygdala and rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC), which receive rich dopaminergic input. Though the popular culture uses the term "chemical imbalance" to describe the pathophysiology of psychiatric conditions such as anxiety disorders, we know little about how individual differences in human dopamine neurochemistry are related to variation in anxiety and activity within corticolimbic circuits. We addressed this issue by examining inter-individual variability in dopamine release at rest using [C]raclopride positron emission tomography (PET), functional connectivity between amygdala and rACC using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and trait anxiety measures in healthy adult male and female humans. To measure endogenous dopamine release, we collected two [C]raclopride PET scans per participant. We contrasted baseline [C]raclopride D2/3 receptor binding and D2/3 receptor binding following oral methylphenidate administration. Methylphenidate blocks the dopamine transporter, which increases extracellular dopamine and leads to reduced [C]raclopride D2/3 receptor binding via competitive displacement. We found that individuals with higher dopamine release in the amygdala and rACC self-reported lower trait anxiety. Lower trait anxiety was also associated with reduced rACC-amygdala functional connectivity at baseline. Further, functional connectivity showed a modest negative relationship with dopamine release such that reduced rACC-amygdala functional connectivity was accompanied by higher levels of dopamine release in these regions. Together, these findings contribute to hypodopaminergic models of anxiety and support the utility of combining fMRI and PET measures of neurochemical function to advance our understanding of basic affective processes in humans.It is common wisdom that individuals vary in their baseline levels of anxiety. We all have a friend or colleague we know to be more "tightly wound" than others, or, perhaps, we are the ones marveling at others' ability to "just go with the flow." While such observations about individual differences within non-clinical populations are commonplace, the neural mechanisms underlying normal variation in trait anxiety have not been established. Using multimodal brain imaging in humans, this study takes initial steps in linking intrinsic measures of neuromodulator release and functional connectivity within regions implicated in anxiety disorders. Our findings suggest that in healthy adults, higher levels of trait anxiety may arise, at least in part, from reduced dopamine neurotransmission.

Scimeca, JM, Kiyonaga A, D'Esposito M.  2018.  Reaffirming the Sensory Recruitment Account of Working Memory., 2018 Mar. Trends in cognitive sciences. 22(3):190-192.
Novakovic-Agopian, T, Kornblith ES, Abrams G, Burciaga-Rosales J, Loya F, D'Esposito M, Chen AJ-W.  2018.  Training in Goal-Oriented Attentional Self-Regulation Improves Executive Functioning in Veterans with Chronic TBI., 2018 May 02. Journal of neurotrauma. Abstract

Deficits in executive control functions are some of the most common and disabling consequences of both military and civilian brain injury. However, effective interventions are scant. The goal of this study was to assess whether cognitive rehabilitation training that was successfully applied in chronic civilian brain injury would be effective for military Veterans with TBI. In a prior study, participants with chronic acquired brain injury significantly improved after training in goal-oriented attentional self-regulation (GOALS) on measures of attention/executive function, functional task performance, and goal-directed control over neural processing on fMRI. The objective of this study was to assess effects of GOALS training in Veterans with chronic TBI. 33 Veterans with chronic TBI and executive difficulties in their daily life completed either five weeks of manualized Goal-Oriented Attentional Self-Regulation (GOALS) training or Brain-Health Education (BHE) matched in time and intensity. Evaluator-blinded assessments at baseline and post training included neuropsychological and complex functional task performance and self-report measures of emotional regulation. After GOALS, but not BHE training, participants significantly improved from baseline on primary outcome measures of: Overall Complex Attention/Executive Function composite neuropsychological performance score [F = 7.10, p =.01; partial 2 = .19], and on overall complex functional task performance (Goal Processing Scale Overall Performance) [F=6.92, p=.01, partial 2 =.20]. Additionally, post-GOALS participants indicated significant improvement on emotional regulation self-report measures [POMS Confusion Score F=6.05, p=.02, partial2=.20]. Training in attentional self-regulation applied to participant defined goals may improve cognitive functioning in Veterans with chronic TBI. Attention regulation training may not only impact executive control functioning in real world complex tasks, but may also improve emotional regulation and functioning. Implications for treatment of Veterans with TBI are discussed.

Hwang, K, Shine JM, D'Esposito M.  2018.  Frontoparietal Activity Interacts With Task-Evoked Changes in Functional Connectivity., 2018 Feb 03. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991). Abstract

Flexible interactions between brain regions enable neural systems to adaptively transfer and process information. However, the neural substrates that regulate adaptive communications between brain regions are understudied. In this human fMRI study, we investigated this issue by tracking time-varying, task-evoked changes in functional connectivity between localized occipitotemporal regions while participants performed different tasks on the same visually presented stimuli. We found that functional connectivity between ventral temporal and the primary visual regions selectively increased during the processing of task-relevant information. Further, additional task demands selectively strengthen these targeted connectivity patterns. To identify candidate regions that contribute to this increase in inter-regional coupling, we regressed the task-specific time-varying connectivity strength between primary visual and occipitotemporal regions against voxel-wise activity patterns elsewhere in the brain. This allowed us to identify a set of frontal and parietal regions whose activity increased as a function of task-evoked functional connectivity. These results suggest that frontoparietal regions may provide top-down biasing signals to influence task-specific interactions between brain regions.