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

Recent Publications

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.

Lorenc, ES, Sreenivasan KK, Nee DE, Vandenbroucke ARE, D'Esposito M.  2018.  Flexible coding of visual working memory representations during distraction., 2018 May 08. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. Abstract

Visual working memory (VWM) recruits a broad network of brain regions, including prefrontal, parietal, and visual cortices. Recent evidence supports a "sensory recruitment" model of VWM, whereby precise visual details are maintained in the same stimulus-selective regions responsible for perception. A key question in evaluating the sensory recruitment model is how VWM representations persist through distracting visual input, given that the early visual areas that putatively represent VWM content are susceptible to interference from visual stimulation.To address this question, we employed an fMRI inverted encoding model approach to quantitatively assess the effect of distractors on VWM representations in early visual cortex and the intraparietal sulcus (IPS), another region previously implicated in the storage of VWM information. This approach allowed us to reconstruct VWM representations for orientation, both before and after visual interference, and to examine whether oriented distractors systematically biased these representations. In our human participants (both male and female), we found that orientation information was maintained simultaneously in early visual areas and IPS in anticipation of possible distraction, and these representations persisted in the absence of distraction. Importantly, early visual representations were susceptible to interference; VWM orientations reconstructed from visual cortex were significantly biased toward distractors, corresponding to a small attractive bias in behavior. In contrast, IPS representations did not show such a bias. These results provide quantitative insight into the effect of interference on VWM representations, and suggest a dynamic tradeoff between visual and parietal regions that allows flexible adaptation to task demands in service of VWM.Despite considerable evidence that stimulus-selective visual regions maintain precise visual information in working memory, it remains unclear how these representations persist through subsequent input. Here, we used quantitative model-based fMRI analyses to reconstruct the contents of working memory and examine the effects of distracting input. While representations in the early visual areas were systematically biased by distractors, those in the intraparietal sulcus appeared distractor-resistant. In contrast, early visual representations were most reliable in the absence of distraction. These results demonstrate the dynamic, adaptive nature of visual working memory processes, and provide quantitative insight into the ways in which representations can be affected by interference. Further, they suggest that current models of working memory should be revised to incorporate this flexibility.

Cameron, IGM, Wallace DL, Al-Zughoul A, Kayser AS, D'Esposito M.  2018.  Effects of tolcapone and bromocriptine on cognitive stability and flexibility., 2018 Feb 09. Psychopharmacology. Abstract

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) and basal ganglia (BG) have been associated with cognitive stability and cognitive flexibility, respectively. We hypothesized that increasing PFC dopamine tone by administering tolcapone (a catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitor) to human subjects should promote stability; conversely, increasing BG dopamine tone by administering bromocriptine (a D2 receptor agonist) should promote flexibility.