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

Recent Publications

Gallen, CL, Hwang K, Chen AJ-W, Jacobs EG, Lee TG, D'Esposito M.  2023.  Influence of goals on modular brain network organization during working memory., 2023. Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience. 17:1128610. Abstract

Top-down control underlies our ability to attend relevant stimuli while ignoring irrelevant, distracting stimuli and is a critical process for prioritizing information in working memory (WM). Prior work has demonstrated that top-down biasing signals modulate sensory-selective cortical areas during WM, and that the large-scale organization of the brain reconfigures due to WM demands alone; however, it is not yet understood how brain networks reconfigure between the processing of relevant versus irrelevant information in the service of WM.

Taylor, CM, Furman DJ, Berry AS, White Iii RL, Jagust WJ, D'Esposito M, Jacobs EG.  2023.  Striatal dopamine synthesis and cognitive flexibility differ between hormonal contraceptive users and nonusers., 2023 May 09. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991). Abstract

In rodents and nonhuman primates, sex hormones are powerful modulators of dopamine (DA) neurotransmission. Yet less is known about hormonal regulation of the DA system in the human brain. Using positron emission tomography (PET), we address this gap by comparing hormonal contraceptive users and nonusers across multiple aspects of DA function: DA synthesis capacity via the PET radioligand 6-[18F]fluoro-m-tyrosine ([18F]FMT), baseline D2/3 receptor binding potential using [11C]raclopride, and DA release using methylphenidate-paired [11C]raclopride. Participants consisted of 36 healthy women (n = 15 hormonal contraceptive users; n = 21 naturally cycling/non users of hormonal contraception), and men (n = 20) as a comparison group. A behavioral index of cognitive flexibility was assessed prior to PET imaging. Hormonal contraceptive users exhibited greater DA synthesis capacity than NC participants, particularly in dorsal caudate, and greater cognitive flexibility. Furthermore, across individuals, the magnitude of striatal DA synthesis capacity was associated with cognitive flexibility. No group differences were observed in D2/3 receptor binding or DA release. Analyses by sex alone may obscure underlying differences in DA synthesis tied to women's hormone status. Hormonal contraception (in the form of pill, shot, implant, ring, or intrauterine device) is used by ~400 million women worldwide, yet few studies have examined whether chronic hormonal manipulations impact basic properties of the DA system. Findings from this study begin to address this critical gap in women's health.

Johnson, EL, Lin JJ, King-Stephens D, Weber PB, Laxer KD, Saez I, Girgis F, D'Esposito M, Knight RT, Badre D.  2023.  A rapid theta network mechanism for flexible information encoding., 2023 May 19. Nature communications. 14(1):2872. Abstract

Flexible behavior requires gating mechanisms that encode only task-relevant information in working memory. Extant literature supports a theoretical division of labor whereby lateral frontoparietal interactions underlie information maintenance and the striatum enacts the gate. Here, we reveal neocortical gating mechanisms in intracranial EEG patients by identifying rapid, within-trial changes in regional and inter-regional activities that predict subsequent behavioral outputs. Results first demonstrate information accumulation mechanisms that extend prior fMRI (i.e., regional high-frequency activity) and EEG evidence (inter-regional theta synchrony) of distributed neocortical networks in working memory. Second, results demonstrate that rapid changes in theta synchrony, reflected in changing patterns of default mode network connectivity, support filtering. Graph theoretical analyses further linked filtering in task-relevant information and filtering out irrelevant information to dorsal and ventral attention networks, respectively. Results establish a rapid neocortical theta network mechanism for flexible information encoding, a role previously attributed to the striatum.

D'Esposito, M.  2023.  A Tale about the Frontal Lobes as Told by a Neurologist., 2023 Jun 07. Journal of cognitive neuroscience. :1-9.
Motzkin, JC, Kanungo I, D'Esposito M, Shirvalkar P.  2023.  Network targets for therapeutic brain stimulation: towards personalized therapy for pain., 2023. Frontiers in pain research (Lausanne, Switzerland). 4:1156108. Abstract

Precision neuromodulation of central brain circuits is a promising emerging therapeutic modality for a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders. Reliably identifying in whom, where, and in what context to provide brain stimulation for optimal pain relief are fundamental challenges limiting the widespread implementation of central neuromodulation treatments for chronic pain. Current approaches to brain stimulation target empirically derived regions of interest to the disorder or targets with strong connections to these regions. However, complex, multidimensional experiences like chronic pain are more closely linked to patterns of coordinated activity across distributed large-scale functional networks. Recent advances in precision network neuroscience indicate that these networks are highly variable in their neuroanatomical organization across individuals. Here we review accumulating evidence that variable central representations of pain will likely pose a major barrier to implementation of population-derived analgesic brain stimulation targets. We propose network-level estimates as a more valid, robust, and reliable way to stratify personalized candidate regions. Finally, we review key background, methods, and implications for developing network topology-informed brain stimulation targets for chronic pain.

Bliss, DP, Rahnev D, Mackey WE, Curtis CE, D'Esposito M.  2023.  Stimulation along the anterior-posterior axis of lateral frontal cortex reduces visual serial dependence., 2023 Jul 03. Journal of vision. 23(7):1. Abstract

Serial dependence is an attractive pull that recent perceptual history exerts on current judgments. Theory suggests that this bias is due to a form of short-term plasticity prevalent specifically in the frontal lobe. We sought to test the importance of the frontal lobe to serial dependence by disrupting neural activity along its lateral surface during two tasks with distinct perceptual and motor demands. In our first experiment, stimulation of the lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) during an oculomotor delayed response task decreased serial dependence only in the first saccade to the target, whereas stimulation posterior to the LPFC decreased serial dependence only in adjustments to eye position after the first saccade. In our second experiment, which used an orientation discrimination task, stimulation anterior to, in, and posterior to the LPFC all caused equivalent decreases in serial dependence. In this experiment, serial dependence occurred only between stimuli at the same location; an alternation bias was observed across hemifields. Frontal stimulation had no effect on the alternation bias. Transcranial magnetic stimulation to parietal cortex had no effect on serial dependence in either experiment. In summary, our experiments provide evidence for both functional differentiation (Experiment 1) and redundancy (Experiment 2) in frontal cortex with respect to serial dependence.

Markova, TZ, Ciampa CJ, Parent JH, LaPoint MR, D'Esposito M, Jagust WJ, Berry AS.  2023.  Poorer aging trajectories are associated with elevated serotonin synthesis capacity., 2023 Jul 17. Molecular psychiatry. Abstract

The dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) is one of the earliest targets of Alzheimer's disease-related tau pathology and is a major source of brain serotonin. We used [F]Fluoro-m-tyrosine ([F]FMT) PET imaging to measure serotonin synthesis capacity in the DRN in 111 healthy adults (18-85 years-old). Similar to reports in catecholamine systems, we found elevated serotonin synthesis capacity in older adults relative to young. To establish the structural and functional context within which serotonin synthesis capacity is elevated in aging, we examined relationships among DRN [F]FMT net tracer influx (Ki) and longitudinal changes in cortical thickness using magnetic resonance imaging, longitudinal changes in self-reported depression symptoms, and AD-related tau and β-amyloid (Aβ) pathology using cross-sectional [F]Flortaucipir and [C]Pittsburgh compound-B PET respectively. Together, our findings point to elevated DRN [F]FMT Ki as a marker of poorer aging trajectories. Older adults with highest serotonin synthesis capacity showed greatest temporal lobe cortical atrophy. Cortical atrophy was associated with increasing depression symptoms over time, and these effects appeared to be strongest in individuals with highest serotonin synthesis capacity. We did not find direct relationships between serotonin synthesis capacity and AD-related pathology. Exploratory analyses revealed nuanced effects of sex within the older adult group. Older adult females showed the highest DRN synthesis capacity and exhibited the strongest relationships between entorhinal cortex tau pathology and increasing depression symptoms. Together these findings reveal PET measurement of the serotonin system to be a promising marker of aging trajectories relevant to both AD and affective changes in older age.

Lurie, DJ, Pappas I, D'Esposito M.  2023.  Cortical timescales and the modular organization of structural and functional brain networks., 2023 Jul 12. bioRxiv : the preprint server for biology. Abstract

Recent years have seen growing interest in characterizing the properties of regional brain dynamics and their relationship to other features of brain structure and function. In particular, multiple studies have observed regional differences in the "timescale" over which activity fluctuates during periods of quiet rest. In the cerebral cortex, these timescales have been associated with both local circuit properties as well as patterns of inter-regional connectivity, including the extent to which each region exhibits widespread connectivity to other brain areas. In the current study, we build on prior observations of an association between connectivity and dynamics in the cerebral cortex by investigating the relationship between BOLD fMRI timescales and the modular organization of structural and functional brain networks. We characterize network community structure across multiple scales and find that longer timescales are associated with greater within-community functional connectivity and diverse structural connectivity. We also replicate prior observations of a positive correlation between timescales and structural connectivity degree. Finally, we find evidence for preferential functional connectivity between cortical areas with similar timescales. We replicate these findings in an independent dataset. These results contribute to our understanding of functional brain organization and structure-function relationships in the human brain, and support the notion that regional differences in cortical dynamics may in part reflect the topological role of each region within macroscale brain networks.

Miller, JA, Tambini A, Kiyonaga A, D'Esposito M.  2022.  Long-term learning transforms prefrontal cortex representations during working memory., 2022 Oct 07. Neuron. Abstract

The role of the lateral prefrontal cortex (lPFC) in working memory (WM) is debated. Non-human primate (NHP) electrophysiology shows that the lPFC stores WM representations, but human neuroimaging suggests that the lPFC controls WM content in sensory cortices. These accounts are confounded by differences in task training and stimulus exposure. We tested whether long-term training alters lPFC function by densely sampling WM activity using functional MRI. Over 3 months, participants trained on both a WM and serial reaction time (SRT) task, wherein fractal stimuli were embedded within sequences. WM performance improved for trained (but not novel) fractals and, neurally, delay activity increased in distributed lPFC voxels across learning. Item-level WM representations became detectable within lPFC patterns, and lPFC activity reflected sequence relationships from the SRT task. These findings demonstrate that human lPFC develops stimulus-selective responses with learning, and WM representations are shaped by long-term experience, which could reconcile competing accounts of WM functioning.

Cookson, SL, D'Esposito M.  2022.  Evaluating the reliability, validity, and utility of overlapping networks: Implications for network theories of cognition., 2022 Nov 01. Human brain mapping. Abstract

Brain network definitions typically assume nonoverlap or minimal overlap, ignoring regions' connections to multiple networks. However, new methods are emerging that emphasize network overlap. Here, we investigated the reliability and validity of one assignment method, the mixed membership algorithm, and explored its potential utility for identifying gaps in existing network models of cognition. We first assessed between-sample reliability of overlapping assignments with a split-half design; a bootstrapped Dice similarity analysis demonstrated good agreement between the networks from the two subgroups. Next, we assessed whether overlapping networks captured expected nonoverlapping topographies; overlapping networks captured portions of one to three nonoverlapping topographies, which aligned with canonical network definitions. Following this, a relative entropy analysis showed that a majority of regions participated in more than one network, as is seen biologically, and many regions did not show preferential connection to any one network. Finally, we explored overlapping network membership in regions of the dual-networks model of cognitive control, showing that almost every region was a member of multiple networks. Thus, the mixed membership algorithm produces consistent and biologically plausible networks, which presumably will allow for the development of more complete network models of cognition.