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.

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.

Riddle, J, Scimeca JM, Pagnotta MF, Inglis B, Sheltraw D, Muse-Fisher C, D'Esposito M.  2022.  A guide for concurrent TMS-fMRI to investigate functional brain networks., 2022. Frontiers in human neuroscience. 16:1050605. Abstract

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) allows for the direct activation of neurons in the human neocortex and has proven to be fundamental for causal hypothesis testing in cognitive neuroscience. By administering TMS concurrently with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), the effect of cortical TMS on activity in distant cortical and subcortical structures can be quantified by varying the levels of TMS output intensity. However, TMS generates significant fluctuations in the fMRI time series, and their complex interaction warrants caution before interpreting findings. We present the methodological challenges of concurrent TMS-fMRI and a guide to minimize induced artifacts in experimental design and post-processing. Our study targeted two frontal-striatal circuits: primary motor cortex (M1) projections to the putamen and lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) projections to the caudate in healthy human participants. We found that TMS parametrically increased the BOLD signal in the targeted region and subcortical projections as a function of stimulation intensity. Together, this work provides practical steps to overcome common challenges with concurrent TMS-fMRI and demonstrates how TMS-fMRI can be used to investigate functional brain networks.