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Journal Article
Wallace, DL, Vytlacil JJ, Nomura EM, Gibbs SEB, D'Esposito M.  2011.  The dopamine agonist bromocriptine differentially affects fronto-striatal functional connectivity during working memory., 2011. Frontiers in human neuroscience. 5:32. Abstract

We investigated the effect of bromocriptine, a dopamine agonist, on individual differences in behavior as well as frontal-striatal connectivity during a working memory task. After dopaminergic augmentation, frontal-striatal connectivity in low working memory capacity individuals increases, corresponding with behavioral improvement whereas decreases in connectivity in high working memory capacity individuals are associated with poorer behavioral performance. These findings corroborate an inverted U-shape response of dopamine function in behavioral performance and provide insight on the corresponding neural mechanisms.

Chen, AJ-W, Britton M, Turner GR, Vytlacil J, Thompson TW, D'Esposito M.  2012.  Goal-directed attention alters the tuning of object-based representations in extrastriate cortex., 2012. Frontiers in human neuroscience. 6:187. Abstract

Humans survive in environments that contain a vast quantity and variety of visual information. All items of perceived visual information must be represented within a limited number of brain networks. The human brain requires mechanisms for selecting only a relevant fraction of perceived information for more in-depth processing, where neural representations of that information may be actively maintained and utilized for goal-directed behavior. Object-based attention is crucial for goal-directed behavior and yet remains poorly understood. Thus, in the study we investigate how neural representations of visual object information are guided by selective attention. The magnitude of activation in human extrastriate cortex has been shown to be modulated by attention; however, object-based attention is not likely to be fully explained by a localized gain mechanism. Thus, we measured information coded in spatially distributed patterns of brain activity with fMRI while human participants performed a task requiring selective processing of a relevant visual object category that differed across conditions. Using pattern classification and spatial correlation techniques, we found that the direction of selective attention is implemented as a shift in the tuning of object-based information representations within extrastriate cortex. In contrast, we found that representations within lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) coded for the attention condition rather than the concrete representations of object category. In sum, our findings are consistent with a model of object-based selective attention in which representations coded within extrastriate cortex are tuned to favor the representation of goal-relevant information, guided by more abstract representations within lateral PFC.

Finn, AS, Hudson Kam CL, Ettlinger M, Vytlacil J, D'Esposito M.  2013.  Learning language with the wrong neural scaffolding: the cost of neural commitment to sounds., 2013. Frontiers in systems neuroscience. 7:85. Abstract

Does tuning to one's native language explain the "sensitive period" for language learning? We explore the idea that tuning to (or becoming more selective for) the properties of one's native-language could result in being less open (or plastic) for tuning to the properties of a new language. To explore how this might lead to the sensitive period for grammar learning, we ask if tuning to an earlier-learned aspect of language (sound structure) has an impact on the neural representation of a later-learned aspect (grammar). English-speaking adults learned one of two miniature artificial languages (MALs) over 4 days in the lab. Compared to English, both languages had novel grammar, but only one was comprised of novel sounds. After learning a language, participants were scanned while judging the grammaticality of sentences. Judgments were performed for the newly learned language and English. Learners of the similar-sounds language recruited regions that overlapped more with English. Learners of the distinct-sounds language, however, recruited the Superior Temporal Gyrus (STG) to a greater extent, which was coactive with the Inferior Frontal Gyrus (IFG). Across learners, recruitment of IFG (but not STG) predicted both learning success in tests conducted prior to the scan and grammatical judgment ability during the scan. Data suggest that adults' difficulty learning language, especially grammar, could be due, at least in part, to the neural commitments they have made to the lower level linguistic components of their native language.

Miller, BT, Vytlacil J, Fegen D, Pradhan S, D'Esposito M.  2011.  The prefrontal cortex modulates category selectivity in human extrastriate cortex., 2011 Jan. Journal of cognitive neuroscience. 23(1):1-10. Abstract

Different categories of visual objects evoke distinct stimulus-evoked sensory responses in extrastriate visual cortex. Although numerous lines of evidence support a distinct representational neural architecture, the mechanisms underlying the modulation of the category selectivity by top-down influences remains uncertain. In this study, we investigate the causal role of the PFC in the modulation of evoked activity to face and scene stimuli in the extrastriate cortex. We used two experimental approaches to disrupt prefrontal cortical function-repetitive TMS to PFC in healthy participants (Experiment 1) and focal PFC lesions in stroke patients (Experiment 2). After these perturbations to normal PFC function (pre- vs. post-TMS and lesion vs. intact hemisphere), stimulus-evoked activity in extrastriate cortex exhibited less distinct category selectivity to faces and scenes. These two experiments provide convergent evidence highlighting a direct role of PFC in the top-down modulation of bottom-up visual signals.