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2017
Nee, DE, D'Esposito M.  2017.  Causal evidence for lateral prefrontal cortex dynamics supporting cognitive control., 2017 Sep 13. eLife. 6 Abstract

The lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) is essential for higher-level cognition, but how its interactions support cognitive control remains elusive. Previously (Nee and D'Esposito, 2016), dynamic causal modeling (DCM) indicated that mid LPFC integrates abstract, rostral and concrete, caudal influences to inform context-appropriate action. Here, we use continuous theta-burst transcranial magnetic stimulation (cTBS) to causally test this model. cTBS was applied to three LPFC sites and a control site in counterbalanced sessions. Behavioral modulations resulting from cTBS were largely predicted by information flow within the previously estimated DCM. However, cTBS to caudal LPFC unexpectedly impaired processes presumed to involve rostral LPFC. Adding a pathway from caudal to mid-rostral LPFC significantly improved the model fit and accounted for the observed behavioral findings. These data provide causal evidence for LPFC dynamics supporting cognitive control and demonstrate the utility of combining DCM with causal manipulations to test and refine models of cognition.

Adnan, A, Chen AJW, Novakovic-Agopian T, D'Esposito M, Turner GR.  2017.  Brain Changes Following Executive Control Training in Older Adults., 2017 Sep 01. Neurorehabilitation and neural repair. :1545968317728580. Abstract

While older adults are able to attend to goal-relevant information, the capacity to ignore irrelevant or distracting information declines with advancing age. This decline in selective attention has been associated with poor modulation of brain activity in sensory cortices by anterior brain regions implicated in cognitive control.

Gratton, C, Yousef S, Aarts E, Wallace DL, D'Esposito M, Silver MA.  2017.  Cholinergic, but not dopaminergic or noradrenergic, enhancement sharpens visual spatial perception in humans., 2017 Mar 23. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. Abstract

The neuromodulator acetylcholine (ACh) modulates spatial integration in visual cortex by altering the balance of inputs that generate neuronal receptive fields. These cholinergic effects may provide a neurobiological mechanism underlying the modulation of visual representations by visual spatial attention. However, the consequences of cholinergic enhancement on visuospatial perception in humans are unknown. We conducted two experiments to test whether enhancing cholinergic signaling selectively alters perceptual measures of visuospatial interactions in human subjects. In Experiment 1, a double-blind placebo-controlled pharmacology study, we measured how flanking distractors influenced detection of a small contrast decrement of a peripheral target, as a function of target/flanker distance. We found that cholinergic enhancement with the cholinesterase inhibitor donepezil improved target detection, and modeling suggested that this was mainly due to a narrowing of the extent of facilitatory perceptual spatial interactions. In Experiment 2, we tested whether these effects were selective to the cholinergic system or would also be observed following enhancements of related neuromodulators dopamine (DA) or norepinephrine (NE). Unlike cholinergic enhancement, DA (bromocriptine) and NE (guanfacine) manipulations did not improve performance or systematically alter the spatial profile of perceptual interactions between targets and distractors. These findings reveal mechanisms by which cholinergic signaling influences visual spatial interactions in perception and improves processing of a visual target among distractors - effects that are notably similar to those of spatial selective attention.Significance StatementAcetylcholine influences how visual cortical neurons integrate signals across space - perhaps providing a neurobiological mechanism for the effects of visual selective attention. However, the influence of cholinergic enhancement on visuospatial perception remains unknown. Here we demonstrate that cholinergic enhancement improves detection of a target flanked by distractors, consistent with sharpened visuospatial perceptual representations. Furthermore, while most pharmacological studies focus on a single neurotransmitter, many neuromodulators can have related effects on cognition and perception. Thus, we also demonstrate that enhancing noradrenergic and dopaminergic systems does not systematically improve visuospatial perception or alter its tuning. Our results link visuospatial tuning effects of acetylcholine at the neuronal and perceptual levels and provide insights into the connection between cholinergic signaling and visual attention.

Berry, AS, Shah VD, Furman DJ, White RL, Baker SL, O'Neil JP, Janabi M, D'Esposito M, Jagust WJ.  2017.  Dopamine Synthesis Capacity is Associated with D2/3 Receptor Binding but not Dopamine Release., 2017 Aug 17. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. Abstract

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging allows the estimation of multiple aspects of dopamine function including dopamine synthesis capacity, dopamine release, and D2/3 receptor binding. Though dopaminergic dysregulation characterizes a number of neuropsychiatric disorders including schizophrenia and addiction, there has been relatively little investigation into the nature of relationships across dopamine markers within healthy individuals. Here we used PET imaging in 40 healthy adults to compare, within individuals, estimates of dopamine synthesis capacity (Ki) using 6-[(18)F]fluoro-l-m-tyrosine ([(18)F]FMT; a substrate for aromatic amino acid decarboxylase), baseline D2/3 receptor binding potential using [(11)C]raclopride (a weak competitive D2/3 receptor antagonist), and dopamine release using [(11)C]raclopride paired with oral methylphenidate administration. Methylphenidate increases synaptic dopamine by blocking the dopamine transporter. We estimated dopamine release by contrasting baseline D2/3 receptor binding and D2/3 receptor binding following methylphenidate. Analysis of relationships among the three measurements within striatal regions of interest revealed a positive correlation between [(18)F]FMT Ki and the baseline (placebo) [(11)C]raclopride measure, such that participants with greater synthesis capacity showed higher D2/3 receptor binding potential. In contrast, there was no relationship between [(18)F]FMT and methylphenidate-induced [(11)C]raclopride displacement. These findings shed light on the nature of regulation between pre- and postsynaptic dopamine function in healthy adults, which may serve as a template from which to identify and describe alteration with disease.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 17 August 2017. doi:10.1038/npp.2017.180.

Hwang, K, Bertolero M, Liu W, D'Esposito M.  2017.  The human thalamus is an integrative hub for functional brain networks., 2017 Apr 27. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. Abstract

The thalamus is globally connected with distributed cortical regions, yet the functional significance of this extensive thalamocortical connectivity remains largely unknown. By performing graph-theoretic analyses on thalamocortical functional connectivity data collected from human participants, we found that most thalamic subdivisions display network properties capable of integrating multimodal information across diverse cortical functional networks. From a meta-analysis of a large dataset of functional brain imaging experiments, we further found that the thalamus is involved in multiple cognitive functions. Finally, we found that focal thalamic lesions in humans have widespread distal effects, disrupting the modular organization of cortical functional networks. This converging evidence suggests that the human thalamus is a critical hub region that could integrate diverse information being processed throughout the cerebral cortex, as well as maintain the modular structure of cortical functional networks.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTThe thalamus is traditionally viewed as a passive relay station of information from sensory organs or subcortical structures to the cortex. However, the thalamus has extensive connections with the entire cerebral cortex, which can also serve to integrate information processing between cortical regions. In this study, we demonstrate that multiple thalamic subdivisions displays network properties capable of integrating information across multiple functional brain networks. Moreover, the thalamus is engaged by tasks requiring multiple cognitive functions. These findings support the idea that the thalamus is involved in integrating information across cortical networks.

2016
Nee, DE, D'Esposito M.  2016.  The Representational Basis of Working Memory., 2016 Sep 28. Current topics in behavioral neurosciences. Abstract

Working memory refers to a system involved in the online maintenance and manipulation of information in the absence of external input. Due to the importance of working memory in higher-level cognition, a wealth of neuroscience studies has investigated its neural basis. These studies have often led to conflicting viewpoints regarding the importance of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and posterior sensory cortices. Here, we review evidence for each position. We suggest that the relative contributions of the PFC and sensory cortices to working memory can be understood with respect to processing demands. We argue that procedures that minimize processing demands lead to increased importance of sensory representations, while procedures that permit transformational processing lead to representational abstraction that relies on the PFC. We suggest that abstract PFC representations support top-down control over posterior representations while also providing bottom-up inputs into higher-level cognitive processing. Although a number of contemporary studies have studied working memory while using procedures that minimize the role of the PFC, we argue that consideration of the PFC is critical for our understanding of working memory and higher-level cognition more generally.

Cohen, JR, D'Esposito M.  2016.  The Segregation and Integration of Distinct Brain Networks and Their Relationship to Cognition., 2016 Nov 30. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 36(48):12083-12094. Abstract

A critical feature of the human brain that gives rise to complex cognition is its ability to reconfigure its network structure dynamically and adaptively in response to the environment. Existing research probing task-related reconfiguration of brain network structure has concluded that, although there are many similarities in network structure during an intrinsic, resting state and during the performance of a variety of cognitive tasks, there are meaningful differences as well. In this study, we related intrinsic, resting state network organization to reconfigured network organization during the performance of two tasks: a sequence tapping task, which is thought to probe motor execution and likely engages a single brain network, and an n-back task, which is thought to probe working memory and likely requires coordination across multiple networks. We implemented graph theoretical analyses using functional connectivity data from fMRI scans to calculate whole-brain measures of network organization in healthy young adults. We focused on quantifying measures of network segregation (modularity, system segregation, local efficiency, number of provincial hub nodes) and measures of network integration (global efficiency, number of connector hub nodes). Using these measures, we found converging evidence that local, within-network communication is critical for motor execution, whereas integrative, between-network communication is critical for working memory. These results confirm that the human brain has the remarkable ability to reconfigure its large-scale organization dynamically in response to current cognitive demands and that interpreting reconfiguration in terms of network segregation and integration may shed light on the optimal network structures underlying successful cognition.

Rahnev, D, Nee DE, Riddle J, Larson AS, D'Esposito M.  2016.  Causal evidence for frontal cortex organization for perceptual decision making., 2016 May 9. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Abstract

Although recent research has shown that the frontal cortex has a critical role in perceptual decision making, an overarching theory of frontal functional organization for perception has yet to emerge. Perceptual decision making is temporally organized such that it requires the processes of selection, criterion setting, and evaluation. We hypothesized that exploring this temporal structure would reveal a large-scale frontal organization for perception. A causal intervention with transcranial magnetic stimulation revealed clear specialization along the rostrocaudal axis such that the control of successive stages of perceptual decision making was selectively affected by perturbation of successively rostral areas. Simulations with a dynamic model of decision making suggested distinct computational contributions of each region. Finally, the emergent frontal gradient was further corroborated by functional MRI. These causal results provide an organizational principle for the role of frontal cortex in the control of perceptual decision making and suggest specific mechanistic contributions for its different subregions.

Peters, J, D'Esposito M.  2016.  Effects of Medial Orbitofrontal Cortex Lesions on Self-Control in Intertemporal Choice., 2016 Aug 31. Current biology : CB. Abstract

Many decisions involve a trade-off between the temporal proximity of a reward and its magnitude. A range of clinical conditions are associated with poor self-control during such intertemporal choices, such that smaller rewards that are received sooner are preferred over larger rewards that are received later to a greater extent [1, 2]. According to a prominent neural model of self-control [3-6], subjective reward values are represented in the medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC) at the time of choice [7-9]. Successful self-control in this model is then thought to depend on a modulation of these mOFC value representations via the lateral prefrontal cortex (lPFC) [3, 6]. Here we directly tested three key predictions of this model in patients with lesions to the mOFC (n = 9) and matched controls (n = 19). First, we show that mOFC lesions disrupt choice-free valuation ratings. This finding provides causal evidence for a role of the mOFC in reward valuation and contrasts with the effects of lPFC disruption [6]. Second, we show that mOFC damage indeed decreases self-control during intertemporal choice, replicating previous findings [10]. Third, extending these previous observations, we show that the effect of mOFC damage on intertemporal choice depends on the actual self-control demands of the task. Our findings thus provide causal evidence for a role of mOFC in reward valuation and are compatible with the idea that mOFC damage affects self-control specifically under conditions that might normally require a modulation of mOFC value representations, e.g., by the lPFC.

Gallen, CL, Turner GR, Adnan A, D'Esposito M.  2016.  Reconfiguration of brain network architecture to support executive control in aging., 2016 Aug. Neurobiology of aging. 44:42-52. Abstract

Aging is accompanied by declines in executive control abilities and changes in underlying brain network architecture. Here, we examined brain networks in young and older adults during a task-free resting state and an N-back task and investigated age-related changes in the modular network organization of the brain. Compared with young adults, older adults showed larger changes in network organization between resting state and task. Although young adults exhibited increased connectivity between lateral frontal regions and other network modules during the most difficult task condition, older adults also exhibited this pattern of increased connectivity during less-demanding task conditions. Moreover, the increase in between-module connectivity in older adults was related to faster task performance and greater fractional anisotropy of the superior longitudinal fasciculus. These results demonstrate that older adults who exhibit more pronounced network changes between a resting state and task have better executive control performance and greater structural connectivity of a core frontal-posterior white matter pathway.

Chapman, SB, Aslan S, Spence JS, Keebler MW, DeFina LF, Didehbani N, Perez AM, Lu H, D'Esposito M.  2016.  Distinct Brain and Behavioral Benefits from Cognitive vs. Physical Training: A Randomized Trial in Aging Adults., 2016. Frontiers in human neuroscience. 10:338. Abstract

Insidious declines in normal aging are well-established. Emerging evidence suggests that non-pharmacological interventions, specifically cognitive and physical training, may counter diminishing age-related cognitive and brain functions. This randomized trial compared effects of two training protocols: cognitive training (CT) vs. physical training (PT) on cognition and brain function in adults 56-75 years. Sedentary participants (N = 36) were randomized to either CT or PT group for 3 h/week over 12 weeks. They were assessed at baseline-, mid-, and post-training using neurocognitive, MRI, and physiological measures. The CT group improved on executive function whereas PT group's memory was enhanced. Uniquely deploying cerebral blood flow (CBF) and cerebral vascular reactivity (CVR) MRI, the CT cohort showed increased CBF within the prefrontal and middle/posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) without change to CVR compared to PT group. Improvements in complex abstraction were positively associated with increased resting CBF in dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC). Exercisers with higher CBF in hippocampi bilaterally showed better immediate memory. The preliminary evidence indicates that increased cognitive and physical activity improves brain health in distinct ways. Reasoning training enhanced frontal networks shown to be integral to top-down cognitive control and brain resilience. Evidence of increased resting CBF without changes to CVR implicates increased neural health rather than improved vascular response. Exercise did not improve cerebrovascular response, although CBF increased in hippocampi of those with memory gains. Distinct benefits incentivize testing effectiveness of combined protocols to strengthen brain health.

Nee, DE, D'Esposito M.  2016.  The hierarchical organization of the lateral prefrontal cortex., 2016. eLife. 5 Abstract

Higher-level cognition depends on the lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC), but its functional organization has remained elusive. An influential proposal is that the LPFC is organized hierarchically whereby progressively rostral areas of the LPFC process/represent increasingly abstract information facilitating efficient and flexible cognition. However, support for this theory has been limited. Here, human fMRI data revealed rostral/caudal gradients of abstraction in the LPFC. Dynamic causal modeling revealed asymmetrical LPFC interactions indicative of hierarchical processing. Contrary to dominant assumptions, the relative strength of efferent versus afferent connections positioned mid LPFC as the apex of the hierarchy. Furthermore, cognitive demands induced connectivity modulations towards mid LPFC consistent with a role in integrating information for control operations. Moreover, the strengths of these dynamics were related to trait-measured higher-level cognitive ability. Collectively, these results suggest that the LPFC is hierarchically organized with the mid LPFC positioned to synthesize abstract and concrete information to control behavior.

Gallen, CL, Baniqued PL, Chapman SB, Aslan S, Keebler M, Didehbani N, D'Esposito M.  2016.  Modular Brain Network Organization Predicts Response to Cognitive Training in Older Adults., 2016. PloS one. 11(12):e0169015. Abstract

Cognitive training interventions are a promising approach to mitigate cognitive deficits common in aging and, ultimately, to improve functioning in older adults. Baseline neural factors, such as properties of brain networks, may predict training outcomes and can be used to improve the effectiveness of interventions. Here, we investigated the relationship between baseline brain network modularity, a measure of the segregation of brain sub-networks, and training-related gains in cognition in older adults. We found that older adults with more segregated brain sub-networks (i.e., more modular networks) at baseline exhibited greater training improvements in the ability to synthesize complex information. Further, the relationship between modularity and training-related gains was more pronounced in sub-networks mediating "associative" functions compared with those involved in sensory-motor processing. These results suggest that assessments of brain networks can be used as a biomarker to guide the implementation of cognitive interventions and improve outcomes across individuals. More broadly, these findings also suggest that properties of brain networks may capture individual differences in learning and neuroplasticity. Trail Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT#00977418.

2015
Rahnev, D, Koizumi A, McCurdy LY, D'Esposito M, Lau H.  2015.  Confidence Leak in Perceptual Decision Making., 2015 Sep 25. Psychological science. Abstract

People live in a continuous environment in which the visual scene changes on a slow timescale. It has been shown that to exploit such environmental stability, the brain creates a continuity field in which objects seen seconds ago influence the perception of current objects. What is unknown is whether a similar mechanism exists at the level of metacognitive representations. In three experiments, we demonstrated a robust intertask confidence leak-that is, confidence in one's response on a given task or trial influencing confidence on the following task or trial. This confidence leak could not be explained by response priming or attentional fluctuations. Better ability to modulate confidence leak predicted higher capacity for metacognition as well as greater gray matter volume in the prefrontal cortex. A model based on normative principles from Bayesian inference explained the results by postulating that observers subjectively estimate the perceptual signal strength in a stable environment. These results point to the existence of a novel metacognitive mechanism mediated by regions in the prefrontal cortex.

Cole, MA, Muir JJ, Gans JJ, Shin LM, D'Esposito M, Harel BT, Schembri A.  2015.  Simultaneous Treatment of Neurocognitive and Psychiatric Symptoms in Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and History of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A Pilot Study of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction., 2015 Sep. Military medicine. 180(9):956-63. Abstract

Treating patient populations with significant psychiatric and neurocognitive symptomatology can present a unique clinical dilemma: progress in psychotherapy can be significantly fettered by cognitive deficits, whereas neurocognitive rehabilitation efforts can be ineffective because of psychiatric overlay. Application of mindfulness-based interventions to address either cognitive or psychiatric symptoms in isolation appears efficacious in many contexts; however, it remains unclear whether this type of intervention might help address simultaneous neurocognitive and psychiatric symptomatology. In a pre-post mixed methods design pilot study, nine Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a history of mild traumatic brain injury with chronic cognitive complaints participated in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Clinical interview, questionnaires, and attention and PTSD measures were administered immediately before, immediately after, and 3 months after MBSR completion. Qualitative and quantitative findings suggest high levels of safety, feasibility, and acceptability. Measurement of attention revealed significant improvement immediately following MBSR (p < 0.05, d = 0.57) and largely sustained improvement 3 months after completion of MBSR (p < 0.10, d = 0.48). Significant reduction in PTSD symptoms was found immediately after MBSR (p < 0.05, d = -1.56), and was sustained 3 months following MBSR completion (p < 0.05, d = -0.93). These results warrant a randomized controlled trial follow-up. Potential mechanisms for the broad effects observed will be explored.

Bertolero, MA, Yeo TBT, D'Esposito M.  2015.  The modular and integrative functional architecture of the human brain., 2015 Nov 23. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Abstract

Network-based analyses of brain imaging data consistently reveal distinct modules and connector nodes with diverse global connectivity across the modules. How discrete the functions of modules are, how dependent the computational load of each module is to the other modules' processing, and what the precise role of connector nodes is for between-module communication remains underspecified. Here, we use a network model of the brain derived from resting-state functional MRI (rs-fMRI) data and investigate the modular functional architecture of the human brain by analyzing activity at different types of nodes in the network across 9,208 experiments of 77 cognitive tasks in the BrainMap database. Using an author-topic model of cognitive functions, we find a strong spatial correspondence between the cognitive functions and the network's modules, suggesting that each module performs a discrete cognitive function. Crucially, activity at local nodes within the modules does not increase in tasks that require more cognitive functions, demonstrating the autonomy of modules' functions. However, connector nodes do exhibit increased activity when more cognitive functions are engaged in a task. Moreover, connector nodes are located where brain activity is associated with many different cognitive functions. Connector nodes potentially play a role in between-module communication that maintains the modular function of the brain. Together, these findings provide a network account of the brain's modular yet integrated implementation of cognitive functions.

Wallace, DL, Aarts E, d'Oleire Uquillas F, Dang LC, Greer SM, Jagust WJ, D'Esposito M.  2015.  Genotype status of the dopamine-related catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene corresponds with desirability of "unhealthy" foods., 2015 May 8. Appetite. Abstract

The role of dopamine is extensively documented in weight regulation and food intake in both animal models and humans. Yet the role of dopamine has not been well studied in individual differences for food desirability. Genotype status of the dopamine-related catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene has been shown to influence dopamine levels, with greater COMT enzymatic activity in val/val individuals corresponding to greater degradation of dopamine. Decreased dopamine has been associated with poorer cognitive control and diminished goal-directed behavior in various behavioral paradigms. Additionally, dopaminergic-rich regions such as the frontal cortex and dorsal striatum have been shown to be important for supporting food-related decision-making. However, the role of dopamine, as assessed by COMT genotype status, in food desirability has not been fully explored. Therefore, we utilized an individual's COMT genotype status (n=61) and investigated food desirability based on self-rated "healthy" and "unhealthy" food perceptions. Here we found val/val individuals (n=19) have greater desirability for self-rated "unhealthy" food items, but not self-rated "healthy" food items, as compared to val/met (n=24) and met/met (n=18) individuals (p<0.005). Utilizing an objective health measure for the food items, we also found val/val and val/met individuals have greater desirability for objectively defined "unhealthy" food items, as compared to met/met individuals (p<0.01). This work further substantiates a role of dopamine in food-related behaviors and more specifically in relationship to food desirability for "unhealthy" food items.

Arnemann, KL, Chen AJ-W, Novakovic-Agopian T, Gratton C, Nomura EM, D'Esposito M.  2015.  Functional brain network modularity predicts response to cognitive training after brain injury., 2015 Mar 18. Neurology. Abstract

We tested the value of measuring modularity, a graph theory metric indexing the relative extent of integration and segregation of distributed functional brain networks, for predicting individual differences in response to cognitive training in patients with brain injury.

Sadaghiani, S, Poline J-B, Kleinschmidt A, D'Esposito M.  2015.  Ongoing dynamics in large-scale functional connectivity predict perception., 2015 Jun 23. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Abstract

Most brain activity occurs in an ongoing manner not directly locked to external events or stimuli. Regional ongoing activity fluctuates in unison with some brain regions but not others, and the degree of long-range coupling is called functional connectivity, often measured with correlation. Strength and spatial distributions of functional connectivity dynamically change in an ongoing manner over seconds to minutes, even when the external environment is held constant. Direct evidence for any behavioral relevance of these continuous large-scale dynamics has been limited. Here, we investigated whether ongoing changes in baseline functional connectivity correlate with perception. In a continuous auditory detection task, participants perceived the target sound in roughly one-half of the trials. Very long (22-40 s) interstimulus intervals permitted investigation of baseline connectivity unaffected by preceding evoked responses. Using multivariate classification, we observed that functional connectivity before the target predicted whether it was heard or missed. Using graph theoretical measures, we characterized the difference in functional connectivity between states that lead to hits vs. misses. Before misses compared with hits and task-free rest, connectivity showed reduced modularity, a measure of integrity of modular network structure. This effect was strongest in the default mode and visual networks and caused by both reduced within-network connectivity and enhanced across-network connections before misses. The relation of behavior to prestimulus connectivity was dissociable from that of prestimulus activity amplitudes. In conclusion, moment to moment dynamic changes in baseline functional connectivity may shape subsequent behavioral performance. A highly modular network structure seems beneficial to perceptual efficiency.

Voytek, B, Kayser AS, Badre D, Fegen D, Chang EF, Crone NE, Parvizi J, Knight RT, D'Esposito M.  2015.  Oscillatory dynamics coordinating human frontal networks in support of goal maintenance., 2015 Jul 27. Nature neuroscience. Abstract

Humans have a capacity for hierarchical cognitive control-the ability to simultaneously control immediate actions while holding more abstract goals in mind. Neuropsychological and neuroimaging evidence suggests that hierarchical cognitive control emerges from a frontal architecture whereby prefrontal cortex coordinates neural activity in the motor cortices when abstract rules are needed to govern motor outcomes. We utilized the improved temporal resolution of human intracranial electrocorticography to investigate the mechanisms by which frontal cortical oscillatory networks communicate in support of hierarchical cognitive control. Responding according to progressively more abstract rules resulted in greater frontal network theta phase encoding (4-8 Hz) and increased prefrontal local neuronal population activity (high gamma amplitude, 80-150 Hz), which predicts trial-by-trial response times. Theta phase encoding coupled with high gamma amplitude during inter-regional information encoding, suggesting that inter-regional phase encoding is a mechanism for the dynamic instantiation of complex cognitive functions by frontal cortical subnetworks.

Daffner, KR, Gale SA, Barrett AM, Boeve BF, Chatterjee A, Coslett BH, D'Esposito M, Finney GR, Gitelman DR, Hart JJ, Lerner AJ, Meador KJ, Pietras AC, Voeller KS, Kaufer DI.  2015.  Improving clinical cognitive testing: Report of the AAN Behavioral Neurology Section Workgroup., 2015 Jul 10. Neurology. Abstract

To evaluate the evidence basis of single-domain cognitive tests frequently used by behavioral neurologists in an effort to improve the quality of clinical cognitive assessment.

Bahlmann, J, Aarts E, D'Esposito M.  2015.  Influence of motivation on control hierarchy in the human frontal cortex., 2015 Feb 18. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 35(7):3207-17. Abstract

The frontal cortex mediates cognitive control and motivation to shape human behavior. It is generally observed that medial frontal areas are involved in motivational aspects of behavior, whereas lateral frontal regions are involved in cognitive control. Recent models of cognitive control suggest a rostro-caudal gradient in lateral frontal regions, such that progressively more rostral (anterior) regions process more complex aspects of cognitive control. How motivation influences such a control hierarchy is still under debate. Although some researchers argue that both systems work in parallel, others argue in favor of an interaction between motivation and cognitive control. In the latter case it is yet unclear how motivation would affect the different levels of the control hierarchy. This was investigated in the present functional MRI study applying different levels of cognitive control under different motivational states (low vs high reward anticipation). Three levels of cognitive control were tested by varying rule complexity: stimulus-response mapping (low-level), flexible task updating (mid-level), and sustained cue-task associations (high-level). We found an interaction between levels of cognitive control and motivation in medial and lateral frontal subregions. Specifically, flexible updating (mid-level of control) showed the strongest beneficial effect of reward and only this level exhibited functional coupling between dopamine-rich midbrain regions and the lateral frontal cortex. These findings suggest that motivation differentially affects the levels of a control hierarchy, influencing recruitment of frontal cortical control regions depending on specific task demands.

Smith, CT, Wallace DL, Dang LC, Aarts E, Jagust WJ, D'Esposito M, Boettiger CA.  2015.  Modulation of Impulsivity and Reward Sensitivity in Intertemporal Choice by Striatal and Midbrain Dopamine Synthesis in Healthy Adults., 2015 Dec 16. Journal of neurophysiology. :jn.00261.2015. Abstract

Converging evidence links individual differences in mesolimbic and mesocortical dopamine (DA) to variation in the tendency to choose immediate rewards ("Now") over larger, delayed rewards ("Later"), or "Now bias". However, to date, no study of healthy young adults has evaluated the relationship between Now bias and DA using positron emission tomography (PET). Sixteen healthy adults (ages 24-34; 50% female) completed a delay-discounting task that quantified aspects of intertemporal reward choice, including Now bias and reward magnitude sensitivity. Participants also underwent PET scanning with 6-[(18)F]-fluoro-L-m-tyrosine (FMT), a radiotracer that measures DA synthesis capacity. Lower putamen FMT signal predicted elevated Now bias, a more rapidly declining discount rate with increasing delay time, and reduced willingness to accept low interest rate delayed rewards. In contrast, lower FMT signal in the midbrain predicted greater sensitivity to increasing magnitude of the Later reward. These data demonstrate that intertemporal reward choice in healthy humans varies with region-specific measures of DA processing, with regionally distinct associations with sensitivity to delay and to reward magnitude.

Haight, TJ, Bryan NR, Erus G, Davatzikos C, Jacobs DR, D'Esposito M, Lewis CE, Launer LJ.  2015.  Vascular risk factors, cerebrovascular reactivity, and the default-mode brain network., 2015 Apr 23. NeuroImage. Abstract

Cumulating evidence from epidemiologic studies implicates cardiovascular health and cerebrovascular function in several brain diseases in late life. We examined vascular risk factors with respect to a cerebrovascular measure of brain functioning in subjects in mid-life, which could represent a marker of brain changes in later life. Breath-hold functional MRI (fMRI) was performed in 541 women and men (mean age 50.4 years) from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Brain MRI sub-study. Cerebrovascular reactivity (CVR) was quantified as percentage change in blood-oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal in activated voxels, which was mapped to a common brain template and log-transformed. Mean CVR was calculated for anatomic regions underlying the default-mode network (DMN) - a network implicated in AD and other brain disorders - in addition to areas considered to be relatively spared in the disease (e.g. occipital lobe), which were utilized as reference regions. Mean CVR was significantly reduced in the posterior cingulate/precuneus (β = -0.063, 95% CI: -0.106, -0.020), anterior cingulate (β = -0.055, 95% CI: -0.101, -0.010), and medial frontal lobe (β = -0.050, 95% CI: -0.092, -0.008) relative to mean CVR in the occipital lobe, after adjustment for age, sex, race, education, and smoking status, in subjects with pre-hypertension/hypertension compared to normotensive subjects. By contrast, mean CVR was lower, but not significantly, in the inferior parietal lobe (β = -0.024, 95% CI: -0.062, 0.014) and the hippocampus (β = -0.006, 95% CI: -0.062, 0.050) relative to mean CVR in the occipital lobe. Similar results were observed in subjects with diabetes and dyslipidemia compared to those without these conditions, though the differences were non-significant. Reduced CVR may represent diminished vascular functionality for the DMN for individuals with prehypertension/ hypertension in mid-life, and may serve as a preclinical marker for brain dysfunction in later life.

Cameron, IGM, Riddle JM, D'Esposito M.  2015.  Dissociable Roles of Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex and Frontal Eye Fields During Saccadic Eye Movements., 2015. Frontiers in human neuroscience. 9:613. Abstract

The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and the frontal eye fields (FEF) have both been implicated in the executive control of saccades, yet possible dissociable roles of each region have not been established. Specifically, both establishing a "task set" as well as suppressing an inappropriate response have been linked to DLPFC and FEF activity, with behavioral outcome measures of these mechanisms mainly being the percentage of pro-saccade errors made on anti-saccade trials. We used continuous theta-burst stimulation (cTBS) to disrupt FEF or DLPFC function in humans during an anti-saccade task to assess the causal role of these regions in these executive control processes, and in programming saccades towards (pro-saccade) or away (anti-saccade) from visual targets. After right FEF cTBS, as compared to control cTBS to the right primary somatosensory cortex (rS1), anti-saccade amplitude of the first saccade decreased and the number of anti-saccades to acquire final position increased; however direction errors to the visual target were not different. In contrast, after left DLPFC cTBS, as compared to left S1 cTBS, subjects displayed greater direction errors for contralateral anti-saccades; however, there were no impairments on the number of saccades or the saccade amplitude. These results are consistent with the notion that DLPFC is necessary for executive control of saccades, whereas FEF is necessary for visuo-motor aspects of anti-saccade programming.

Lorenc, ES, Lee TG, Chen AJ-W, D'Esposito M.  2015.  The Effect of Disruption of Prefrontal Cortical Function with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation on Visual Working Memory., 2015. Frontiers in systems neuroscience. 9:169. Abstract

It is proposed that feedback signals from the prefrontal cortex (PFC) to extrastriate cortex are essential for goal-directed processing, maintenance, and selection of information in visual working memory (VWM). In a previous study, we found that disruption of PFC function with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in healthy individuals impaired behavioral performance on a face/scene matching task and decreased category-specific tuning in extrastriate cortex as measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In this study, we investigated the effect of disruption of left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) function on the fidelity of neural representations of two distinct information codes: (1) the stimulus category and (2) the goal-relevance of viewed stimuli. During fMRI scanning, subjects were presented face and scene images in pseudo-random order and instructed to remember either faces or scenes. Within both anatomical and functional regions of interest (ROIs), a multi-voxel pattern classifier was used to quantitatively assess the fidelity of activity patterns representing stimulus category: whether a face or a scene was presented on each trial, and goal relevance, whether the presented image was task relevant (i.e., a face is relevant in a "Remember Faces" block, but irrelevant in a "Remember Scenes" block). We found a reduction in the fidelity of the stimulus category code in visual cortex after left IFG disruption, providing causal evidence that lateral PFC modulates object category codes in visual cortex during VWM. In addition, we found that IFG disruption caused a reduction in the fidelity of the goal relevance code in a distributed set of brain regions. These results suggest that the IFG is involved in determining the task-relevance of visual input and communicating that information to a network of regions involved in further processing during VWM. Finally, we found that participants who exhibited greater fidelity of the goal relevance code in the non-disrupted right IFG after TMS performed the task with the highest accuracy.

Launer, LJ, Lewis CE, Schreiner PJ, Sidney S, Battapady H, Jacobs DR, Lim KO, D'Esposito M, Zhang Q, Reis J, Davatzikos C, Bryan NR.  2015.  Vascular Factors and Multiple Measures of Early Brain Health: CARDIA Brain MRI Study., 2015. PloS one. 10(3):e0122138. Abstract

To identify early changes in brain structure and function that are associated with cardiovascular risk factors (CVRF).

2014
D'Esposito, M, Postle BR.  2014.  The Cognitive Neuroscience of Working Memory., 2014 Sep 19. Annual review of psychology. Abstract

For more than 50 years, psychologists and neuroscientists have recognized the importance of a working memory to coordinate processing when multiple goals are active and to guide behavior with information that is not present in the immediate environment. In recent years, psychological theory and cognitive neuroscience data have converged on the idea that information is encoded into working memory by allocating attention to internal representations, whether semantic long-term memory (e.g., letters, digits, words), sensory, or motoric. Thus, information-based multivariate analyses of human functional MRI data typically find evidence for the temporary representation of stimuli in regions that also process this information in non-working memory contexts. The prefrontal cortex (PFC), on the other hand, exerts control over behavior by biasing the salience of mnemonic representations and adjudicating among competing, context-dependent rules. The "control of the controller" emerges from a complex interplay between PFC and striatal circuits and ascending dopaminergic neuromodulatory signals. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Psychology Volume 66 is November 30, 2014. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/catalog/pubdates.aspx for revised estimates.

Fegen, D, Buchsbaum BR, D'Esposito M.  2014.  The effect of rehearsal rate and memory load on verbal working memory., 2014 Oct 23. NeuroImage. 105C:120-131. Abstract

While many neuroimaging studies have investigated verbal working memory (WM) by manipulating memory load, the subvocal rehearsal rate at these various memory loads has generally been left uncontrolled. Therefore, the goal of this study was to investigate how mnemonic load and the rate of subvocal rehearsal modulate patterns of activity in the core neural circuits underlying verbal working memory. Using fMRI in healthy subjects, we orthogonally manipulated subvocal rehearsal rate and memory load in a verbal WM task with long 45-s delay periods. We found that middle frontal gyrus (MFG) and superior parietal lobule (SPL) exhibited memory load effects primarily early in the delay period and did not exhibit rehearsal rate effects. In contrast, we found that inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), premotor cortex (PM) and Sylvian-parietal-temporal region (area Spt) exhibited approximately linear memory load and rehearsal rate effects, with rehearsal rate effects lasting through the entire delay period. These results indicate that IFG, PM and area Spt comprise the core articulatory rehearsal areas involved in verbal WM, while MFG and SPL are recruited in a general supervisory role once a memory load threshold in the core rehearsal network has been exceeded.

Bloemendaal, M, van Schouwenburg MR, Miyakawa A, Aarts E, D'Esposito M, Cools R.  2014.  Dopaminergic modulation of distracter-resistance and prefrontal delay period signal., 2014 Oct 11. Psychopharmacology. Abstract

Dopamine has long been implicated in the online maintenance of information across short delays. Specifically, dopamine has been proposed to modulate the strength of working memory representations in the face of intervening distracters. This hypothesis has not been tested in humans. We fill this gap using pharmacological neuroimaging. Healthy young subjects were scanned after intake of the dopamine receptor agonist bromocriptine or placebo (in a within-subject, counterbalanced, and double-blind design). During scanning, subjects performed a delayed match-to-sample task with face stimuli. A face or scene distracter was presented during the delay period (between the cue and the probe). Bromocriptine altered distracter-resistance, such that it impaired performance after face relative to scene distraction. Individual differences in the drug effect on distracter-resistance correlated negatively with drug effects on delay period signal in the prefrontal cortex, as well as on functional connectivity between the prefrontal cortex and the fusiform face area. These results provide evidence for the hypothesis that dopaminergic modulation of the prefrontal cortex alters resistance of working memory representations to distraction. Moreover, we show that the effects of dopamine on the distracter-resistance of these representations are accompanied by modulation of the functional strength of connections between the prefrontal cortex and stimulus-specific posterior cortex.

Wittmann, BC, D'Esposito M.  2014.  Levodopa administration modulates striatal processing of punishment-associated items in healthy participants., 2014 Jun 13. Psychopharmacology. Abstract

Appetitive and aversive processes share a number of features such as their relevance for action and learning. On a neural level, reward and its predictors are associated with increased firing of dopaminergic neurons, whereas punishment processing has been linked to the serotonergic system and to decreases in dopamine transmission. Recent data indicate, however, that the dopaminergic system also responds to aversive stimuli and associated actions.

Van Vleet, TM, Chen A, Vernon A, Novakovic-Agopian T, D'Esposito MT.  2014.  Tonic and phasic alertness training: a novel treatment for executive control dysfunction following mild traumatic brain injury., 2014 Jul 1. Neurocase. :1-10. Abstract

Many individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) suffer difficulty regulating fundamental aspects of attention (focus, sustained attention) and may also exhibit hypo- or hyper-states of alertness. Deficits in the state of attention may underlie or exacerbate higher order executive dysfunction. Recent studies indicate that computerized cognitive training targeting attentional control and alertness can ameliorate attention deficits evident in patients with TBI or acquired brain injury. The current study examined whether improvements in attentional state following training can also influence performance on higher-order executive function and mood in individuals with mild TBI (mTBI). The current study examined five patients with executive control deficits as a result of mTBI, with or without persistent anxiety. Three patients engaged in ~5 hours of an executive control training task targeting inhibitory control and sustained attention; two additional patients were re-tested following the same period of time. Performance on standard neuropsychological measures of attention, executive function, and mood were evaluated pre- and post-training. The results indicate that tonic and phasic alertness training may improve higher-order executive function and mood regulation in individuals with TBI.

Sreenivasan, KK, Vytlacil J, D'Esposito M.  2014.  Distributed and Dynamic Storage of Working Memory Stimulus Information in Extrastriate Cortex., 2014 Jan 6. Journal of cognitive neuroscience. Abstract

The predominant neurobiological model of working memory (WM) posits that stimulus information is stored via stable elevated activity within highly selective neurons. On the basis of this model, which we refer to as the canonical model, the storage of stimulus information is largely associated with lateral pFC (lPFC). A growing number of studies describe results that cannot be fully explained by the canonical model, suggesting that it is in need of revision. In this study, we directly test key elements of the canonical model. We analyzed fMRI data collected as participants performed a task requiring WM for faces and scenes. Multivariate decoding procedures identified patterns of activity containing information about the items maintained in WM (faces, scenes, or both).Although information about WM items was identified in extrastriate visual cortex (EC) and lPFC, only EC exhibited a pattern of results consistent with a sensory representation. Information in both regions persisted even in the absence of elevated activity, suggesting that elevated population activity may not represent the storage of information in WM. Additionally, we observed that WM information was distributed across EC neural populations that exhibited a broad range of selectivity for the WM items rather than restricted to highly selective EC populations. Finally, we determined that activity patterns coding for WM information were not stable, but instead varied over the course of a trial, indicating that the neural code for WM information is dynamic rather than static. Together, these findings challenge the canonical model of WM.

Bahlmann, J, Blumenfeld RS, D'Esposito M.  2014.  The Rostro-Caudal Axis of Frontal Cortex Is Sensitive to the Domain of Stimulus Information., 2014 Jan 22. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991). Abstract

Evidence suggests that lateral frontal cortex implements cognitive control processing along its rostro-caudal axis, yet other evidence supports a dorsal-ventral functional organization for processes engaged by different stimulus domains (e.g., spatial vs. nonspatial). This functional magnetic resonance imaging study investigated whether separable dorsolateral and ventrolateral rostro-caudal gradients exist in humans, while participants performed tasks requiring cognitive control at 3 levels of abstraction with language or spatial stimuli. Abstraction was manipulated by using 3 different task sets that varied in relational complexity. Relational complexity refers to the process of manipulating the relationship between task components (e.g., to associate a particular cue with a task) and drawing inferences about that relationship. Tasks using different stimulus domains engaged distinct posterior regions, but within the lateral frontal cortex, we found evidence for a single rostro-caudal gradient that was organized according to the level of abstraction and was independent of processing of the stimulus domain. However, a pattern of dorsal/ventral segregation of processing engaged by domain-specific information was evident in each separable frontal region only within the most rostral region recruited by task demands. These results suggest that increasingly abstract information is represented in the frontal cortex along distinct rostro-caudal gradients that also segregate along a dorsal-ventral axis dependent on task demands.

Sreenivasan, KK, Gratton C, Vytlacil J, D'Esposito M.  2014.  Evidence for working memory storage operations in perceptual cortex., 2014 Jan 17. Cognitive, affective & behavioral neuroscience. Abstract

Isolating the short-term storage component of working memory (WM) from the myriad of associated executive processes has been an enduring challenge. Recent efforts have identified patterns of activity in visual regions that contain information about items being held in WM. However, it remains unclear (1) whether these representations withstand intervening sensory input and (2) how communication between multimodal association cortex and the unimodal perceptual regions supporting WM representations is involved in WM storage. We present evidence that the features of a face held in WM are stored within face-processing regions, that these representations persist across subsequent sensory input, and that information about the match between sensory input and a memory representation is relayed forward from perceptual to prefrontal regions. Participants were presented with a series of probe faces and indicated whether each probe matched a target face held in WM. We parametrically varied the feature similarity between the probe and target faces. Activity within face-processing regions scaled linearly with the degree of feature similarity between the probe face and the features of the target face, suggesting that the features of the target face were stored in these regions. Furthermore, directed connectivity measures revealed that the direction of information flow that was optimal for performance was from sensory regions that stored the features of the target face to dorsal prefrontal regions, supporting the notion that sensory input is compared to representations stored within perceptual regions and is subsequently relayed forward. Together, these findings indicate that WM storage operations are carried out within perceptual cortex.

Aarts, E, Wallace DL, Dang LC, Jagust WJ, Cools R, D'Esposito M.  2014.  Dopamine and the Cognitive Downside of a Promised Bonus., 2014 Feb 13. Psychological science. Abstract

It is often assumed that the promise of a monetary bonus improves cognitive control. We show that in fact appetitive motivation can also impair cognitive control, depending on baseline levels of dopamine-synthesis capacity in the striatum. These data not only demonstrate that appetitive motivation can have paradoxical detrimental effects for cognitive control but also provide a mechanistic account of these effects.

Sadaghiani, S, D'Esposito M.  2014.  Functional Characterization of the Cingulo-Opercular Network in the Maintenance of Tonic Alertness., 2014 Apr 25. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991). Abstract

The complex processing architecture underlying attentional control requires delineation of the functional role of different control-related brain networks. A key component is the cingulo-opercular (CO) network composed of anterior insula/operculum, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, and thalamus. Its function has been particularly difficult to characterize due to the network's pervasive activity and frequent co-activation with other control-related networks. We previously suggested this network to underlie intrinsically maintained tonic alertness. Here, we tested this hypothesis by separately manipulating the demand for selective attention and for tonic alertness in a two-factorial, continuous pitch discrimination paradigm. The 2 factors had independent behavioral effects. Functional imaging revealed that activity as well as functional connectivity in the CO network increased when the task required more tonic alertness. Conversely, heightened selective attention to pitch increased activity in the dorsal attention (DAT) network but not in the CO network. Across participants, performance accuracy showed dissociable correlation patterns with activity in the CO, DAT, and fronto-parietal (FP) control networks. These results support tonic alertness as a fundamental function of the CO network. They further the characterization of this function as the effortful process of maintaining cognitive faculties available for current processing requirements.

Vytlacil, J, Kayser A, Miyakawa A, D'Esposito M.  2014.  An approach for identifying brainstem dopaminergic pathways using resting state functional MRI., 2014. PloS one. 9(1):e87109. Abstract

Here, we present an approach for identifying brainstem dopaminergic pathways using resting state functional MRI. In a group of healthy individuals, we searched for significant functional connectivity between dopamine-rich midbrain areas (substantia nigra; ventral tegmental area) and a striatal region (caudate) that was modulated by both a pharmacological challenge (the administration of the dopaminergic agonist bromocriptine) and a dopamine-sensitive cognitive trait (an individual's working memory capacity). A significant inverted-U shaped connectivity pattern was found in a subset of midbrain-striatal connections, demonstrating that resting state fMRI data is sufficiently powerful to identify brainstem neuromodulatory brain networks.

Gratton, C, Lee TG, Nomura EM, D'Esposito M.  2014.  Perfusion MRI indexes variability in the functional brain effects of theta-burst transcranial magnetic stimulation., 2014. PloS one. 9(7):e101430. Abstract

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is an important tool for testing causal relationships in cognitive neuroscience research. However, the efficacy of TMS can be variable across individuals and difficult to measure. This variability is especially a challenge when TMS is applied to regions without well-characterized behavioral effects, such as in studies using TMS on multi-modal areas in intrinsic networks. Here, we examined whether perfusion fMRI recordings of Cerebral Blood Flow (CBF), a quantitative measure sensitive to slow functional changes, reliably index variability in the effects of stimulation. Twenty-seven participants each completed four combined TMS-fMRI sessions during which both resting state Blood Oxygen Level Dependent (BOLD) and perfusion Arterial Spin Labeling (ASL) scans were recorded. In each session after the first baseline day, continuous theta-burst TMS (TBS) was applied to one of three locations: left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (L dlPFC), left anterior insula/frontal operculum (L aI/fO), or left primary somatosensory cortex (L S1). The two frontal targets are components of intrinsic networks and L S1 was used as an experimental control. CBF changes were measured both before and after TMS on each day from a series of interleaved resting state and perfusion scans. Although TBS led to weak selective increases under the coil in CBF measurements across the group, individual subjects showed wide variability in their responses. TBS-induced changes in rCBF were related to TBS-induced changes in functional connectivity of the relevant intrinsic networks measured during separate resting-state BOLD scans. This relationship was selective: CBF and functional connectivity of these networks were not related before TBS or after TBS to the experimental control region (S1). Furthermore, subject groups with different directions of CBF change after TBS showed distinct modulations in the functional interactions of targeted networks. These results suggest that CBF is a marker of individual differences in the effects of TBS.

Cohen, JR, Gallen CL, Jacobs EG, Lee TG, D'Esposito M.  2014.  Quantifying the Reconfiguration of Intrinsic Networks during Working Memory., 2014. PloS one. 9(9):e106636. Abstract

Rapid, flexible reconfiguration of connections across brain regions is thought to underlie successful cognitive control. Two intrinsic networks in particular, the cingulo-opercular (CO) and fronto-parietal (FP), are thought to underlie two operations critical for cognitive control: task-set maintenance/tonic alertness and adaptive, trial-by-trial updating. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we directly tested whether the functional connectivity of the CO and FP networks was related to cognitive demands and behavior. We focused on working memory because of evidence that during working memory tasks the entire brain becomes more integrated. When specifically probing the CO and FP cognitive control networks, we found that individual regions of both intrinsic networks were active during working memory and, as expected, integration across the two networks increased during task blocks that required cognitive control. Crucially, increased integration between each of the cognitive control networks and a task-related, non-cognitive control network (the hand somatosensory-motor network; SM) was related to increased accuracy. This implies that dynamic reconfiguration of the CO and FP networks so as to increase their inter-network communication underlies successful working memory.

2013
Blumenfeld, RS, Bliss DP, Perez F, D'Esposito M.  2013.  CoCoTools: Open-source Software for Building Connectomes Using the CoCoMac Anatomical Database., 2013 Oct 11. Journal of cognitive neuroscience. Abstract

Neuroanatomical tracer studies in the nonhuman primate macaque monkey are a valuable resource for cognitive neuroscience research. These data ground theories of cognitive function in anatomy, and with the emergence of graph theoretical analyses in neuroscience, there is high demand for these data to be consolidated into large-scale connection matrices ("macroconnectomes"). Because manual review of the anatomical literature is time consuming and error prone, computational solutions are needed to accomplish this task. Here we describe the "CoCoTools" open-source Python library, which automates collection and integration of macaque connectivity data for visualization and graph theory analysis. CoCoTools both interfaces with the CoCoMac database, which houses a vast amount of annotated tracer results from 100 years (1905-2005) of neuroanatomical research and implements coordinate-free registration algorithms, which allow studies that use different parcellations of the brain to be translated into a single graph. We show that using CoCoTools to translate all of the data stored in CoCoMac produces graphs with properties consistent with what is known about global brain organization. Moreover, in addition to describing CoCoTools' processing pipeline, we provide worked examples, tutorials, links to on-line documentation, and detailed appendices to aid scientists interested in using CoCoTools to gather and analyze CoCoMac data.

Sneve, MH, Magnussen S, Alnæs D, Endestad T, D'Esposito M.  2013.  Top-Down Modulation from Inferior Frontal Junction to FEFs and Intraparietal Sulcus during Short-term Memory for Visual Features., 2013 May 22. Journal of cognitive neuroscience. Abstract

Visual STM of simple features is achieved through interactions between retinotopic visual cortex and a set of frontal and parietal regions. In the present fMRI study, we have investigated effective connectivity between central nodes in this network during the different task epochs of a modified delayed orientation discrimination task. Our univariate analyses demonstrate that the inferior frontal junction (IFJ) is preferentially involved in memory encoding, whereas activity in the putative FEFs and anterior intraparietal sulcus (aIPS) remains elevated throughout periods of memory maintenance. We have earlier reported, using the same task, that areas in visual cortex sustain information about task-relevant stimulus properties during delay intervals [Sneve, M. H., Alnæs, D., Endestad, T., Greenlee, M. W., & Magnussen, S. Visual short-term memory: Activity supporting encoding and maintenance in retinotopic visual cortex. Neuroimage, 63, 166-178, 2012]. To elucidate the temporal dynamics of the IFJ-FEF-aIPS-visual cortex network during memory operations, we estimated Granger causality effects between these regions with fMRI data representing memory encoding/maintenance as well as during memory retrieval. We also investigated a set of control conditions involving active processing of stimuli not associated with a memory task and passive viewing. In line with the developing understanding of IFJ as a region critical for control processes with a possible initiating role in visual STM operations, we observed influence from IFJ to FEF and aIPS during memory encoding. Furthermore, FEF predicted activity in a set of higher-order visual areas during memory retrieval, a finding consistent with its suggested role in top-down biasing of sensory cortex.

Hooker, CI, Bruce L, Fisher M, Verosky SC, Miyakawa A, D'Esposito M, Vinogradov S.  2013.  The influence of combined cognitive plus social-cognitive training on amygdala response during face emotion recognition in schizophrenia., 2013 Jun 5. Psychiatry research. Abstract2013_hooker.pdf

Both cognitive and social-cognitive deficits impact functional outcome in schizophrenia. Cognitive remediation studies indicate that targeted cognitive and/or social-cognitive training improves behavioral performance on trained skills. However, the neural effects of training in schizophrenia and their relation to behavioral gains are largely unknown. This study tested whether a 50-h intervention which included both cognitive and social-cognitive training would influence neural mechanisms that support social ccognition. Schizophrenia participants completed a computer-based intervention of either auditory-based cognitive training (AT) plus social-cognition training (SCT) (N=11) or non-specific computer games (CG) (N=11). Assessments included a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) task of facial emotion recognition, and behavioral measures of cognition, social cognition, and functional outcome. The fMRI results showed the predicted group-by-time interaction. Results were strongest for emotion recognition of happy, surprise and fear: relative to CG participants, AT+SCT participants showed a neural activity increase in bilateral amygdala, right putamen and right medial prefrontal cortex. Across all participants, pre-to-post intervention neural activity increase in these regions predicted behavioral improvement on an independent emotion perception measure (MSCEIT: Perceiving Emotions). Among AT+SCT participants alone, neural activity increase in right amygdala predicted behavioral improvement in emotion perception. The findings indicate that combined cognition and social-cognition training improves neural systems that support social-cognition skills.

Yoon, JH, Minzenberg MJ, Raouf S, D'Esposito M, Carter CS.  2013.  Impaired Prefrontal-Basal Ganglia Functional Connectivity and Substantia Nigra Hyperactivity in Schizophrenia., 2013 Jan 3. Biological psychiatry. Abstract2013_yoon.pdf

BACKGROUND: The theory that prefrontal cortex (PFC) dysfunction in schizophrenia leads to excess subcortical dopamine has generated widespread interest because it provides a parsimonious account for two core features of schizophrenia, cognitive deficits and psychosis, respectively. However, there has been limited empirical validation of this model. Moreover, the identity of the specific subcortical brain regions and circuits that may be impaired as a result of PFC dysfunction and mediate its link to psychosis in schizophrenia remains unclear. We undertook this event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging study to test the hypothesis that PFC dysfunction is associated with altered function of and connectivity with dopamine regulating regions of the basal ganglia. METHODS: Eighteen individuals with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and 19 healthy control participants completed event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging during working memory. We conducted between-group contrasts of task-evoked, univariate activation maps to identify regions of altered function in schizophrenia. We also compared the groups on the level of functional connectivity between a priori identified PFC and basal ganglia regions to determine if prefrontal disconnectivity in patients was present. RESULTS: We observed task-evoked hyperactivity of the substantia nigra that occurred in association with prefrontal and striatal hypoactivity in the schizophrenia group. The magnitude of prefrontal functional connectivity with these dysfunctional basal ganglia regions was decreased in the schizophrenia group. Additionally, the level of nigrostriatal functional connectivity predicted the level of psychosis. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that functional impairments of the prefrontal striatonigral circuit may be a common pathway linking the pathogenesis of cognitive deficits and psychosis in schizophrenia.

Blumenfeld, RS, Lee T, D'Esposito M.  2013.  The effects of lateral prefrontal transcranial magnetic stimulation on item memory encoding., 2013 Dec 4. Neuropsychologia. Abstract

Previous neuroimaging research has established that the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) is involved in long-term memory (LTM) encoding for individual items. Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is implicated less frequently, and one theory that has gained support to explain this discrepancy is that DLPFC is involved in forming item-item relational but not item LTM. Given that neuroimaging results are correlational, complimentary methods such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) have been used to test causal hypotheses generated from imaging data. Most TMS studies of LTM encoding have found that disruption of lateral PFC activity impairs subsequent memory. However these studies have lacked methods to precisely localize and directly compare TMS effects from frontal subregions implicated by the neuroimaging literature. Here, we target specific subregions of lateral PFC with TMS to test the prediction from the item/relational framework that temporary disruption of VLPFC during encoding will impair subsequent memory whereas TMS to DLPFC during item encoding will not. Frontal TMS was administered prior to a LTM encoding task in which participants were presented with a list of individual nouns and asked to judge whether each noun was concrete or abstract. After a 40min delay period, item recognition memory was tested. Results indicate that VLPFC and DLPFC TMS have differential effects on subsequent item memory. VLPFC TMS reliably disrupted subsequent item memory whereas DLPFC TMS led to numerical enhancement in item memory, relative to TMS to a control region.

Lee, TG, Blumenfeld RS, D'Esposito M.  2013.  Disruption of dorsolateral but not ventrolateral prefrontal cortex improves unconscious perceptual memories., 2013 Aug 7. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 33(32):13233-7. Abstract2013_lee.pdf

Attentive encoding often leads to more accurate responses in recognition memory tests. However, previous studies have described conditions under which taxing explicit memory resources by attentional distraction improved perceptual recognition memory without awareness. These findings lead to the hypothesis that explicit memory processes mediated by the prefrontal cortex (PFC) can interfere with memory processes necessary for implicit recognition memory. The present study directly tested this hypothesis by applying transcranial magnetic stimulation separately over either dorsolateral (DLPFC) or ventrolateral PFC (VLPFC) in humans before performance of a visual memory task. Disruption of DLPFC function led to improvement in recognition accuracy only in responses in which the participant's awareness of memory retrieval was absent. However, disruption of VLPFC function led to subtle shifts in recollection and familiarity accuracy. We conclude that explicit memory processes mediated by the DLPFC can indirectly interfere with implicit recognition memory.

Chiong, W, Wilson SM, D'Esposito M, Kayser AS, Grossman SN, Poorzand P, Seeley WW, Miller BL, Rankin KP.  2013.  The salience network causally influences default mode network activity during moral reasoning., 2013 Apr 9. Brain : a journal of neurology. Abstract2013_chiong.pdf

Large-scale brain networks are integral to the coordination of human behaviour, and their anatomy provides insights into the clinical presentation and progression of neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease, which targets the default mode network, and behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia, which targets a more anterior salience network. Although the default mode network is recruited when healthy subjects deliberate about 'personal' moral dilemmas, patients with Alzheimer's disease give normal responses to these dilemmas whereas patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia give abnormal responses to these dilemmas. We hypothesized that this apparent discrepancy between activation- and patient-based studies of moral reasoning might reflect a modulatory role for the salience network in regulating default mode network activation. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging to characterize network activity of patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia and healthy control subjects, we present four converging lines of evidence supporting a causal influence from the salience network to the default mode network during moral reasoning. First, as previously reported, the default mode network is recruited when healthy subjects deliberate about 'personal' moral dilemmas, but patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia producing atrophy in the salience network give abnormally utilitarian responses to these dilemmas. Second, patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia have reduced recruitment of the default mode network compared with healthy control subjects when deliberating about these dilemmas. Third, a Granger causality analysis of functional neuroimaging data from healthy control subjects demonstrates directed functional connectivity from nodes of the salience network to nodes of the default mode network during moral reasoning. Fourth, this Granger causal influence is diminished in patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia. These findings are consistent with a broader model in which the salience network modulates the activity of other large-scale networks, and suggest a revision to a previously proposed 'dual-process' account of moral reasoning. These findings also characterize network interactions underlying abnormal moral reasoning in frontotemporal dementia, which may serve as a model for the aberrant judgement and interpersonal behaviour observed in this disease and in other disorders of social function. More broadly, these findings link recent work on the dynamic interrelationships between large-scale brain networks to observable impairments in dementia syndromes, which may shed light on how diseases that target one network also alter the function of interrelated networks.

Gratton, C, Sreenivasan KK, Silver MA, D'Esposito M.  2013.  Attention selectively modifies the representation of individual faces in the human brain., 2013 Apr 17. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 33(16):6979-89. Abstract2013_gratton.pdf

Attention modifies neural tuning for low-level features, but it is unclear how attention influences tuning for complex stimuli. We investigated this question in humans using fMRI and face stimuli. Participants were shown six faces (F1-F6) along a morph continuum, and selectivity was quantified by constructing tuning curves for individual voxels. Face-selective voxels exhibited greater responses to their preferred face than to nonpreferred faces, particularly in posterior face areas. Anterior face areas instead displayed tuning for face categories: voxels in these areas preferred either the first (F1-F3) or second (F4-F6) half of the morph continuum. Next, we examined the effects of attention on voxel tuning by having subjects direct attention to one of the superimposed images of F1 and F6. We found that attention selectively enhanced responses in voxels preferring the attended face. Together, our results demonstrate that single voxels carry information about individual faces and that the nature of this information varies across cortical face areas. Additionally, we found that attention selectively enhances these representations. Our findings suggest that attention may act via a unitary principle of selective enhancement of responses to both simple and complex stimuli across multiple stages of the visual hierarchy.

Stelzel, C, Fiebach CJ, Cools R, Tafazoli S, D'Esposito M.  2013.  Dissociable fronto-striatal effects of dopamine D2 receptor stimulation on cognitive versus motor flexibility., 2013 Apr 11. Cortex; a journal devoted to the study of the nervous system and behavior. Abstract2013_stelzel.pdf

Genetic and pharmacological studies suggest an important role of the dopamine D2 receptor (DRD2) in flexible behavioral adaptation, mostly shown in reward-based learning paradigms. Recent evidence from imaging genetics indicates that also intentional cognitive flexibility, associated with lateral frontal cortex, is affected by variations in DRD2 signaling. In the present functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study, we tested the effects of a direct pharmacological manipulation of DRD2 stimulation on intentional flexibility in a task-switching context, requiring switches between cognitive task rules and between response hands. In a double blind, counterbalanced design, participants received either a low dose of the DRD2 agonist bromocriptine or a placebo in two separate sessions. Bromocriptine modulated the blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signal during rule switching: rule-switching-related activity in the left posterior lateral frontal cortex and in the striatum was increased compared to placebo, at comparable performance levels. Fronto-striatal connectivity under bromocriptine was slightly increased for rule switches compared to rule repetitions. Hand-switching-related activity, in contrast, was reduced under bromocriptine in sensorimotor regions. Our results provide converging evidence for an involvement of DRD2 signaling in fronto-striatal mechanisms underlying intentional flexibility, and indicate that the neural mechanisms underlying different types of flexibility (cognitive vs motor) are affected differently by increased dopaminergic stimulation.

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.

Buchsbaum, B, D'Esposito M.  2013.  Working memory. Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Neuroscience. , Oxford: Oxford University Press
2012
Voytek, B, D'Esposito M, Crone N, Knight RT.  2012.  A method for event-related phase/amplitude coupling., 2012 Sep 14. NeuroImage. Abstract2012_voytek.pdf

Phase/amplitude coupling (PAC) is emerging as an important electrophysiological measure of local and long-distance neuronal communication. Current techniques for calculating PAC provide a numerical index that represents an average value across an arbitrarily long time period. This requires researchers to rely on block design experiments and temporal concatenation at the cost of the sub-second temporal resolution afforded by electrophysiological recordings. Here we present a method for calculating event-related phase/amplitude coupling (ERPAC) designed to capture the temporal evolution of task-related changes in PAC across events or between distant brain regions that is applicable to human or animal electromagnetic recording.

Lee, TG, D'Esposito M.  2012.  The Dynamic Nature of Top-Down Signals Originating from Prefrontal Cortex: A Combined fMRI-TMS Study., 2012 Oct 31. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 32(44):15458-66. Abstract2012_lee.pdf

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is proposed to be the source of top-down signals that can modulate extrastriate visual processing in accordance with behavioral goals, yet little direct causal evidence for this hypothesis exists. Using theta burst transcranial magnetic stimulation, we disrupted PFC function in human participants before performing a working memory task during fMRI scanning. PFC disruption decreased the tuning of extrastriate cortex responses, coinciding with decrements in working memory performance. We also found that activity in the homologous PFC region in the nonstimulated hemisphere predicted performance following disruption. Specifically, those participants with greater homologous PFC activity and greater connectivity between this region and extrastriate cortex were the most resistant to PFC disruption. These findings provide evidence for a compensatory mechanism following insults to the brain, and insight into the dynamic nature of top-down signals originating from the PFC.

Novakovic-Agopian, T, Chen AJ-W, Rome S, Rossi A, Abrams G, Dʼesposito M, Turner G, McKim R, Muir J, Hills N, Kennedy C, Garfinkle J, Murphy M, Binder D, Castelli H.  2012.  Assessment of Subcomponents of Executive Functioning in Ecologically Valid Settings: The Goal Processing Scale., 2012 Oct 16. The Journal of head trauma rehabilitation. Abstract

OBJECTIVES:: To validate a new functional assessment tool, the Goal Processing Scale (GPS), and to apply it for testing for sources of dysfunction in patients with acquired brain injury. Determining which component processes of executive functioning underlie poor performance in complex, low-structure settings would be valuable for the assessment of deficits and for evaluating the effectiveness of treatments. PARTICIPANTS:: Nineteen individuals with chronic acquired brain injury (mean age = 41.4 years; chronicity: 6 months to 39 years). MAIN MEASURES:: Two functional assessment tasks: (1) GPS, which evaluates functional performance in the context of achieving a goal in a "real-world" setting, with rating scales measuring overall performance and 8 subdomains of executive functioning; (2) Multiple Errands Test, an unstructured assessment of ability to adhere to rules and complete multiple "real-world" tasks in a short time; and (3) a neuropsychological battery. RESULTS:: Intraclass correlation coefficients for 2 independent raters ranged from 0.75 to 0.98 for the GPS overall composite score and the subdomain scores. Performance on GPS overall and several subdomain scores correlated with performance on the Multiple Errands Test. Working memory and learning/memory neuropsychological measures predicted functional performance as measured using the GPS. DISCUSSION:: The GPS shows high interrater reliability, suggesting convergent validity with an established functional performance measure, and produces useful information regarding strengths and weaknesses in different subdomains of executive functioning. Working memory and learning/memory appear to be key determinants of goal-directed functioning for these individuals with brain injury.

Sadaghiani, S, Scheeringa R, Lehongre K, Morillon B, Giraud A-L, D'Esposito M, Kleinschmidt A.  2012.  Alpha-Band Phase Synchrony Is Related to Activity in the Fronto-Parietal Adaptive Control Network., 2012 Oct 10. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 32(41):14305-14310. Abstract2012_sadaghiani.pdf

Neural oscillations in the alpha band (8-12 Hz) are increasingly viewed as an active inhibitory mechanism that gates and controls sensory information processing as a function of cognitive relevance. Extending this view, phase synchronization of alpha oscillations across distant cortical regions could regulate integration of information. Here, we investigated whether such long-range cross-region coupling in the alpha band is intrinsically and selectively linked to activity in a distinct functionally specialized brain network. If so, this would provide new insight into the functional role of alpha band phase synchrony. We adapted the phase-locking value to assess fluctuations in synchrony that occur over time in ongoing activity. Concurrent EEG and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) were recorded during resting wakefulness in 26 human subjects. Fluctuations in global synchrony in the upper alpha band correlated positively with activity in several prefrontal and parietal regions (as measured by fMRI). fMRI intrinsic connectivity analysis confirmed that these regions correspond to the well known fronto-parietal (FP) network. Spectral correlations with this network's activity confirmed that no other frequency band showed equivalent results. This selective association supports an intrinsic relation between large-scale alpha phase synchrony and cognitive functions associated with the FP network. This network has been suggested to implement phasic aspects of top-down modulation such as initiation and change in moment-to-moment control. Mechanistically, long-range upper alpha band synchrony is well suited to support these functions. Complementing our previous findings that related alpha oscillation power to neural structures serving tonic control, the current findings link alpha phase synchrony to neural structures underpinning phasic control of alertness and task requirements.

Cohen, JR, Sreenivasan KK, D'Esposito M.  2012.  Correspondence Between Stimulus Encoding- and Maintenance-Related Neural Processes Underlies Successful Working Memory., 2012 Nov 11. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991). Abstract2012_cohen.pdf

The ability to actively maintain information in working memory (WM) is vital for goal-directed behavior, but the mechanisms underlying this process remain elusive. We hypothesized that successful WM relies upon a correspondence between the neural processes associated with stimulus encoding and the neural processes associated with maintenance. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we identified regional activity and inter-regional connectivity during stimulus encoding and the maintenance of those stimuli when they were no longer present. We compared correspondence in these neural processes across encoding and maintenance epochs with WM performance. Critically, greater correspondence between encoding and maintenance in 1) regional activity in the lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) and 2) connectivity between lateral PFC and extrastriate cortex was associated with increased performance. These findings suggest that the conservation of neural processes across encoding and maintenance supports the integrity of representations in WM.

Gratton, C, Nomura EM, Pérez F, D’esposito M.  2012.  Focal Brain Lesions to Critical Locations Cause Widespread Disruption of the Modular Organization of the Brain., 2012 Mar 8. Journal of cognitive neuroscience. Abstract2012_gratton1.pdf

Although it is generally assumed that brain damage predominantly affects only the function of the damaged region, here we show that focal damage to critical locations causes disruption of network organization throughout the brain. Using resting state fMRI, we assessed whole-brain network structure in patients with focal brain lesions. Only damage to those brain regions important for communication between subnetworks (e.g., "connectors")-but not to those brain regions important for communication within sub-networks (e.g., "hubs")-led to decreases in modularity, a measure of the integrity of network organization. Critically, this network dysfunction extended into the structurally intact hemisphere. Thus, focal brain damage can have a widespread, nonlocal impact on brain network organization when there is damage to regions important for the communication between networks. These findings fundamentally revise our understanding of the remote effects of focal brain damage and may explain numerous puzzling cases of functional deficits that are observed following brain injury.

Kayser, AS, D’esposito M.  2012.  Abstract Rule Learning: The Differential Effects of Lesions in Frontal Cortex., 2012 Jan 31. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991). Abstract2012_kayser.pdf

Learning progressively more abstract stimulus-response mappings requires progressively more anterior regions of the lateral frontal cortex. Using an individual differences approach, we studied subjects with frontal lesions performing a hierarchical reinforcement-learning task to investigate how frontal cortex contributes to abstract rule learning. We predicted that subjects with lesions of the left pre-premotor (pre-PMd) cortex, a region implicated in abstract rule learning, would demonstrate impaired acquisition of second-order, as opposed to first-order, rules. We found that 4 subjects with such lesions did indeed demonstrate a second-order rule-learning impairment, but that these subjects nonetheless performed better than subjects with other frontal lesions in a second-order rule condition. This finding resulted from both their restricted exploration of the feature space and the task structure of this condition, for which they identified partially representative first-order rules. Significantly, across all subjects, suboptimal but above-chance performance in this condition correlated with increasing disconnection of left pre-PMd from the putative functional hierarchy, defined by reduced functional connectivity between left pre-PMd and adjacent nodes. These findings support the theory that activity within lateral frontal cortex shapes the search for relevant stimulus-response mappings, while emphasizing that the behavioral correlate of impairments depends critically on task structure.

Handwerker, DA, Gonzalez-Castillo J, D'Esposito M, Bandettini PA.  2012.  The continuing challenge of understanding and modeling hemodynamic variation in fMRI., 2012 Feb 14. NeuroImage. Abstract2012_handwerker.pdf

Interpretation of fMRI data depends on our ability to understand or model the shape of the hemodynamic response (HR) to a neural event. Although the HR has been studied almost since the beginning of fMRI, we are still far from having robust methods to account for the full range of known HR variation in typical fMRI analyses. This paper reviews how the authors and others contributed to our understanding of HR variation. We present an overview of studies that describe HR variation across voxels, healthy volunteers, populations, and dietary or pharmaceutical modulations. We also describe efforts to minimize the effects of HR variation in intrasubject, group, population, and connectivity analyses and the limits of these methods.

Blumenfeld, RS, Nomura EM, Gratton C, D'Esposito M.  2012.  Lateral Prefrontal Cortex is Organized into Parallel Dorsal and Ventral Streams Along the Rostro-Caudal Axis., 2012 Aug 9. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991). Abstract

Anatomical connectivity differences between the dorsal and ventral lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) of the non-human primate strongly suggests that these regions support different functions. However, after years of study, it remains unclear whether these regions are functionally distinct. In contrast, there has been a groundswell of recent studies providing evidence for a rostro-caudal functional organization, along the lateral as well as dorsomedial frontal cortex. Thus, it is not known whether dorsal and ventral regions of lateral PFC form distinct functional networks and how to reconcile any dorso-ventral organization with the medio-lateral and rostro-caudal axes. Here, we used resting-state connectivity data to identify parallel dorsolateral and ventrolateral streams of intrinsic connectivity with the dorsomedial frontal cortex. Moreover, we show that this connectivity follows a rostro-caudal gradient. Our results provide evidence for a novel framework for the intrinsic organization of the frontal cortex that incorporates connections between medio-lateral, dorso-ventral, and rostro-caudal axes.

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.

Sheridan, MA, Sarsour K, Jutte D, D'Esposito M, Boyce TW.  2012.  The impact of social disparity on prefrontal function in childhood., 2012. PloS one. 7(4):e35744. Abstract2012_sheridan.pdf

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) develops from birth through late adolescence. This extended developmental trajectory provides many opportunities for experience to shape the structure and function of the PFC. To date, a few studies have reported links between parental socioeconomic status (SES) and prefrontal function in childhood, raising the possibility that aspects of environment associated with SES impact prefrontal function. Considering that behavioral measures of prefrontal function are associated with learning across multiple domains, this is an important area of investigation. In this study, we used fMRI to replicate previous findings, demonstrating an association between parental SES and PFC function during childhood. In addition, we present two hypothetical mechanisms by which SES could come to affect PFC function of this association: language environment and stress reactivity. We measured language use in the home environment and change in salivary cortisol before and after fMRI scanning. Complexity of family language, but not the child's own language use, was associated with both parental SES and PFC activation. Change in salivary cortisol was also associated with both SES and PFC activation. These observed associations emphasize the importance of both enrichment and adversity-reduction interventions in creating good developmental environments for all children.

Miller, BT, D'Esposito M.  2012.  Spatial and temporal dynamics of cortical networks engaged in memory encoding and retrieval., 2012. Frontiers in human neuroscience. 6:109. Abstract2012_miller.pdf

Memory operations such as encoding and retrieval require the coordinated interplay of cortical regions with distinct functional contributions. The mechanistic nature of these interactions, however, remains unspecified. During the performance of a face memory task during fMRI scanning, we measured the magnitude (a measure of the strength of coupling between areas) and phase (a measure of the relative timing across areas) of coherence between regions of interest and the rest of the brain. The fusiform face area (FFA) showed robust coherence with a distributed network of subregions in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), posterior parietal cortex (PPC), precuneus, and hippocampus across both memory operations. While these findings reveal significant overlap in the cortical networks underlying mnemonic encoding and retrieval, coherence phase analyses revealed context-dependent differences in cortical dynamics. During both encoding and retrieval, PFC and PPC exhibited earlier activity than in the FFA and hippocampus. Also, during retrieval, PFC activity preceded PPC activity. These findings are consistent with prior physiology studies suggesting an early contribution of PFC and PPC in mnemonic control. Together, these findings contribute to the growing literature exploring the spatio-temporal dynamics of basic memory operations.

Wittmann, B, D'Esposito M.  2012.  Functional magnetic resonance imaging. Handbook of Research Methods in Psychology. , Washington, DC: American Psychological Association
Kayser, A, D'Esposito M.  2012.  Neurotechnologies. Encyclopedia of Human Behavior, 2nd Edition. , Oxford: Elsevier
D'Esposito, M, Chen A.  2012.  Remediating frontal lobe dysfunction: from bench to bedside. The Oxford Handbook of Frontal Lobe Functions. , New York: Oxford University Press
2011
Novakovic-Agopian, T, Chen AJ-W, Rome S, Abrams G, Castelli H, Rossi A, McKim R, Hills N, D'Esposito M.  2011.  Rehabilitation of executive functioning with training in attention regulation applied to individually defined goals: a pilot study bridging theory, assessment, and treatment., 2011 Sep-Oct. The Journal of head trauma rehabilitation. 26(5):325-38. Abstract2011_novakovic.pdf

To assess feasibility and effects of training in goal-oriented attentional self-regulation for patients with brain injury and chronic executive dysfunction.

D'Esposito, M, Gazzaley A.  2011.  Can age-associated memory decline be treated?, 2011 Oct 6 The New England journal of medicine. 365(14):1346-7. Abstract2011_desposito_nejm.pdf

n/a

Krawczyk, DC, D'Esposito M.  2011.  Modulation of working memory function by motivation through loss-aversion., 2011 Nov 24. Human brain mapping. Abstract2011_krawczyk.pdf

Cognitive performance is affected by motivation. Few studies, however, have investigated the neural mechanisms of the influence of motivation through potential monetary punishment on working memory. We employed functional MRI during a delayed recognition task that manipulated top-down control demands with added monetary incentives to some trials in the form of potential losses of bonus money. Behavioral performance on the task was influenced by loss-threatening incentives in the form of faster and more accurate performance. As shown previously, we found enhancement of activity for relevant stimuli occurs throughout all task periods (e.g., stimulus encoding, maintenance, and response) in both prefrontal and visual association cortex. Further, these activation patterns were enhanced for trials with possible monetary loss relative to nonincentive trials. During the incentive cue, the amygdala and striatum showed significantly greater activation when money was at a possible loss on the trial. We also evaluated patterns of functional connectivity between regions responsive to monetary consequences and prefrontal areas responsive to the task. This analysis revealed greater delay period connectivity between and the left insula and prefrontal cortex with possible monetary loss relative to nonincentive trials. Overall, these results reveal that incentive motivation can modulate performance on working memory tasks through top-down signals via amplification of activity within prefrontal and visual association regions selective to processing the perceptual inputs of the stimuli to be remembered. Hum Brain Mapp , 2011. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Altamirano, LJ, Fields HL, D’Esposito, Boettiger CA.  2011.  Interaction Between Family History of Alcoholism and Locus of Control in the Opioid Regulation of Impulsive Responding Under the Influence of Alcohol., 2011 May 13. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research. Abstract2011_altamirano.pdf

{Background: Naltrexone (NTX) is an opioid antagonist indicated for the treatment of alcoholism, which is not universally effective. Thus, identifying individual predictors of NTX’s behavioral effects is critical to optimizing its therapeutic use. Moreover, given the high rate of relapse during treatment for alcoholism, understanding NTX’s behavioral effects when combined with moderate ethanol intake is important. Our previous study of abstinent alcoholics and control subjects showed that a more internal Locus of Control score predicted increased impulsive choice on NTX (Mitchell et al., 2007, Neuropsychopharmacology 32:439-449). Here, we tested whether this predictive relationship remains in the context of moderate alcohol intake. Methods: In this study, we tested the effect of acute NTX (50 mg) on impulsive choice, motor inhibition, and attentional bias after ingestion of moderate ethanol (\~{}0.3 g/kg

Kuo, B-C, Yeh Y-Y, Chen AJ-W, D'Esposito M.  2011.  Functional connectivity during top-down modulation of visual short-term memory representations., 2011 May. Neuropsychologia. 49:1589-96. Abstract2011_kuo.pdf

Recent evidence has revealed that short-lived internal representations held in visual short-term memory (VSTM) can be modulated by top-down control via retrospective attention which impacts subsequent behavioral performance. However, the functional inter-regional interactions underlying these top-down modulatory effects are not fully characterized. Here we used event-related functional magnetic imaging to investigate whether the strength of functional connectivity between the frontal cortex and posterior visual areas varies with the efficacy of top-down modulation of memory traces. Top-down modulation was manipulated by the timing of retro-cuing (early or late) in a VSTM task. Univariate analyses revealed that more effective top-down modulation (early cueing vs. late cueing) increased activity in early visual areas. Importantly, coherency analyses revealed that top-down modulation produced stronger functional connectivity between frontal and posterior occipital regions. Also, participants with stronger functional connectivity exhibit better memory performance. These results suggest that augmented functional connectivity between frontal and posterior visual areas strengthens the VSTM representations of importance to behavioral goals.

Chen, AJ-W, Novakovic-Agopian T, Nycum TJ, Song S, Turner GR, Hills N, Rome S, Abrams GM, D’Esposito.  2011.  Training of goal-directed attention regulation enhances control over neural processing for individuals with brain injury., 2011 May. Brain : a journal of neurology. 134:1541-54. Abstract2011_chen.pdf

Deficits in attention and executive control are some of the most common, debilitating and persistent consequences of brain injuries. Understanding neural mechanisms that support clinically significant improvements, when they do occur, may help advance treatment development. Intervening via rehabilitation provides an opportunity to probe such mechanisms. Our objective was to identify neural mechanisms that underlie improvements in attention and executive control with rehabilitation training. We tested the hypothesis that intensive training enhances modulatory control of neural processing of perceptual information in patients with acquired brain injuries. Patients (n=12) participated either in standardized training designed to target goal-directed attention regulation, or a comparison condition (brief education). Training resulted in significant improvements on behavioural measures of attention and executive control. Functional magnetic resonance imaging methods adapted for testing the effects of intervention for patients with varied injury pathology were used to index modulatory control of neural processing. Pattern classification was utilized to decode individual functional magnetic resonance imaging data acquired during a visual selective attention task. Results showed that modulation of neural processing in extrastriate cortex was significantly enhanced by attention regulation training. Neural changes in prefrontal cortex, a candidate mediator for attention regulation, appeared to depend on individual baseline state. These behavioural and neural effects did not occur with the comparison condition. These results suggest that enhanced modulatory control over visual processing and a rebalancing of prefrontal functioning may underlie improvements in attention and executive control.

Cools, R, D’Esposito.  2011.  Inverted-U-shaped dopamine actions on human working memory and cognitive control., 2011 Jun 15. Biological psychiatry. 69:e113-25. Abstract2011_cools.pdf

Brain dopamine (DA) has long been implicated in cognitive control processes, including working memory. However, the precise role of DA in cognition is not well-understood, partly because there is large variability in the response to dopaminergic drugs both across different behaviors and across different individuals. We review evidence from a series of studies with experimental animals, healthy humans, and patients with Parkinson’s disease, which highlight two important factors that contribute to this large variability. First, the existence of an optimum DA level for cognitive function implicates the need to take into account baseline levels of DA when isolating the effects of DA. Second, cognitive control is a multifactorial phenomenon, requiring a dynamic balance between cognitive stability and cognitive flexibility. These distinct components might implicate the prefrontal cortex and the striatum, respectively. Manipulating DA will thus have paradoxical consequences for distinct cognitive control processes, depending on distinct basal or optimal levels of DA in different brain regions.

Rokem, A, Landau AN, Prinzmetal W, Wallace DL, Silver MA, D’Esposito.  2011.  Modulation of Inhibition of Return by the Dopamine D2 Receptor Agonist Bromocriptine Depends on Individual DAT1 Genotype., 2011 Jul 28. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991). Abstract2011_rokem.pdf

Involuntary visual spatial attention is captured when a salient cue appears in the visual field. If a target appears soon after the cue, response times to targets at the cue location are faster relative to other locations. However, after longer cue-target intervals, responses to targets at the cue location are slower, due to inhibition of return (IOR). IOR depends on striatal dopamine (DA) levels: It varies with different alleles of the DA transporter gene DAT1 and is reduced in patients with Parkinson’s disease, a disease characterized by reduced striatal dopaminergic transmission. We examined the role of DA in involuntary attention and IOR by administering the DA D2 receptor-specific agonist bromocriptine to healthy human subjects. There was no effect of either DAT1 genotype or bromocriptine on involuntary attention, but participants with DAT1 alleles predicting higher striatal DA had a larger IOR. Furthermore, bromocriptine increased the magnitude of IOR in participants with low striatal DA but abolished the IOR in subjects with high striatal DA. This inverted U-shaped pattern resembles previously described relationships between DA levels and performance on cognitive tasks and suggests an involvement of striatal DA in IOR that does not include a role in involuntary attention.

Willems, RM, Labruna L, D’Esposito, Ivry R, Casasanto D.  2011.  A functional role for the motor system in language understanding: evidence from theta-burst transcranial magnetic stimulation., 2011 Jul 1. Psychological science. 22:849-54. Abstract2011_willems.pdf

Does language comprehension depend, in part, on neural systems for action? In previous studies, motor areas of the brain were activated when people read or listened to action verbs, but it remains unclear whether such activation is functionally relevant for comprehension. In the experiments reported here, we used off-line theta-burst transcranial magnetic stimulation to investigate whether a causal relationship exists between activity in premotor cortex and action-language understanding. Right-handed participants completed a lexical decision task, in which they read verbs describing manual actions typically performed with the dominant hand (e.g., "to throw," "to write") and verbs describing nonmanual actions (e.g., "to earn," "to wander"). Responses to manual-action verbs (but not to nonmanual-action verbs) were faster after stimulation of the hand area in left premotor cortex than after stimulation of the hand area in right premotor cortex. These results suggest that premotor cortex has a functional role in action-language understanding.

Buchsbaum, BR, Baldo J, Okada K, Berman KF, Dronkers N, D’Esposito, Hickok G.  2011.  Conduction aphasia, sensory-motor integration, and phonological short-term memory - An aggregate analysis of lesion and fMRI data., 2011 Jan 20. Brain and language. Abstract2011_buchsbaum.pdf

Conduction aphasia is a language disorder characterized by frequent speech errors, impaired verbatim repetition, a deficit in phonological short-term memory, and naming difficulties in the presence of otherwise fluent and grammatical speech output. While traditional models of conduction aphasia have typically implicated white matter pathways, recent advances in lesions reconstruction methodology applied to groups of patients have implicated left temporoparietal zones. Parallel work using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has pinpointed a region in the posterior most portion of the left planum temporale, area Spt, which is critical for phonological working memory. Here we show that the region of maximal lesion overlap in a sample of 14 patients with conduction aphasia perfectly circumscribes area Spt, as defined in an aggregate fMRI analysis of 105 subjects performing a phonological working memory task. We provide a review of the evidence supporting the idea that Spt is an interface site for the integration of sensory and vocal tract-related motor representations of complex sound sequences, such as speech and music and show how the symptoms of conduction aphasia can be explained by damage to this system.

Miller, BT, Vytlacil J, Fegen D, Pradhan S, D’Esposito.  2011.  The prefrontal cortex modulates category selectivity in human extrastriate cortex., 2011 Jan. Journal of cognitive neuroscience. 23:1-10. Abstract2011_miller.pdf

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.

Jacobs, E, D’Esposito.  2011.  Estrogen shapes dopamine-dependent cognitive processes: implications for women’s health., 2011 Apr 6. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 31:5286-93. Abstract2011_jacobs.pdf

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is exquisitely sensitive to its neurochemical environment. Minor fluctuations in cortical dopamine (DA) can profoundly alter working memory, a PFC-dependent cognitive function that supports an array of essential human behaviors. Dopamine’s action in the PFC follows an inverted U-shaped curve, where an optimal DA level results in maximal function and insufficient or excessive DA impairs PFC function. In animals, 17β-estradiol (the major estrogen in most mammals, referred to henceforth as estradiol) has been shown to enhance DA activity, yet no human study has adequately addressed whether estradiol’s impact on cognition occurs by way of modulating specific neurochemical systems. Here we examined the effects of endogenous fluctuations in estradiol on working memory in healthy young women as a function of baseline PFC DA [indexed by catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) Val(158)Met genotype and, at a finer scale, COMT enzyme activity]. The results demonstrate that estradiol status impacts working memory function and, crucially, the direction of the effect depends on indices of baseline DA. Moreover, consistent with a DA cortical efficiency hypothesis, functional MRI revealed that inferred optimal DA was associated with reduced PFC activity sustained across task blocks and selectively enhanced PFC activity on trials with the greatest demand for cognitive control. The magnitude of PFC activity during high control trials was predictive of an individual’s performance. These findings show that although estrogen, considered in isolation, may have unpredictable effects on cognitive performance, its influence is clarified when considered within a larger neuromodulatory framework. Given the clinical prevalence of dopaminergic drugs, understanding the relationship between estrogen and DA is essential for advancing women’s health.

Wallace, DL, Vytlacil JJ, Nomura EM, Gibbs SE, D’Esposito.  2011.  The dopamine agonist bromocriptine differentially affects fronto-striatal functional connectivity during working memory., 2011. Frontiers in human neuroscience. 5:32. Abstract2011_wallace.pdf

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.

Buchsbaum, BR, Ye D, D’Esposito.  2011.  Recency Effects in the Inferior Parietal Lobe during Verbal Recognition Memory., 2011. Frontiers in human neuroscience. 5:59. Abstract2011_buchsbaum_fihn.pdf

The most recently encountered information is often most easily remembered in psychological tests of memory. Recent investigations of the neural basis of such "recency effects" have shown that activation in the lateral inferior parietal cortex (LIPC) tracks the recency of a probe item when subjects make recognition memory judgments. A key question regarding recency effects in the LIPC is whether they fundamentally reflect the storage (and strength) of information in memory, or whether such effects are a consequence of task difficulty or an upswing in resting state network activity. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging we show that recency effects in the LIPC are independent of the difficulty of recognition memory decisions, that they are not a by-product of an increase in resting state network activity, and that they appear to dissociate from regions known to be involved in verbal working memory maintenance. We conclude with a discussion of two alternative explanations - the memory strength and "expectancy" hypotheses, respectively - of the parietal lobe recency effect.

D'Esposito, M, Badre D.  2011.  Combining the insights derived from lesion and fMRI studies to understand the function of prefrontal cortex. Mind and the Frontal Lobes: Cognition, Behavior, and Brain Imaging. , New York: Oxford University Press
D'Esposito, M, Kayser A, Chen A.  2011.  Functional MRI: cognitive neuroscience applications. Functional Neuroradiology: Principles and Clinical Applications. , Berlin: Springer-Verlag
Turner, G, D'Esposito M.  2011.  Functional neuroimaging of aging. Clinical Neurology of Aging, 3rd Edition. , Oxford: Oxford University Press
2010
Kayser, A, Erickson DT, Buchsbaum BR, D’Esposito.  2010.  Neural representations of relevant and irrelevant features in perceptual decision making., 2010 Nov 24. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 30:15778-89. Abstract2010_kayser.pdf

Although perceptual decision making activates a network of brain areas involved in sensory, integrative, and motor functions, circuit activity can clearly be modulated by factors beyond the stimulus. Of particular interest is to understand how the network is modulated by top-down factors such as attention. Here, we demonstrate in a motion coherence task that selective attention produces marked changes in the blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) response in a subset of regions within a human perceptual decision-making circuit. Specifically, when motion is attended, the BOLD response decreases with increasing motion coherence in many regions, including the motion-sensitive area MT+, the intraparietal sulcus, and the inferior frontal sulcus. However, when motion is ignored, the negative parametric response in a subset of this circuit becomes positive. Through both modeling and connectivity analyses, we demonstrate that this inversion both reflects a top-down influence and segregates attentional from accumulation regions, thereby permitting us to further delineate the contributions of different regions to the perceptual decision.

Kayser, A, Buchsbaum BR, Erickson DT, D’Esposito.  2010.  The functional anatomy of a perceptual decision in the human brain., 2010 Mar. Journal of neurophysiology. 103:1179-94. Abstract2010_kayser_neurophysiology.pdf

Our ability to make rapid decisions based on sensory information belies the complexity of the underlying computations. Recently, "accumulator" models of decision making have been shown to explain the activity of parietal neurons as macaques make judgments concerning visual motion. Unraveling the operation of a decision-making circuit, however, involves understanding both the responses of individual components in the neural circuitry and the relationships between them. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging study of the decision process in humans, we demonstrate that an accumulator model predicts responses to visual motion in the intraparietal sulcus (IPS). Significantly, the metrics used to define responses within the IPS also reveal distinct but interacting nodes in a circuit, including early sensory detectors in visual cortex, the visuomotor integration system of the IPS, and centers of cognitive control in the prefrontal cortex, all of which collectively define a perceptual decision-making network.

Nomura, EM, Gratton C, Visser RM, Kayser A, Perez F, D’Esposito.  2010.  Double dissociation of two cognitive control networks in patients with focal brain lesions., 2010 Jun 29. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 107:12017-22. Abstract2010_nomura.pdf

Neuroimaging studies of cognitive control have identified two distinct networks with dissociable resting state connectivity patterns. This study, in patients with heterogeneous damage to these networks, demonstrates network independence through a double dissociation of lesion location on two different measures of network integrity: functional correlations among network nodes and within-node graph theory network properties. The degree of network damage correlates with a decrease in functional connectivity within that network while sparing the nonlesioned network. Graph theory properties of intact nodes within the damaged network show evidence of dysfunction compared with the undamaged network. The effect of anatomical damage thus extends beyond the lesioned area, but remains within the bounds of the existing network connections. Together this evidence suggests that networks defined by their role in cognitive control processes exhibit independence in resting data.

Sheridan, MA, Hinshaw S, D’Esposito.  2010.  Stimulant medication and prefrontal functional connectivity during working memory in ADHD: a preliminary report., 2010 Jul. Journal of attention disorders. 14:69-78. Abstract2010_sheridan.pdf

OBJECTIVE: Recent theoretical and empirical work suggests that while unmedicated, children with ADHD have a deficit in subcortical processing that leads to greater and more varied prefrontal cortical (PFC) activation, compared to (a) age-matched control participants and (b) their own brain activity while on stimulant medication. This pattern has been described elsewhere as inefficient. METHOD: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and functional connectivity analyses were used during a working memory task for five female adolescents with ADHD, aged 11 to 17 years, both on and off their usual dose of stimulant medication. RESULTS: On medication, adolescents with ADHD demonstrated less PFC activation and less functional connectivity between frontal and subcortical regions compared to off medication. CONCLUSIONS: Because of the small sample size, results are presented as preliminary findings which await replication in a larger sample. However, these findings lend support to the idea that remediation of inefficiencies in PFC function for individuals with ADHD by stimulant medication may be related, in part, to frontal-subcortical connectivity.

Hooker, CI, Verosky SC, Germine LT, Knight RT, D’Esposito.  2010.  Neural activity during social signal perception correlates with self-reported empathy., 2010 Jan 13. Brain research. 1308:100-13. Abstract2010_hooker.pdf

Empathy is an important component of human relationships, yet the neural mechanisms that facilitate empathy are unclear. The broad construct of empathy incorporates both cognitive and affective components. Cognitive empathy includes mentalizing skills such as perspective-taking. Affective empathy consists of the affect produced in response to someone else’s emotional state, a process which is facilitated by simulation or "mirroring." Prior evidence shows that mentalizing tasks engage a neural network which includes the temporoparietal junction, superior temporal sulcus, and medial prefrontal cortex. On the other hand, simulation tasks engage the fronto-parietal mirror neuron system (MNS) which includes the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and the somotosensory related cortex (SRC). Here, we tested whether neural activity in these two neural networks was related to self-reports of cognitive and affective empathy in daily life. Participants viewed social scenes in which the shift of direction of attention of a character did or did not change the character’s mental and emotional state. As expected, the task robustly activated both mentalizing and MNS networks. We found that when detecting the character’s change in mental and emotional state, neural activity in both networks is strongly related to cognitive empathy. Specifically, neural activity in the IFG, SRC, and STS were related to cognitive empathy. Activity in the precentral gyrus was related to affective empathy. The findings suggest that both simulation and mentalizing networks contribute to multiple components of empathy.

Cools, R, Miyakawa A, Sheridan M, D’Esposito.  2010.  Enhanced frontal function in Parkinson’s disease., 2010 Jan. Brain : a journal of neurology. 133:225-33. Abstract2010_cools.pdf

We investigated the role of dopamine in working memory by examining effects of withdrawing dopaminergic medication in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Resistance to distraction during a delayed response task was abnormally enhanced in Parkinson’s disease patients OFF medication relative to controls. Conversely, performance on a backward digit span test was impaired in these same Parkinson’s disease patients OFF medication. Dopaminergic medication reinstated susceptibility to distraction and backward digit span performance, so that performance of Parkinson’s disease patients ON medication did not differ from that of controls. We hypothesize that the enhanced distractor resistance and impaired backward digit span in Parkinson’s disease reflects low dopamine levels in the striatum, and perhaps upregulated frontal dopamine levels. Dopaminergic medication may reinstate distractibility by normalizing the balance between striatal and prefrontal dopamine transmission.

Finn, AS, Sheridan MA, Kam CHL, Hinshaw S, D’Esposito.  2010.  Longitudinal evidence for functional specialization of the neural circuit supporting working memory in the human brain., 2010 Aug 18. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 30:11062-7. Abstract2010_finn.pdf

Although children perform more poorly than adults on many cognitive measures, they are better able to learn things such as language and music. These differences could result from the delayed specialization of neural circuits and asynchronies in the maturation of neural substrates required for learning. Working memory–the ability to hold information in mind that is no longer present in the environment–comprises a set of cognitive processes required for many, if not all, forms of learning. A critical neural substrate for working memory (the prefrontal cortex) continues to mature through early adulthood. What are the functional consequences of this late maturation for working memory? Using a longitudinal design, we show that although individuals recruit prefrontal cortex as expected during both early and late adolescence during a working memory task, this recruitment is correlated with behavior only in late adolescence. The hippocampus is also recruited, but only during early, and not late, adolescence. Moreover, the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex are coactive in early adolescence regardless of task demands or performance, in contrast to the pattern seen in late adolescents and adults, when these regions are coactive only under high task demands. Together, these data demonstrate that neural circuitry underlying working memory changes during adolescent development. The diminishing contribution of the hippocampus in working memory function with age is an important observation that informs questions about how children and adults learn differently.

Badre, D, Kayser A, D’Esposito.  2010.  Frontal cortex and the discovery of abstract action rules., 2010 Apr 29. Neuron. 66:315-26. Abstract2010_badre.pdf

Although we often encounter circumstances with which we have no prior experience, we rapidly learn how to behave in these novel situations. Such adaptive behavior relies on abstract behavioral rules that are generalizable, rather than concrete rules mapping specific cues to specific responses. Although the frontal cortex is known to support concrete rule learning, less well understood are the neural mechanisms supporting the acquisition of abstract rules. Here, we use a reinforcement learning paradigm to demonstrate that more anterior regions along the rostro-caudal axis of frontal cortex support rule learning at higher levels of abstraction. Moreover, these results indicate that when humans confront new rule learning problems, this rostro-caudal division of labor supports the search for relationships between context and action at multiple levels of abstraction simultaneously.

Chen, AJ-W, D’Esposito.  2010.  Traumatic brain injury: from bench to bedside [corrected] to society., 2010 Apr 15. Neuron. 66:11-4. Abstract2010_chen.pdf

Traumatic injury to the brain is a problem as old as humanity, but advances in cognitive neuroscience and a long-term view of the dynamic nature of the brain across the lifespan may change how the disorder is understood and treated.

D'Esposito, M.  2010.  Why Methods Matter in the Study of the Biological Basis of the Mind: A Behavioral Neurologist’s Perspective. The Cognitive Neuroscience of Mind: A Tribute to Michael S. Gazzaniga. , Cambridge: MIT Press Abstract2010despo01.pdf

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2009
Badre, D, D’Esposito.  2009.  Is the rostro-caudal axis of the frontal lobe hierarchical?, 2009 Sep Nature reviews. Neuroscience. 10:659-69. Abstract2009badrenature.pdf

The frontal lobes in the brain are a component of the cerebral system that supports goal-directed behaviour. However, their functional organization remains controversial. Recent studies have reported rostro-caudal distinctions in frontal cortex activity based on the abstractness of action representations. In addition, some have proposed that these differences reflect a hierarchical organization, whereby anterior frontal regions influence processing by posterior frontal regions during the realization of abstract action goals as motor acts. However, few have considered whether the anatomy and physiology of the frontal lobes support such a scheme. To address this gap, this Review surveys anatomical, neuroimaging, electrophysiological and developmental findings, and considers the question: could the organization of the frontal cortex be hierarchical?

Boettiger, CA, Kelley EA, Mitchell JM, D’Esposito, Fields HL.  2009.  Now or Later? An fMRI study of the effects of endogenous opioid blockade on a decision-making network., 2009 Sep Pharmacology, biochemistry, and behavior. 93:291-9. Abstractpbb70653.pdf

Previously, we found that distinct brain areas predict individual selection bias in decisions between small immediate ("Now") and larger delayed rewards ("Later"). Furthermore, such selection bias can be manipulated by endogenous opioid blockade. To test whether blocking endogenous opioids with naltrexone (NTX) alters brain activity during decision-making in areas predicting individual bias, we compared fMRI BOLD signal correlated with Now versus Later decision-making after acute administration of NTX (50 mg) or placebo. We tested abstinent alcoholics and control subjects in a double-blind two-session design. We defined regions of interest (ROIs) centered on activation peaks predicting Now versus Later selection bias. NTX administration significantly increased BOLD signal during decision-making in the right lateral orbital gyrus ROI, an area where enhanced activity during decision-making predicts Later bias. Exploratory analyses identified additional loci where BOLD signal during decision-making was enhanced (left orbitofrontal cortex, left inferior temporal gyrus, and cerebellum) or reduced (right superior temporal pole) by NTX. Additional analyses identified sites, including the right lateral orbital gyrus, in which NTX effects on BOLD signal predicted NTX effects on selection bias. These data agree with opioid receptor expression in human frontal and temporal cortices, and suggest possible mechanisms of NTX’s therapeutic effects.

Kayser, A, Sun FT, D’Esposito.  2009.  A comparison of Granger causality and coherency in fMRI-based analysis of the motor system., 2009 Nov. Human brain mapping. 30:3475-94. Abstract2009kayserhbm.pdf

The ability of functional MRI to acquire data from multiple brain areas has spurred developments not only in voxel-by-voxel analyses, but also in multivariate techniques critical to quantifying the interactions between brain areas. As the number of multivariate techniques multiplies, however, few studies in any modality have directly compared different connectivity measures, and fewer still have done so in the context of well-characterized neural systems. To focus specifically on the temporal dimension of interactions between brain regions, we compared Granger causality and coherency (Sun et al., 2004, 2005: Neuroimage 21:647-658, Neuroimage 28:227-237) in a well-studied motor system (1) to gain further insight into the convergent and divergent results expected from each technique, and (2) to investigate the leading and lagging influences between motor areas as subjects performed a motor task in which they produced different learned series of eight button presses. We found that these analyses gave convergent but not identical results: both techniques, for example, suggested an anterior-to-posterior temporal gradient of activity from supplemental motor area through premotor and motor cortices to the posterior parietal cortex, but the techniques were differentially sensitive to the coupling strength between areas. We also found practical reasons that might argue for the use of one technique over another in different experimental situations. Ultimately, the ideal approach to fMRI data analysis is likely to involve a complementary combination of methods, possibly including both Granger causality and coherency.

Rissman, J, Gazzaley A, D’Esposito.  2009.  The effect of non-visual working memory load on top-down modulation of visual processing., 2009 Jun. Neuropsychologia. 47:1637-46. Abstract2009rissmanneuropsychologia.pdf

While a core function of the working memory (WM) system is the active maintenance of behaviorally relevant sensory representations, it is also critical that distracting stimuli are appropriately ignored. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the role of domain-general WM resources in the top-down attentional modulation of task-relevant and irrelevant visual representations. In our dual-task paradigm, each trial began with the auditory presentation of six random (high load) or sequentially ordered (low load) digits. Next, two relevant visual stimuli (e.g., faces), presented amongst two temporally interspersed visual distractors (e.g., scenes), were to be encoded and maintained across a 7-s delay interval, after which memory for the relevant images and digits was probed. When taxed by high load digit maintenance, participants exhibited impaired performance on the visual WM task and a selective failure to attenuate the neural processing of task-irrelevant scene stimuli. The over-processing of distractor scenes under high load was indexed by elevated encoding activity in a scene-selective region-of-interest relative to low load and passive viewing control conditions, as well as by improved long-term recognition memory for these items. In contrast, the load manipulation did not affect participants’ ability to upregulate activity in this region when scenes were task-relevant. These results highlight the critical role of domain-general WM resources in the goal-directed regulation of distractor processing. Moreover, the consequences of increased WM load in young adults closely resemble the effects of cognitive aging on distractor filtering [Gazzaley, A., Cooney, J. W., Rissman, J., & D’Esposito, M. (2005). Top-down suppression deficit underlies working memory impairment in normal aging. Nature Neuroscience 8, 1298-1300], suggesting the possibility of a common underlying mechanism.

Buchsbaum, BR, D’Esposito.  2009.  Repetition suppression and reactivation in auditory-verbal short-term recognition memory., 2009 Jun. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991). 19:1474-85. Abstract2008buchsbaum2.pdf

The neural response to stimulus repetition is not uniform across brain regions, stimulus modalities, or task contexts. For instance, it has been observed in many functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies that sometimes stimulus repetition leads to a relative reduction in neural activity (repetition suppression), whereas in other cases repetition results in a relative increase in activity (repetition enhancement). In the present study, we hypothesized that in the context of a verbal short-term recognition memory task, repetition-related "increases" should be observed in the same posterior temporal regions that have been previously associated with "persistent activity" in working memory rehearsal paradigms. We used fMRI and a continuous recognition memory paradigm with short lags to examine repetition effects in the posterior and anterior regions of the superior temporal cortex. Results showed that, consistent with our hypothesis, the 2 posterior temporal regions consistently associated with working memory maintenance, also show repetition increases during short-term recognition memory. In contrast, a region in the anterior superior temporal lobe showed repetition suppression effects, consistent with previous research work on perceptual adaptation in the auditory-verbal domain. We interpret these results in light of recent theories of the functional specialization along the anterior and posterior axes of the superior temporal lobe.

Cools, R, Frank MJ, Gibbs SE, Miyakawa A, Jagust W, D’Esposito.  2009.  Striatal dopamine predicts outcome-specific reversal learning and its sensitivity to dopaminergic drug administration., 2009 Feb 4. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 29:1538-43. Abstract2009cools.pdf

Individual variability in reward-based learning has been ascribed to quantitative variation in baseline levels of striatal dopamine. However, direct evidence for this pervasive hypothesis has hitherto been unavailable. We demonstrate that individual differences in reward-based reversal learning reflect variation in baseline striatal dopamine synthesis capacity, as measured with neurochemical positron emission tomography. Subjects with high baseline dopamine synthesis in the striatum showed relatively better reversal learning from unexpected rewards than from unexpected punishments, whereas subjects with low baseline dopamine synthesis in the striatum showed the reverse pattern. In addition, baseline dopamine synthesis predicted the direction of dopaminergic drug effects. The D(2) receptor agonist bromocriptine improved reward-based relative to punishment-based reversal learning in subjects with low baseline dopamine synthesis capacity, while impairing it in subjects with high baseline dopamine synthesis capacity in the striatum. Finally, this pattern of drug effects was outcome-specific, and driven primarily by drug effects on punishment-, but not reward-based reversal learning. These data demonstrate that the effects of D(2) receptor stimulation on reversal learning in humans depend on task demands and baseline striatal dopamine synthesis capacity.

Rajah, MN, Bastianetto S, Bromley-Brits K, Cools R, D’Esposito, Grady CL, Poirier J, Quirion R, Raz N, Rogaeva E, Song W, Pruessner J.  2009.  Biological changes associated with healthy versus pathological aging: a symposium review., 2009 Apr. Ageing research reviews. 8:140-6. Abstractrajah_2009_ageing-research-reviews.pdf

The Douglas Mental Health University Institute, in collaboration with the McGill Centre for Studies in Aging, organized a 2-day symposium entitled "Biological Changes Associated with Healthy Versus Pathological Aging" that was held in 13 and 14 December 2007 on the Douglas campus. The symposium involved presentations on current trends in aging and dementia research across several sub-disciplines: genetics, neurochemistry, structural and functional neuroimaging and clinical treatment and rehabilitation. The goal of this symposium was to provide a forum for knowledge-transfer between scientists and clinicians with different specializations in order to promote cross-fertilization of research ideas that would lead to future collaborative neuroscience research in aging and dementia. In this review article, we summarize the presentations made by the 13 international scientists at the symposium and highlight: (i) past research, and future research trends in neuroscience of aging and dementia and (ii) links across levels of analysis that can lead to fruitful transdisciplinary research programs that will advance knowledge about the neurobiological changes associated with healthy aging and dementia.