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Categories: PET | attention | cognition | dopamine | motivation | striatum | fMRI | Clinical | review
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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.

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.

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 for revised estimates.

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.

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.