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

Recent Publications

Miller, JA, D'Esposito M, Weiner KS.  2021.  Using Tertiary Sulci to Map the "Cognitive Globe" of Prefrontal Cortex., 2021 Aug 01. Journal of cognitive neuroscience. 33(9):1698-1715. Abstract

Stuss considered the human PFC as a "cognitive globe" [Stuss, D. T., & Benson, D. F. Neuropsychological studies of the frontal lobes. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 3-28, 1984] on which functions of the frontal lobe could be mapped. Here, we discuss classic and recent findings regarding the evolution, development, function, and cognitive role of shallow indentations or tertiary sulci in PFC, with the goal of using tertiary sulci to map the "cognitive globe" of PFC. First, we discuss lateral PFC (LPFC) tertiary sulci in classical anatomy and modern neuroimaging, as well as their development, with a focus on those within the middle frontal gyrus. Second, we discuss tertiary sulci in comparative neuroanatomy, focusing on primates. Third, we summarize recent findings showing the utility of tertiary sulci for understanding structural-functional relationships with functional network insights in ventromedial PFC and LPFC. Fourth, we revisit and update unresolved theoretical perspectives considered by C. Vogt and O. Vogt (Allgemeinere ergebnisse unserer hirnforschung. Journal für Psychologie und Neurologie, 25, 279-462, 1919) and F. Sanides (Structure and function of the human frontal lobe. Neuropsychologia, 2, 209-219, 1964) that tertiary sulci serve as landmarks for cortical gradients. Together, the consideration of these classic and recent findings indicate that tertiary sulci are situated in a unique position within the complexity of the "cognitive globe" of PFC: They are the smallest and shallowest of sulci in PFC, yet can offer insights that bridge spatial scales (microns to networks), modalities (functional connectivity to behavior), and species. As such, the map of tertiary sulci within each individual participant serves as a coordinate system specific to that individual on which functions may be further mapped. We conclude with new theoretical and methodological questions that, if answered in future research, will likely lead to mechanistic insight regarding the structure and function of human LPFC.

Menon, V, D'Esposito M.  2021.  The role of PFC networks in cognitive control and executive function., 2021 Aug 18. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. Abstract

Systems neuroscience approaches with a focus on large-scale brain organization and network analysis are advancing foundational knowledge of how cognitive control processes are implemented in the brain. Over the past decade, technological and computational innovations in the study of brain connectivity have led to advances in our understanding of how brain networks function, inspiring new conceptualizations of the role of prefrontal cortex (PFC) networks in the coordination of cognitive control. In this review, we describe six key PFC networks involved in cognitive control and elucidate key principles relevant for understanding how these networks implement cognitive control. Implementation of cognitive control in a constantly changing environment depends on the dynamic and flexible organization of PFC networks. In this context, we describe major empirical and theoretical models that have emerged in recent years and describe how their functional architecture and dynamic organization supports flexible cognitive control. We take an overarching view of advances made in the past few decades and consider fundamental issues regarding PFC network function, global brain dynamics, and cognition that still need to be resolved. We conclude by clarifying important future directions for research on cognitive control and their implications for advancing our understanding of PFC networks in brain disorders.

Leong, YC, Dziembaj R, D'Esposito M.  2021.  Pupil-Linked Arousal Biases Evidence Accumulation Toward Desirable Percepts During Perceptual Decision-Making., 2021 Sep 02. Psychological science. :9567976211004547. Abstract

People's perceptual reports are biased toward percepts they are motivated to see. The arousal system coordinates the body's response to motivationally significant events and is well positioned to regulate motivational effects on perceptual judgments. However, it remains unclear whether arousal would enhance or reduce motivational biases. Here, we measured pupil dilation as a measure of arousal while participants ( = 38) performed a visual categorization task. We used monetary bonuses to motivate participants to perceive one category over another. Even though the reward-maximizing strategy was to perform the task accurately, participants were more likely to report seeing the desirable category. Furthermore, higher arousal levels were associated with making motivationally biased responses. Analyses using computational models suggested that arousal enhanced motivational effects by biasing evidence accumulation in favor of desirable percepts. These results suggest that heightened arousal biases people toward what they want to see and away from an objective representation of the environment.

Miller, JA, Voorhies WI, Lurie DJ, D'Esposito M, Weiner KS.  2021.  Overlooked tertiary sulci serve as a meso-scale link between microstructural and functional properties of human lateral prefrontal cortex., 2021 Jan 15. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. Abstract

Understanding the relationship between neuroanatomy and function in portions of cortex that perform functions largely specific to humans such as lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) is of major interest in systems and cognitive neuroscience. When considering neuroanatomical-functional relationships in LPFC, shallow indentations in cortex known as tertiary sulci have been largely unexplored. Here, by implementing a multi-modal approach and manually defining 936 neuroanatomical structures in 72 hemispheres (in both males and females), we show that a subset of these overlooked tertiary sulci serve as a meso-scale link between microstructural (myelin content) and functional (network connectivity) properties of human LPFC in individual participants. For example, the () is a tertiary sulcus with three components that differ in their myelin content, resting state connectivity profiles, and engagement across meta-analyses of 83 cognitive tasks. Further, generating microstructural profiles of myelin content across cortical depths for each component and the surrounding middle frontal gyrus (MFG) shows that both gyral and sulcal components of the MFG have greater myelin content in deeper compared to superficial layers and that the myelin content in superficial layers of the gyral components is greater than sulcal components. These findings support a classic, yet largely unconsidered theory that tertiary sulci may serve as landmarks in association cortices, as well as a modern cognitive neuroscience theory proposing a functional hierarchy in LPFC. As there is a growing need for computational tools that automatically define tertiary sulci throughout cortex, we share probabilistic sulcal maps with the field.: Lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) is critical for functions that are thought to be specific to humans compared to other mammals. However, relationships between fine-scale neuroanatomical structures largely specific to hominoid cortex and functional properties of LPFC remain elusive. Here, we show that these structures, which have been largely unexplored throughout history, surprisingly serve as markers for anatomical and functional organization in human LPFC. These findings have theoretical, methodological, developmental, and evolutionary implications for improved understanding of neuroanatomical-functional relationships not only in LPFC, but also in association cortices more broadly. Finally, these findings ignite new questions regarding how morphological features of these neglected neuroanatomical structures contribute to functions of association cortices that are critical for human-specific aspects of cognition.

Cook, PF, Hoard VA, Dolui S, deB Frederick B, Redfern R, Dennison SE, Halaska B, Bloom J, Kruse-Elliott KT, Whitmer ER, Trumbull EJ, Berns GS, Detre JA, D'Esposito M, Gulland FMD, Reichmuth C, Johnson SP, Field CL, Inglis BA.  2021.  An MRI protocol for anatomical and functional evaluation of the California sea lion brain., 2021 Feb 10. Journal of neuroscience methods. :109097. Abstract

Domoic acid (DOM) is a neurotoxin produced by some harmful algae blooms in coastal waters. California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) exposed to DOM often strand on beaches where they exhibit a variety of symptoms, including seizures. These animals typically show hippocampal atrophy on MRI scans.