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New Research published on Journal of Neurophysiology!

Congratulation to Concetta who just published a new paper on Journal of Neurophysiology!

Sani, I., Santandrea, E., Morrone, M. C. & Chelazzi, L. (2017). Temporally Evolving Gain Mechanisms of Attention in Macaque Area V4, J Neurophysiol, jn 00522 02016. PDF

Cognitive attention and perceptual saliency jointly govern our interaction with the environment. Yet, we still lack a universally accepted account of the interplay between attention and luminance contrast - a fundamental dimension of saliency. We measured the attentional modulation of V4 neurons' Contrast Response Functions (CRFs) in awake, behaving macaque monkeys and applied a new approach which emphasizes the temporal dynamics of cell responses. We found that attention modulates CRFs via different gain mechanisms during subsequent epochs of visually driven activity: an early contrast-gain - strongly dependent on pre-stimulus activity changes (baseline shift), a time-limited stimulus-dependent multiplicative modulation, reaching its maximal expression around 150 ms after stimulus onset, and a late resurgence of contrast-gain modulation. Attention produced comparable time-dependent attentional gain changes on cells heterogeneously coding contrast, supporting the notion that the same circuits mediate attention mechanisms in V4 regardless of the form of contrast selectivity expressed by the given neuron. Surprisingly, attention was also sometimes capable of inducing radical transformations in the shape of CRFs. These findings offer important insights into the mechanisms that underlie contrast coding and attention in primate visual cortex and a new perspective on their interplay, one in which time becomes a fundamental factor.

New Research published on Journal of Neuropsychology!

Congratulation to Marco who just published a new paper on Journal of Neuropsychology!

Chilosi, A. M., Bulgheroni, S., Turi, M., Cristofani, P., Biagi, L., Erbetta, A., et al. (2017). Hemispheric language organization after congenital left brain lesions: A comparison between functional transcranial Doppler and functional MRI, J Neuropsychol, PDF

This study investigated whether functional transcranial Doppler ultrasound (fTCD) is a suitable tool for studying hemispheric lateralization of language in patients with pre-perinatal left hemisphere (LH) lesions and right hemiparesis. Eighteen left-hemisphere-damaged children and young adults and 18 healthy controls were assessed by fTCD and fMRI to evaluate hemispheric activation during two language tasks: a fTCD animation description task and a fMRI covert rhyme generation task. Lateralization indices (LIs), measured by the two methods, differed significantly between the two groups, for a clear LH dominance in healthy participants and a prevalent activation of right hemisphere in more than 80% of brain-damaged patients. Distribution of participants in terms of left, right, and bilateral lateralization was highly concordant between fTCD and fMRI values. Moreover, right hemisphere language dominance in patients with left hemispheric lesions was significantly associated with severity of cortical and subcortical damage in LH. This study suggests that fTCD is an easily applicable tool that might be a valid alternative to fMRI for large-scale studies of patients with congenital brain lesions.

New Research published on Current Biology!

Congratulation to David who just published on Current Biology!

Kagan, I. & Burr, D. C. (2017). Active Vision: Dynamic Reformatting of Visual Information by the Saccade-Drift Cycle, Curr Biol, 9 (27), R341-R344. PDF

Visual processing depends on rapid parsing of global features followed by analysis of fine detail. A new study suggests that this transformation is enabled by a cycle of saccades and fixational drifts, which reformat visual input to match the spatiotemporal sensitivity of fast and slow neuronal pathways.

New Research published in Journal of Physiology

Congratulations to Maria Concetta, whose work has been published on Frontiers in System Neuroscience!

Bourne, J. A. & Morrone, M. C. (2017). Plasticity of Visual Pathways and Function in the Developing Brain: Is the Pulvinar a Crucial Player?, Front Syst Neurosci, (11), 3. PDF

The pulvinar is the largest of the thalamic nuclei in the primates, including humans. In the primates, two of the three major subdivisions, the lateral and inferior pulvinar, are heavily interconnected with a significant proportion of the visual association cortex. However, while we now have a better understanding of the bidirectional connectivity of these pulvinar subdivisions, its functions remain somewhat of an enigma. Over the past few years, researchers have started to tackle this problem by addressing it from the angle of development and visual cortical lesions. In this review, we will draw together literature from the realms of studies in nonhuman primates and humans that have informed much of the current understanding. This literature has been responsible for changing many long-held opinions on the development of the visual cortex and how the pulvinar interacts dynamically with cortices during early life to ensure rapid development and functional capacity Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest involvement of the pulvinar following lesions of the primary visual cortex (V1) and geniculostriate pathway in early life which have far better functional outcomes than identical lesions obtained in adulthood. Shedding new light on the pulvinar and its role following lesions of the visual brain has implications for our understanding of visual brain disorders and the potential for recovery.

New Research published in Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience!

Congratulation to Luca, Concetta and Claudia who just published a new paper on the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience!

Lo Verde, L., Morrone, M. C. & Lunghi, C. (2017). Early Cross-modal Plasticity in Adults, J Cogn Neurosci, 3 (29), 520-529. PDF

It is known that, after a prolonged period of visual deprivation, the adult visual cortex can be recruited for nonvisual processing, reflecting cross-modal plasticity. Here, we investigated whether cross-modal plasticity can occur at short timescales in the typical adult brain by comparing the interaction between vision and touch during binocular rivalry before and after a brief period of monocular deprivation, which strongly alters ocular balance favoring the deprived eye. While viewing dichoptically two gratings of orthogonal orientation, participants were asked to actively explore a haptic grating congruent in orientation to one of the two rivalrous stimuli. We repeated this procedure before and after 150 min of monocular deprivation. We first confirmed that haptic stimulation interacted with vision during rivalry promoting dominance of the congruent visuo-haptic stimulus and that monocular deprivation increased the deprived eye and decreased the nondeprived eye dominance. Interestingly, after deprivation, we found that the effect of touch did not change for the nondeprived eye, whereas it disappeared for the deprived eye, which was potentiated after deprivation. The absence of visuo-haptic interaction for the deprived eye lasted for over 1 hr and was not attributable to a masking induced by the stronger response of the deprived eye as confirmed by a control experiment. Taken together, our results demonstrate that the adult human visual cortex retains a high degree of cross-modal plasticity, which can occur even at very short timescales.


New Research in Scientific Report

Congratulations to David whose latest paper has just been published in Scientific Reports!

Taubert, J., Alais D., Burr, D. (2016). Different coding strategies for the perception of stable and changeable facial attributes, Sci. Rep., 6.

Perceptual systems face competing requirements: improving signal-to-noise ratios of noisy images, by integration; and maximising sensitivity to change, by differentiation. Both processes occur in human vision, under different circumstances: they have been termed priming, or serial dependencies, leading to positive sequential effects; and adaptation or habituation, which leads to negative sequential effects. We reasoned that for stable attributes, such as the identity and gender of faces, the system should integrate: while for changeable attributes like facial expression, it should also engage contrast mechanisms to maximise sensitivity to change. Subjects viewed a sequence of images varying simultaneously in gender and expression, and scored each as male or female, and happy or sad. We found strong and consistent positive serial dependencies for gender, and negative dependency for expression, showing that both processes can operate at the same time, on the same stimuli, depending on the attribute being judged. The results point to highly sophisticated mechanisms for optimizing use of past information, either by integration or differentiation, depending on the permanence of that attribute.

New Research published in PLoS Biology!

Congratulation to Elisa, Guido Marco and Concetta who just published a new paper on PLoS Biology!

Castaldi, E., Cicchini, G. M., Cinelli, L., Biagi, L., Rizzo, S. & Morrone, M. C. (2016). Visual BOLD Response in Late Blind Subjects with Argus II Retinal Prosthesis, PLoS Biol, 10 (14), e1002569. PDF

Retinal prosthesis technologies require that the visual system downstream of the retinal circuitry be capable of transmitting and elaborating visual signals. We studied the capability of plastic remodeling in late blind subjects implanted with the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis with psychophysics and functional MRI (fMRI). After surgery, six out of seven retinitis pigmentosa (RP) blind subjects were able to detect high-contrast stimuli using the prosthetic implant. However, direction discrimination to contrast modulated stimuli remained at chance level in all of them. No subject showed any improvement of contrast sensitivity in either eye when not using the Argus II. Before the implant, the Blood Oxygenation Level Dependent (BOLD) activity in V1 and the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) was very weak or absent. Surprisingly, after prolonged use of Argus II, BOLD responses to visual input were enhanced. This is, to our knowledge, the first study tracking the neural changes of visual areas in patients after retinal implant, revealing a capacity to respond to restored visual input even after years of deprivation.


New Research published in Neuroimage!

Congratulation to Elisa, David Aagten-Murphy, David Burr and Concetta who just published a new paper on Neuroimage!

Castaldi, E., Aagten-Murphy, D., Tosetti, M., Burr, D. & Morrone, M. C. (2016). Effects of adaptation on numerosity decoding in the human brain, Neuroimage, (143), 364-377. PDF

Psychophysical studies have shown that numerosity is a sensory attribute susceptible to adaptation. Neuroimaging studies have reported that, at least for relatively low numbers, numerosity can be accurately discriminated in the intra-parietal sulcus. Here we developed a novel rapid adaptation paradigm where adapting and test stimuli are separated by pauses sufficient to dissociate their BOLD activity. We used multivariate pattern recognition to classify brain activity evoked by non-symbolic numbers over a wide range (20-80), both before and after psychophysical adaptation to the highest numerosity. Adaptation caused underestimation of all lower numerosities, and decreased slightly the average BOLD responses in V1 and IPS. Using support vector machine, we showed that the BOLD response of IPS, but not in V1, classified numerosity well, both when tested before and after adaptation. However, there was no transfer from training pre-adaptation responses to testing post-adaptation, and vice versa, indicating that adaptation changes the neuronal representation of the numerosity. Interestingly, decoding was more accurate after adaptation, and the amount of improvement correlated with the amount of perceptual underestimation of numerosity across subjects. These results suggest that numerosity adaptation acts directly on IPS, rather than indirectly via other low-level stimulus parameters analysis, and that adaptation improves the capacity to discriminate numerosity.


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