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New Research published on Current Biology!

Congratulation to Tam, David and Concetta who just published on Current Biology!

Ho, T. H., Leung, J., Burr, D., Alais, D. & Morrone, M. C. (2017). Auditory Sensitivity and Decision Criteria Oscillate at Different Frequencies Separately for the Two Ears, Current Biology, PDF

Many behavioral measures of visual perception fluctuate continually in a rhythmic manner, reflecting the influence of endogenous brain oscillations, particularly theta (~4–7 Hz) and alpha (~8–12 Hz) rhythms. However, it is unclear whether these oscillations are unique to vision or whether auditory performance also oscillates. Several studies report no oscillatory modulation in audition, while those with positive findings suffer from confounds relating to neural entrainment. Here, we used a bilateral pitch-identification task to investigate rhythmic fluctuations in auditory performance separately for the two ears and applied signal detection theory (SDT) to test for oscillations of both sensitivity and criterion (changes in decision boundary). Using uncorrelated dichotic white noise to induce a phase reset of oscillations, we demonstrate that, as with vision, both auditory sensitivity and criterion showed strong oscillations over time, at different frequencies: ~6 Hz (theta range) for sensitivity and ~8 Hz (low alpha range) for criterion, implying distinct underlying sampling mechanisms. The modulation in sensitivity in left and right ears was in antiphase, suggestive of attention-like mechanisms sampling alternatively from the two ears.


New Research published on Neuropsychologia!

Congratulation to Koulla, Roberto, Francesca, Sofia and Concetta who just published on Neuropsychologia!

Mikellidou, K., Arrighi, R., Aghakhanyan, G., Tinelli, F., Frijia, F., Crespi, S., et al. (2017). Plasticity of the human visual brain after an early cortical lesion, Neuropsychologia, PDF

In adults, partial damage to V1 or optic radiations abolishes perception in the corresponding part of the visual field, causing a scotoma. However, it is widely accepted that the developing cortex has superior capacities to reorganize following an early lesion to endorse adaptive plasticity. Here we report a single patient case (G.S.) with near normal central field vision despite a massive unilateral lesion to the optic radiations acquired early in life. The patient underwent surgical removal of a right hemisphere parieto-temporal-occipital atypical choroid plexus papilloma of the right lateral ventricle at four months of age, which presumably altered the visual pathways during in utero development. Both the tumor and surgery severely compromised the optic radiations. Residual vision of G.S. was tested psychophysically when the patient was 7 years old. We found a close-to-normal visual acuity and contrast sensitivity within the central 25 degrees and a great impairment in form and contrast vision in the far periphery (40-50 degrees ) of the left visual hemifield. BOLD response to full field luminance flicker was recorded from the primary visual cortex (V1) and in a region in the residual temporal-occipital region, presumably corresponding to the middle temporal complex (MT+), of the lesioned (right) hemisphere. A population receptive field analysis of the BOLD responses to contrast modulated stimuli revealed a retinotopic organization just for the MT+ region but not for the calcarine regions. Interestingly, consistent islands of ipsilateral activity were found in MT+ and in the parieto-occipital sulcus (POS) of the intact hemisphere. Probabilistic tractography revealed that optic radiations between LGN and V1 were very sparse in the lesioned hemisphere consistently with the post-surgery cerebral resection, while normal in the intact hemisphere. On the other hand, strong structural connections between MT+ and LGN were found in the lesioned hemisphere, while the equivalent tract in the spared hemisphere showed minimal structural connectivity. These results suggest that during development of the pathological brain, abnormal thalamic projections can lead to functional cortical changes, which may mediate functional recovery of vision.


New Research published in Scientific Reports

Congratulations to Paola who published a new paper on Scientific Reports!

Binda, P., Strasser, T., Stingl, K., Richter, P., Peters, T., Wilhelm, H., et al. (2017). Pupil response components: attention-light interaction in patients with Parinaud's syndrome, Sci Rep, 1 (7), 10283. PDF

Covertly shifting attention to a brighter or darker image (without moving one's eyes) is sufficient to evoke pupillary constriction or dilation, respectively. One possibility is that this attentional modulation involves the pupillary light response pathway, which pivots around the olivary pretectal nucleus. We investigate this possibility by studying patients with Parinaud's syndrome, where the normal pupillary light response is strongly impaired due to lesions in the pretectal area. Four patients and nine control participants covertly attended (while maintaining fixation at the center of a monitor screen) to one of two disks located in the left and right periphery: one brighter, the other darker than the background. Patients and control subjects behaved alike, showing smaller pupils when attending to the brighter stimulus (despite no eye movements); consistent results were obtained with a dynamic version of the stimulus. We interpret this as proof of principle that attention to bright or dark stimuli can dynamically modulate pupil size in patients with Parinaud's syndrome, suggesting that attention acts independently of the pretectal circuit for the pupillary light response and indicating that several components of the pupillary response can be isolated - including one related to the focus of covert attention.

New Research published on Current Biology!

Congratulation to Koulla, Jan, Dave and Concetta who just published on Current Biology!

Mikellidou, K., Kurzawski, J. W., Frijia, F., Montanaro, D., Greco, V., Burr, D. C., and Morrone M.C. (2017). Area Prostriata in the Human Brain, Current Biology, (27), PDF

Area prostriata is a cortical area at the fundus of the calcarine sulcus, described anatomically in humans [ 1–5 ] and other primates [ 6–9 ]. It is lightly myelinated and lacks the clearly defined six-layer structure evident throughout the cerebral cortex, with a thinner layer 4 and thicker layer 2 [ 10 ], characteristic of limbic cortex [ 11 ]. In the marmoset and rhesus monkey, area prostriata has cortical connections with MT+ [ 12 ], the cingulate motor cortex [ 8 ], the auditory cortex [ 13 ], the orbitofrontal cortex, and the frontal polar cortices [ 14 ]. Here we use functional magnetic resonance together with a wide-field projection system to study its functional properties in humans. With population receptive field mapping [ 15 ], we show that area prostriata has a complete representation of the visual field, clearly distinct from the adjacent area V1. As in the marmoset, the caudal-dorsal border of human prostriata—abutting V1—represents the far peripheral visual field, with eccentricities decreasing toward its rostral boundary. Area prostriata responds strongly to very fast motion, greater than 500°/s. The functional properties of area prostriata suggest that it may serve to alert the brain quickly to fast visual events, particularly in the peripheral visual field.

New Commentary in Behavioral and Brain Science

Congratulations to
David, whose latest paper has just been published in Behavioral and Brain Science!

Burr, D. C. (2017). Evidence for a number sense, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, (40), 18-19. PDF

Numerosity is inherently confounded by related stimulus attributes such as density and area, and many studies have reported interactions of various strengths between area, density, and numerosity. However, direct measurements of sensitivity within the area-density-numerosity space show that numerosity emerges as the most spontaneous and sensitive dimension, strongly supporting the existence of a dedicated number sense.

New Commentary in Behavioral and Brain Science

Congratulations to
Elisa, whose latest paper has just been published in Behavioral and Brain Science!

de Hevia, M. D., Castaldi, E., Streri, A., Eger, E. & Izard, V. (2017). Perceiving numerosity from birth, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, (40), 21-22. PDF

Leibovich et al. opened up an important discussion on the nature and origins of numerosity perception. The authors rightly point out that non-numerical features of stimuli influence this ability. Despite these biases, there is evidence that from birth, humans perceive and represent numerosities, and not just non-numerical quantitative features such as item size, density, and convex hull.

New Spotlight published on Trends in Neuroscience!

Congratulation to Paola who just published a new paper on Trends in Neuroscience!

Binda, P. & Gamlin, P. D. (2017). Renewed Attention on the Pupil Light Reflex, Trends Neurosci, PDF

In a recent study, Ebitz and Moore described how subthreshold electrical microstimulation of the macaque frontal eye fields (FEF) modulates the pupillary light reflex. This elegant study suggests that the influence of the FEF and prefrontal cortex on attentional modulation of cortical visual processing extends to the subcortical circuit that mediates a very basic reflex, the pupillary light reflex.

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.

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