Nonretinotopic visual processing in the brain,Vis Neurosci, 32, e017.

A basic principle in visual neuroscience is the retinotopic organization of neural receptive fields. Here, we review behavioral, neurophysiological, and neuroimaging evidence for nonretinotopic processing of visual stimuli. A number of behavioral studies have shown perception depending on object or external-space coordinate systems, in addition to retinal coordinates. Both single-cell neurophysiology and neuroimaging have provided evidence for the modulation of neural firing by gaze position and processing of visual information based on craniotopic or spatiotopic coordinates. Transient remapping of the spatial and temporal properties of neurons contingent on saccadic eye movements has been demonstrated in visual cortex, as well as frontal and parietal areas involved in saliency/priority maps, and is a good candidate to mediate some of the spatial invariance demonstrated by perception. Recent studies suggest that spatiotopic selectivity depends on a low spatial resolution system of maps that operates over a longer time frame than retinotopic processing and is strongly modulated by high-level cognitive factors such as attention. The interaction of an initial and rapid retinotopic processing stage, tied to new fixations, and a longer lasting but less precise nonretinotopic level of visual representation could underlie the perception of both a detailed and a stable visual world across saccadic eye movements.

Time, number and attention in very low birth weight children,Neuropsychologia, 2015

Abstract Premature birth has been associated with damage in many regions of the cerebral cortex, although there is a particularly strong susceptibility for damage within the parieto-occipital lobes (Volpe, 2009). As these areas have been shown to be critical for both visual attention and magnitudes perception (time, space, and number), it is important to investigate the impact of prematurity on both the magnitude and attentional systems, particularly for children without overt white matter injuries, where the lack of obvious injury may cause their difficulties to remain unnoticed. In this study, we investigated the ability to judge time intervals (visual, audio and audio-visual temporal bisection), discriminate between numerical quantities (numerosity comparison), map numbers onto space (numberline task) and to maintain visuo-spatial attention (multiple-object-tracking) in school-age preterm children (N29). The results show that various parietal functions may be more or less robust to prematurity-related difficulties, with strong impairments found on time estimation and attentional task, while numerical discrimination or mapping tasks remained relatively unimpaired. Thus while our study generally supports the hypothesis of a dorsal stream vulnerability in children born preterm relative to other cortical locations, it further suggests that particular cognitive processes, as highlighted by performance on different tasks, are far more susceptible than others.

Looking for a precursor of spontaneous Sleep Slow Oscillations in human sleep: The role of the sigma activity, Int J Psychophysiol, 2 (97), 99-107.

Sleep Slow Oscillations (SSOs), paradigmatic EEG markers of cortical bistability (alternation between cellular downstates and upstates), and sleep spindles, paradigmatic EEG markers of thalamic rhythm, are two hallmarks of sleeping brain. Selective thalamic lesions are reportedly associated to reductions of spindle activity and its spectrum ~14 Hz (sigma), and to alterations of SSO features. This apparent, parallel behavior suggests that thalamo-cortical entrainment favors cortical bistability. Here we investigate temporally-causal associations between thalamic sigma activity and shape, topology, and dynamics of SSOs. We recorded sleep EEG and studied whether spatio-temporal variability of SSO amplitude, negative slope (synchronization in downstate falling) and detection rate are driven by cortical-sigma-activity expression (12-18Hz), in 3 consecutive 1s-EEG-epochs preceding each SSO event (Baselines). We analyzed: (i) spatial variability, comparing maps of baseline sigma power and of SSO features, averaged over the first sleep cycle; (ii) event-by-event shape variability, computing for each electrode correlations between baseline sigma power and amplitude/slope of related SSOs; (iii) event-by-event spreading variability, comparing baseline sigma power in electrodes showing an SSO event with the homologous ones, spared by the event. The scalp distribution of baseline sigma power mirrored those of SSO amplitude and slope; event-by-event variability in baseline sigma power was associated with that in SSO amplitude in fronto-central areas; within each SSO event, electrodes involved in cortical bistability presented higher baseline sigma activity than those free of SSO. In conclusion, spatio-temporal variability of thalamocortical entrainment, measured by background sigma activity, is a reliable estimate of the cortical proneness to bistability.

Inefficient stimulus processing at encoding affects formation of high-order general representation: A study on cross-modal word-stem completion task, Brain Res, (1622), 386-396.

Priming is an implicit memory effect in which previous exposure to one stimulus influences the response to another stimulus. The main characteristic of priming is that it occurs without awareness. Priming takes place also when the physical attributes of previously studied and test stimuli do not match; in fact, it greatly refers to a general stimulus representation activated at encoding independently of the sensory modality engaged. Our aim was to evaluate whether, in a cross-modal word-stem completion task, negative priming scores could depend on inefficient word processing at study and therefore on an altered stimulus representation. Words were presented in the auditory modality, and word-stems to be completed in the visual modality. At study, we recorded auditory ERPs, and compared the P300 (attention/memory) and N400 (meaning processing) of individuals with positive and negative priming. Besides classical averaging-based ERPs analysis, we used an ICA-based method (ErpICASSO) to separate the potentials related to different processes contributing to ERPs. Classical analysis yielded significant difference between the two waves across the whole scalp. ErpICASSO allowed separating the novelty-related P3a and the top-down control-related P3b sub-components of P300. Specifically, in the component C3, the positive deflection identifiable as P3b, was significantly greater in the positive than in the negative priming group, while the late negative deflection corresponding to the parietal N400, was reduced in the positive priming group. In conclusion, inadequacy of specific processes at encoding, such as attention and/or meaning retrieval, could generate weak semantic representations, making words less accessible in subsequent implicit retrieval.

Rhythmic oscillations of visual contrast sensitivity synchronized with action,J Neurosci, 18 (35), 7019-7029.

It is well known that the motor and the sensory systems structure sensory data collection and cooperate to achieve an efficient integration and exchange of information. Increasing evidence suggests that both motor and sensory functions are regulated by rhythmic processes reflecting alternating states of neuronal excitability, and these may be involved in mediating sensory-motor interactions. Here we show an oscillatory fluctuation in early visual processing time locked with the execution of voluntary action, and, crucially, even for visual stimuli irrelevant to the motor task. Human participants were asked to perform a reaching movement toward a display and judge the orientation of a Gabor patch, near contrast threshold, briefly presented at random times before and during the reaching movement. When the data are temporally aligned to the onset of movement, visual contrast sensitivity oscillates with periodicity within the theta band. Importantly, the oscillations emerge during the motor planning stage, approximately 500 ms before movement onset. We suggest that brain oscillatory dynamics may mediate an automatic coupling between early motor planning and early visual processing, possibly instrumental in linking and closing up the visual-motor control loop.

A low-cost and versatile system for projecting wide-field visual stimuli within fMRI scanners,Behav Res Methods

We have constructed and tested a custom-made magnetic-imaging-compatible visual projection system designed to project on a very wide visual field (~80 degrees ). A standard projector was modified with a coupling lens, projecting images into the termination of an image fiber. The other termination of the fiber was placed in the 3-T scanner room with a projection lens, which projected the images relayed by the fiber onto a screen over the head coil, viewed by a participant wearing magnifying goggles. To validate the system, wide-field stimuli were presented in order to identify retinotopic visual areas. The results showed that this low-cost and versatile optical system may be a valuable tool to map visual areas in the brain that process peripheral receptive fields.

Children with autism spectrum disorder show reduced adaptation to number,Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(25): 7868-7872.

Autism is known to be associated with major perceptual atypicalities. We have recently proposed a general model to account for these atypicalities in Bayesian terms, suggesting that autistic individuals underuse predictive information or priors. We tested this idea by measuring adaptation to numerosity stimuli in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). After exposure to large numbers of items, stimuli with fewer items appear to be less numerous (and vice versa). We found that children with ASD adapted much less to numerosity than typically developing children, although their precision for numerosity discrimination was similar to that of the typical group. This result reinforces recent findings showing reduced adaptation to facial identity in ASD and goes on to show that reduced adaptation is not unique to faces (social stimuli with special significance in autism), but occurs more generally, for both parietal and temporal functions, probably reflecting inefficiencies in the adaptive interpretation of sensory signals. These results provide strong support for the Bayesian theories of autism.

Pattern recognition with adaptive-thresholds for sleep spindle in high density EEG signals. Paper presented at the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC), 2015 37th Annual International Conference of the IEEE.

Sleep spindles are electroencephalographic oscillations peculiar of non-REM sleep, related to neuronal mechanisms underlying sleep restoration and learning consolidation. Based on their very singular morphology, sleep spindles can be visually recognized and detected, even though this approach can lead to significant mis-detections. For this reason, many efforts have been put in developing a reliable algorithm for spindle automatic detection, and a number of methods, based on different techniques, have been tested via visual validation. This work aims at improving current pattern recognition procedures for sleep spindles detection by taking into account their physiological sources of variability. We provide a method as a synthesis of the current state of art that, improving dynamic threshold adaptation, is able to follow modification of spindle characteristics as a function of sleep depth and inter-subjects variability. The algorithm has been applied to physiological data recorded by a high density EEG in order to perform a validation based on visual inspection and on evaluation of expected results from normal night sleep in healthy subjects.

BOLD Response Selective to Flow-Motion in Very Young Infants, PLoS Biol, 9 (13), e1002260.

In adults, motion perception is mediated by an extensive network of occipital, parietal, temporal, and insular cortical areas. Little is known about the neural substrate of visual motion in infants, although behavioural studies suggest that motion perception is rudimentary at birth and matures steadily over the first few years. Here, by measuring Blood Oxygenated Level Dependent (BOLD) responses to flow versus random-motion stimuli, we demonstrate that the major cortical areas serving motion processing in adults are operative by 7 wk of age. Resting-state correlations demonstrate adult-like functional connectivity between the motion-selective associative areas, but not between primary cortex and temporo-occipital and posterior-insular cortices. Taken together, the results suggest that the development of motion perception may be limited by slow maturation of the subcortical input and of the cortico-cortical connections. In addition they support the existence of independent input to primary (V1) and temporo-occipital (V5/MT+) cortices very early in life.

Visual mislocalization during saccade sequences,Exp Brain Res, 2 (233), 577-585.

Visual objects briefly presented around the time of saccadic eye movements are perceived compressed towards the saccade target. Here, we investigated perisaccadic mislocalization with a double-step saccade paradigm, measuring localization of small probe dots briefly flashed at various times around the sequence of the two saccades. At onset of the first saccade, probe dots were mislocalized towards the first and, to a lesser extent, also towards the second saccade target. However, there was very little mislocalization at the onset of the second saccade. When we increased the presentation duration of the saccade targets prior to onset of the saccade sequence, perisaccadic mislocalization did occur at the onset of the second saccade.