Visual BOLD Response in Late Blind Subjects with Argus II Retinal Prosthesis, PLoS Biol, 10 (14), e1002569.

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.

Predictive coding of multisensory timing, Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, (8), 200-206.

The sense of time is foundational for perception and action, yet it frequently departs significantly from physical time. In the paper we review recent progress on temporal contextual effects, multisensory temporal integration, temporal recalibration, and related computational models. We suggest that subjective time arises from minimizing prediction errors and adaptive recalibration, which can be unified in the framework of predictive coding, a framework rooted in Helmholtz’s ‘perception as inference’.

The influence of visual information on auditory processing in individuals with congenital amusia: An ERP study, NeuroImage, (135), 142-151.

Visual Plasticity: Blindsight Bridges Anatomy and Function in the Visual System, Curr Biol, 2 (26), R70-73.

Some people who are blind due to damage to their primary visual cortex, V1, can discriminate stimuli presented within their blind visual field. This residual function has been recently linked to a pathway that bypasses V1, and connects the thalamic lateral geniculate nucleus directly with the extrastriate cortical area MT.

No rapid audiovisual recalibration in adults on the autism spectrum, Scientific Reports, (6), 21756.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by difficulties in social cognition, but are also associated with atypicalities in sensory and perceptual processing. Several groups have reported that autistic individuals show reduced integration of socially relevant audiovisual signals, which may contribute to the higher-order social and cognitive difficulties observed in autism. Here we use a newly devised technique to study instantaneous adaptation to audiovisual asynchrony in autism. Autistic and typical participants were presented with sequences of brief visual and auditory stimuli, varying in asynchrony over a wide range, from 512?ms auditory-lead to 512?ms auditory-lag, and judged whether they seemed to be synchronous. Typical adults showed strong adaptation effects, with trials proceeded by an auditory-lead needing more auditory-lead to seem simultaneous, and vice versa. However, autistic observers showed little or no adaptation, although their simultaneity curves were as narrow as the typical adults. This result supports recent Bayesian models that predict reduced adaptation effects in autism. As rapid audiovisual recalibration may be fundamental for the optimisation of speech comprehension, recalibration problems could render language processing more difficult in autistic individuals, hindering social communication.

Adaptation-Induced Compression of Event Time Occurs Only for Translational Motion, Scientific Reports, (6), 23341.

Adaptation to fast motion reduces the perceived duration of stimuli displayed at the same location as the adapting stimuli. Here we show that the adaptation-induced compression of time is specific for translational motion. Adaptation to complex motion, either circular or radial, did not affect perceived duration of subsequently viewed stimuli. Adaptation with multiple patches of translating motion caused compression of duration only when the motion of all patches was in the same direction. These results show that adaptation-induced compression of event-time occurs only for uni-directional translational motion, ruling out the possibility that the neural mechanisms of the adaptation occur at early levels of visual processing.

Brain connectivity is altered by extreme physical exercise during non-REM sleep and wakefulness: indications from EEG and fMRI studies, Archives Italiennes De Biologie, 4 (154), 103-117.

Brain connectivity is associated to behavioral states (e.g. wake, sleep) and modified by physical activity although, to date, it is not clear which components (e.g. hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis hormones, cytokines) associated to the exercise are involved. In this pilot study, we used extreme exercise (UltraTriathlon) as a model to investigate physical-activity-related changes of brain connectivity. We studied post-race brain synchronization during wakefulness and sleep as well as possible correlations between exercise-related cytokines/hormones and synchronization features. For wakefulness, global synchronization was evaluated by estimating from fMRI data (12 athletes) the brain global connectivity (GC). GC increased in several brain regions, mainly related to sensory-motor activity, emotional modulation and response to stress that may foster rapid exchange of information across regions, and reflect post-race internally-focused mental activity or disengagement from previous motor programs. No significant correlations between cytokines/hormones and GC were found. For sleep (8 athletes), synchronization was evaluated by estimating the local-(cortical) and global-related (thalamocortical) EEG features associated to the phenomenon of Sleep Slow Oscillations (SSO) of NREM sleep. Results showed that: power of fast rhythms in the baseline preceding the SSO increased in midline and parietal regions; amplitude and duration of SSOs increased, mainly in posterior areas; sigma modulation in the SSO up state decreased. In the post race, IL-10 positively correlated with fast rhythms baseline, SSO rate and positive slope; IL-1ra and cortisol inversely correlated with SSO duration; TNF-alpha and C-reactive protein positively correlated with fast rhythm modulation in the SSO up state. Sleep results suggest that: arousal during sleep, estimated by baseline fast rhythms, is increased; SSO may be sustained by cortical excitability, linked to anti-inflammatory markers (IL-10); thalamo-cortical entrainment, (sigma modulation), is impaired in athletes with higher inflammatory markers.

Adaptation to size affects saccades with long but not short latencies, J Vis, 7 (16), 2.

Maintained exposure to a specific stimulus property-such as size, color, or motion-induces perceptual adaptation aftereffects, usually in the opposite direction to that of the adaptor. Here we studied how adaptation to size affects perceived position and visually guided action (saccadic eye movements) to that position. Subjects saccaded to the border of a diamond-shaped object after adaptation to a smaller diamond shape. For saccades in the normal latency range, amplitudes decreased, consistent with saccading to a larger object. Short-latency saccades, however, tended to be affected less by the adaptation, suggesting that they were only partly triggered by a signal representing the illusory target position. We also tested size perception after adaptation, followed by a mask stimulus at the probe location after various delays. Similar size adaptation magnitudes were found for all probe-mask delays. In agreement with earlier studies, these results suggest that the duration of the saccade latency period determines the reference frame that codes the probe location.

Early visual deprivation severely compromises the auditory sense of space in congenitally blind children, Dev Psychol, 6 (52), 847-853.

A recent study has shown that congenitally blind adults, who have never had visual experience, are impaired on an auditory spatial bisection task (Gori, Sandini, Martinoli, & Burr, 2014). In this study we investigated how thresholds for auditory spatial bisection and auditory discrimination develop with age in sighted and congenitally blind children (9 to 14 years old). Children performed 2 spatial tasks (minimum audible angle and space bisection) and 1 temporal task (temporal bisection). There was no impairment in the temporal task for blind children but, like adults, they showed severely compromised thresholds for spatial bisection. Interestingly, the blind children also showed lower precision in judging minimum audible angle. These results confirm the adult study and go on to suggest that even simpler auditory spatial tasks are compromised in children, and that this capacity recovers over time.