Cognitive Neuroscience Section

San Giovanni al Natisone, Italy

Cognitive Neuroscience Section

San Giovanni al Natisone, Italy
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Manenti R.,Cognitive Neuroscience Section | Cotelli M.,Cognitive Neuroscience Section | Calabria M.,Cognitive Neuroscience Section | Maioli C.,University of Brescia | And 2 more authors.
Neuroscience | Year: 2010

The ability to associate a name to a face is a crucially relevant task in daily life. In this study, we investigated the neuronal basis of face-name retrieval in young subjects using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) over the left or right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). The experimental task was composed of two study phases: an encoding phase and a retrieval phase. During the encoding phase, subjects saw a face (familiar or unfamiliar) followed by a name. During the retrieval phase, they saw the face together with two names and had to choose the name that was correctly associated with the face. rTMS was delivered only during retrieval. In addition, we evaluated the use of memory strategies during the task. Accordingly, subjects were subdivided into two groups: strategy users (SU) and no-strategy users (NSU). No rTMS effects were present for familiar face-name pairs, probably due to a ceiling effect. However, for unfamiliar face-name pairs, the different use of memory strategies resulted in different rTMS effects. The SU group showed a selective interference effect after right DLPFC stimulation, whereas the NSU group showed an effect after left DLPFC stimulation. Importantly, the overall performance of the two groups was comparable. We suggest that during memory retrieval the left DLPFC might be recruited when the subject does not apply deliberately a retrieval strategy whereas there is a shift to the right DLPFC if cognitive control processes that are engaged by strategies are needed to guide episodic retrieval. © 2010 IBRO.


Fertonani A.,Cognitive Neuroscience Section | Fertonani A.,University Campus Biomedico Rome and aola Tiberina | Rosini S.,Cognitive Neuroscience Section | Cotelli M.,Cognitive Neuroscience Section | And 3 more authors.
Behavioural Brain Research | Year: 2010

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is able to generate a long-term increase or decrease in the neuronal excitability that can modulate cognitive tasks, similar to repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation. The aim of this study was to explore the effects of tDCS on a language task in young healthy subjects. Anodal, cathodal and sham tDCS were applied to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) before two picture naming experiments, a preliminary study (i.e., experiment 1) and a main study (i.e., experiment 2). The results show that anodal tDCS of the left DLPFC improves naming performance, speeding up verbal reaction times after the end of the stimulation, whereas cathodal stimulation had no effect. We hypothesize that the cerebral network dedicated to lexical retrieval processing is facilitated by anodal tDCS to the left DLPFC. Although the mechanisms responsible for facilitation are not yet clear, the results presented herein implicate a facilitation lasting beyond the end of the stimulation that imply cortical plasticity mechanisms. The opportunity to non-invasively interact with the functioning of these plasticity mechanisms will surely open new and promising scenarios in language studies in basic and clinical neuroscience fields. © 2010.


Ruzzoli M.,University of Verona | Gori S.,University of Padua | Gori S.,Scientific Institute E Medea | Pavan A.,International School for Advanced Studies | And 4 more authors.
Neuropsychologia | Year: 2011

The aim of this study was to test the role of the visual primary (V1) and the middle temporal area (V5/MT) in the illusory motion perception evoked by the Enigma figure. The Enigma figure induces a visual illusion that is characterized by apparent rotatory motion in the presence of a static figure. By means of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) we show that V5/MT is causally linked to the illusory perception of motion. When rTMS was applied bilaterally over V5/MT just prior to presentation of the Enigma figure, the perception of illusory motion was disrupted for approximately 400. ms resulting in a delayed illusion onset. In contrast, rTMS applied over V1 did not have any effect on the illusory perception of motion. These results show that V5/MT, a visual cortical area associated with real motion perception, is also important for the perception of illusory motion, while V1 appears not to be functionally involved in illusory motion perception. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.


Brignani D.,Cognitive Neuroscience Section | Lepsien J.,University of Oxford | Nobre A.C.,University of Oxford
NeuroImage | Year: 2010

Attention can be focused voluntarily and effectively on spatial locations in order to enhance the processing of task-relevant events. However, work on 'attentional capture' has demonstrated that spatial biases can be temporarily reset by transient and salient stimuli, especially if they share defining characteristics with the targets of a task goal. In the current study, we investigated whether the appearance of stimuli containing task-defining features at an unattended location was sufficient to capture attention, even when these were not perceptually salient. We used event-related-potential (ERP) markers to test whether the selection of task-defining features was modulated by top-down spatial attention, and to test whether the appearance of 'unattended targets' transiently disrupted the spatial bias. Surprisingly, the results revealed that ERP markers of selection of task-defining features were equivalent for stimuli appearing at spatially attended and unattended locations. In addition, the presentation of task-defining stimuli at the spatially unattended location induced a short-lived redistribution of the pre-established spatial attention bias toward the 'capture' side. These findings show that task-defining features of a stimulus are automatically processed independently from spatial attention, and suggest the co-existence of multiple sources of top-down biasing signals, which might in part sustain the capture mechanism. © 2010.


Ruzzoli M.,University of Verona | Marzi C.A.,University of Verona | Miniussi C.,Cognitive Neuroscience Section | Miniussi C.,University of Brescia
Journal of Neurophysiology | Year: 2010

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a technique used to study perceptual, motor, and cognitive functions in the human brain. Its effects have been likened to a "virtual brain lesion," but a direct test of this assumption is lacking. To verify this hypothesis, we measured psychophysically the interaction between the neural activity induced by a visual motion-direction discrimination task and that induced by TMS. The visual stimulus featured two elements: a visual signal (dots that moved coherently in one direction) and visual noise (dots that moved randomly in many directions). Three hypotheses were tested to explain the impairment in performance as a result of TMS: 1) a decrease in signal strength; 2) an induction of randomly distributed neural noise with an accompanying decrement in system sensitivity; and 3) a suppression of relevant information processing and addition of neural noise. We provide evidence in favor of the second hypothesis by showing that TMS basically acts by adding neural noise to the perceptual process. Copyright © 2010 The American Physiological Society.


Thut G.,University of Glasgow | Veniero D.,Cognitive Neuroscience Section | Veniero D.,University of Brescia | Romei V.,University College London | And 4 more authors.
Current Biology | Year: 2011

Background: Neuronal elements underlying perception, cognition, and action exhibit distinct oscillatory phenomena, measured in humans by electro- or magnetoencephalography (EEG/MEG). So far, the correlative or causal nature of the link between brain oscillations and functions has remained elusive. A compelling demonstration of causality would primarily generate oscillatory signatures that are known to correlate with particular cognitive functions and then assess the behavioral consequences. Here, we provide the first direct evidence for causal entrainment of brain oscillations by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) using concurrent EEG. Results: We used rhythmic TMS bursts to directly interact with an MEG-identified parietal α-oscillator, activated by attention and linked to perception. With TMS bursts tuned to its preferred α-frequency (α-TMS), we confirmed the three main predictions of entrainment of a natural oscillator: (1) that α-oscillations are induced during α-TMS (reproducing an oscillatory signature of the stimulated parietal cortex), (2) that there is progressive enhancement of this α-activity (synchronizing the targeted, α-generator to the α-TMS train), and (3) that this depends on the pre-TMS phase of the background α-rhythm (entrainment of natural, ongoing α-oscillations) . Control conditions testing different TMS burst profiles and TMS-EEG in a phantom head confirmed specificity of α-boosting to the case of synchronization between TMS train and neural oscillator. Conclusions: The periodic electromagnetic force that is generated during rhythmic TMS can cause local entrainment of natural brain oscillations, emulating oscillatory signatures activated by cognitive tasks. This reveals a new mechanism of online TMS action on brain activity and can account for frequency-specific behavioral TMS effects at the level of biologically relevant rhythms. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.


Ruzzoli M.,University of Verona | Abrahamyan A.,University of Sydney | Clifford C.W.G.,University of Sydney | Marzi C.A.,University of Verona | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Neurophysiology | Year: 2011

The underlying mechanisms of action of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) are still a matter of debate. TMS may impair a subject's performance by increasing neural noise, suppressing the neural signal, or both. Here, we delivered a single pulse of TMS (spTMS) to V5/MT during a motion direction discrimination task while concurrently manipulating the level of noise in the motion stimulus. Our results indicate that spTMS essentially acts by suppressing the strength of the relevant visual signal. We suggest that TMS may induce a pattern of neural activity that complements the ongoing activation elicited by the sensory signal in a manner that partially impoverishes that signal © 2011 the American Physiological Society.


Ruzzoli M.,Cognitive Neuroscience Section | Pirulli C.,Cognitive Neuroscience Section | Brignani D.,Cognitive Neuroscience Section | Maioli C.,University of Brescia | And 2 more authors.
Neurobiology of Aging | Year: 2012

Physiological aging affects early sensory-perceptual processes. The aim of this experiment was to evaluate changes in auditory sensory memory in physiological aging using the Mismatch Negativity (MMN) paradigm as index. The MMN is a marker recorded through the electroencephalogram and is used to evaluate the integrity of the memory system. We adopted a new, faster paradigm to look for differences between 3 groups of subjects of different ages (young, middle age and older adults) as a function of short or long intervals between stimuli. We found that older adults did not show MMN at long interval condition and that the duration of MMN varied according to the participants' age. The current study provides electrophysiological evidence supporting the theory that the encoding of stimuli is preserved during normal aging, whereas the maintenance of sensory memory is impaired. Considering the advantage offered by the MMN paradigm used here, these data might be a useful reference point for the assessment of auditory sensory memory in pathological aging (e.g., in neurodegenerative diseases). © 2012 Elsevier Inc.


Veniero D.,Cognitive Neuroscience Section | Veniero D.,University of Brescia | Brignani D.,Cognitive Neuroscience Section | Thut G.,University of Glasgow | And 2 more authors.
Psychophysiology | Year: 2011

The effects of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) on cortical excitability are usually inferred from indirect indexes, such as EMG responses. It has now become possible to directly evaluate rTMS impact by means of concurrent EEG recording. The aim of this study was to examine the modulation induced by high frequency rTMS (20 Hz) over left primary motor cortex on the ongoing oscillatory activity. Thirteen subjects underwent two sham and a real rTMS session while acquiring EEG. Event-related desynchronization/synchronization was calculated for the α and β bands. rTMS induced a dose-dependent increase in synchronization in both bands over central and parietal sites. The strongest effect found for the α band outlasted the end of the stimulation. Considering previous studies, our data suggest that α generation may represent an intrinsic induced response and a basic response signature to TMS targeting the human resting motor cortex. © 2011 Society for Psychophysiological Research.


Thut G.,University of Glasgow | Miniussi C.,Cognitive Neuroscience Section | Miniussi C.,University of Brescia | Gross J.,University of Glasgow
Current Biology | Year: 2012

Oscillations in brain activity have long been known, but many fundamental aspects of such brain rhythms, particularly their functional importance, have been unclear. As we review here, new insights into these issues are emerging from the application of intervention approaches. In these approaches, the timing of brain oscillations is manipulated by non-invasive brain stimulation, either through sensory input or transcranially, and the behavioural consequence then monitored. Notably, such manipulations have led to rapid, periodic fluctuations in behavioural performance, which co-cycle with underlying brain oscillations. Such findings establish a causal relationship between brain oscillations and behaviour, and are allowing novel tests of longstanding models about the functions of brain oscillations. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.

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