Institute for Advanced Study IUSS

Pavia, Italy

Institute for Advanced Study IUSS

Pavia, Italy
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PubMed | University of Padua, Institute for Advanced Study IUSS, University of Pavia, San Raffaele Scientific Institute and National Neurological Institute C Mondino
Type: | Journal: Brain and language | Year: 2016

While there is increasing attention toward cognitive changes in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the domain of pragmatics, defined as the ability to integrate language and context to engage in successful communication, remains unexplored. Here we tested pragmatic abilities in 33 non-demented ALS patients and 33 healthy controls matched for age and education through 6 different tasks, ranging from discourse organization to the comprehension of figurative language, further grouped in three composite measures for pragmatic production, pragmatic comprehension and global pragmatic abilities. For a subgroup of patients, assessment included executive functions and social cognition skills. ALS patients were impaired on all pragmatic tasks relative to controls, with 45% of the patients performing below cut-off in at least one pragmatic task, and 36% impaired on the global pragmatic score. Pragmatic breakdowns were more common than executive deficit as defined by the consensus criteria, and approximately as prevalent as deficits in social cognition. Multiple regression analyses support the idea of an interplay of executive and social cognition abilities in determining the pragmatic performance, although all these domains show some degree of independence. These findings shed light on pragmatic impairment as a relevant dimension of ALS, which deserves further consideration in defining the cognitive profile of the disease, given its vital role for communication and social interaction in daily life.


Catani M.,King's College London | Bambini V.,Institute for Advanced Study IUSS
Current Opinion in Neurobiology | Year: 2014

In humans, brain connectivity implements a system for language and communication that spans from basic pre-linguistic social abilities shared with non-human primates to syntactic and pragmatic functions particular to our species. The arcuate fasciculus is a central connection in this architecture, linking regions devoted to formal aspects of language with regions involved in intentional and social communication. Here, we outline a new anatomical model of communication that incorporates previous neurofunctional accounts of language with recent advances in tractography and neuropragmatics. The model consists of five levels, from the representation of informative actions and communicative intentions, to lexical/semantic processing, syntactic analysis, and pragmatic integration. The structure of the model is hierarchical in relation to developmental and evolutionary trajectories and it may help interpreting clinico-anatomical correlation in communication disorders. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


PubMed | Institute for Advanced Study IUSS, National Institute of Health and University of Milan
Type: | Journal: Journal of neuropsychology | Year: 2015

The Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test (FCSRT) is the memory test recommended by the International Working Group on Alzheimers disease (AD) for the detection of amnestic syndrome of the medial temporal type in prodromal AD. Assessing the construct validity and internal consistency of the Italian version of the FCSRT is thus crucial.The FCSRT was administered to 338 community-dwelling participants with memory complaints (57% females, age 74.57.7years), including 34 with AD, 203 with Mild Cognitive Impairment, and 101 with Subjective Memory Impairment. Internal Consistency was estimated using Cronbachs alpha coefficient. To assess convergent validity, five FCSRT scores (Immediate Free Recall, Immediate Total Recall, Delayed Free Recall, Delayed Total Recall, and Index of Sensitivity of Cueing) were correlated with three well-validated memory tests: Story Recall, Rey Auditory Verbal Learning test, and Rey Complex Figure(RCF) recall (partial correlation analysis). To assess divergent validity, a principal component analysis (an exploratory factor analysis) was performed including, in addition to the above-mentioned memory tasks, the following tests: Word Fluencies, RCF copy, Clock Drawing Test, Trail Making Test, Frontal Assessment Battery, Raven Coloured Progressive Matrices, and Stroop Colour-Word Test.Cronbachs alpha coefficients for immediate recalls (IFR and ITR) and delayed recalls (DFR and DTR) were, respectively, .84 and .81. All FCSRT scores were highly correlated with those of the three well-validated memory tests. The factor analysis showed that the FCSRT does not load on the factors saturated by non-memory tests.These findings indicate that the FCSRT has a good internal consistency and has an excellent construct validity as an episodic memory measure.


PubMed | Institute for Advanced Study IUSS and King's College London
Type: | Journal: Current opinion in neurobiology | Year: 2014

In humans, brain connectivity implements a system for language and communication that spans from basic pre-linguistic social abilities shared with non-human primates to syntactic and pragmatic functions particular to our species. The arcuate fasciculus is a central connection in this architecture, linking regions devoted to formal aspects of language with regions involved in intentional and social communication. Here, we outline a new anatomical model of communication that incorporates previous neurofunctional accounts of language with recent advances in tractography and neuropragmatics. The model consists of five levels, from the representation of informative actions and communicative intentions, to lexical/semantic processing, syntactic analysis, and pragmatic integration. The structure of the model is hierarchical in relation to developmental and evolutionary trajectories and it may help interpreting clinico-anatomical correlation in communication disorders.


Tettamanti M.,San Raffaele Scientific Institute | Moro A.,San Raffaele Scientific Institute | Moro A.,Institute for Advanced Study IUSS
Cortex | Year: 2012

Converging evidence indicates that the processing of some aspects related to the phonetic and the semantic components of language is tightly associated with both the perceptual and the motor neural systems. It has been suggested that mirror neurons contribute to language understanding by virtue of a neurophysiological response matching perceptual linguistic information onto corresponding motor plans. This proposal has sometimes been extended to advocate that the language competence as a whole, including syntax, may be ascribed to this kind of perceptuo-motor mappings. This position paper examines what kinds of empirical and theoretical challenges such general mirror neuron language accounts need to face in order to proof their validity - challenges that we think have not been adequately addressed yet. We highlight that the most important limitation is constituted by the fact that some core defining properties of human language, at the phonetic, semantic, and especially at the syntactic level, are not transparent to the bodily senses and thus they cannot be the direct source of mirror neuron perceptuo-motor matching. © 2011 Elsevier Srl.


Canini M.,San Raffaele Scientific Institute | Della Rosa P.A.,San Raffaele Scientific Institute | Catricala E.,Institute for Advanced Study IUSS | Strijkers K.,French National Center for Scientific Research | And 3 more authors.
Human Brain Mapping | Year: 2016

During picture naming, the ease with which humans generate words is dependent upon the context in which they are named. For instances, naming previously presented items results in facilitation. Instead, naming a picture semantically related to previous items displays persistent interference effects (i.e., cumulative semantic interference, CSI). The neural correlates of CSI are still unclear and it is a matter of debate whether semantic control, or cognitive control more in general, is necessary for the resolution of CSI. We carried out an event-related fMRI experiment to assess the neural underpinnings of the CSI effect and the involvement and nature of semantic control. Both left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) and the left caudate nucleus (LCN) showed a linear increase of BOLD response positively associated with the consecutive number of presentations of semantically related pictures independently of task-load. The generalized psychophysiological interaction analysis showed that LIFG demonstrated a quantitative neural connectivity difference with the left supramarginal and angular gyri for increases of task-load and with the fusiform gyri for linear CSI increases. Furthermore, seed-to-voxel functional connectivity showed that LIFG activity coupled with different regions involved in cognitive control and lexicosemantic processing when semantic interference was elicited to a minimum or maximum degree. Our results are consistent with the lexical-competitive nature of the CSI effect, and we provide novel evidence that semantic control lies upon a more general cognitive control network (i.e., LIFG and LCN) responsible for resolving interference between competing semantically related items through connectivity with different brain areas in order to guarantee the correct response. Hum Brain Mapp 37:4179–4196, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


PubMed | San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Institute for Advanced Study IUSS and Vita-Salute San Raffaele University
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Neuropsychologia | Year: 2015

One of the major challenges in the study of language in schizophrenia is to identify specific levels of the linguistic structure that might be selectively impaired. While historically a main semantic deficit has been widely claimed, results are mixed, with also evidence of syntactic impairment. This might be due to heterogeneity in materials and paradigms across studies, which often do not allow to tap into single linguistic components. Moreover, the interaction between linguistic and neurocognitive deficits is still unclear. In this study, we concentrated on syntactic and semantic knowledge. We employed an anomaly detection task including short and long sentences with either syntactic errors violating the principles of Universal Grammar, or a novel form of semantic errors, resulting from a contradiction in the computation of the whole sentence meaning. Fifty-eight patients with diagnosis of schizophrenia were compared to 30 healthy subjects. Results showed that, in patients, only the ability to identify syntactic anomaly, both in short and long sentences, was impaired. This result cannot be explained by working memory abilities or psychopathological features. These findings suggest the presence of an impairment of syntactic knowledge in schizophrenia, at least partially independent of the cognitive and psychopathological profile. On the contrary, we cannot conclude that there is a semantic impairment, at least in terms of compositional semantics abilities.


PubMed | San Raffaele Scientific Institute and Institute for Advanced Study IUSS
Type: | Journal: Journal of neuropsychology | Year: 2016

Amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) is a clinical condition characterized by memory impairment in the absence of any other cognitive impairment and is commonly associated with high conversion to Alzheimers disease. Recent evidence shows that executive functions and selective attention mechanisms could also be impaired in aMCI. In this study, we investigated performance differences (i.e., reaction times [RTs] and accuracy) between a group of aMCI participants and a group of age-matched healthy individuals on the attentional network task (ANT) focusing on situations with increased interference. In particular, we assessed the relationship between interference and conflict effects and grey matter volumes (GMVs) of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)/pre-supplementary motor area in the entire sample because of its crucial role in conflict monitoring. When compared with controls, aMCI participants were less accurate on the ANT, showing increased interference and conflict effects, but no differences in RTs. In addition, aMCI participants exhibited lower GMV in the ACC than controls. While better accuracy for interference and conflict effects was associated with an increase of GMV in the ACC for both groups, RTs from the interference effect were negatively correlated with GMV of the ACC only in aMCI participants. In other words, lower GMV values of the ACC were paralleled with significantly impaired performance in terms of interference resolution. In conclusion, our study suggests the presence of a selective impairment in interference and conflict monitoring in aMCI, which in turn is associated with decreased GMVs in the ACC.


Bambini V.,Institute for Advanced Study IUSS | Resta D.,University of Salento | Grimaldi M.,University of Salento
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Defining the specific role of the factors that affect metaphor processing is a fundamental step for fully understanding figurative language comprehension, either in discourse and conversation or in reading poems and novels. This study extends the currently available materials on everyday metaphorical expressions by providing the first dataset of metaphors extracted from literary texts and scored for the major psycholinguistic variables, considering also the effect of context. A set of 115 Italian literary metaphors presented in isolation (Experiment 1) and a subset of 65 literary metaphors embedded in their original texts (Experiment 2) were rated on several dimensions (word and phrase frequency, readability, cloze probability, familiarity, concreteness, difficulty and meaningfulness). Overall, literary metaphors scored around medium-low values on all dimensions in both experiments. Collected data were subjected to correlation analysis, which showed the presence of a strong cluster of variables-mainly familiarity, difficulty, and meaningfulness-when literary metaphor were presented in isolation. A weaker cluster was observed when literary metaphors were presented in the original contexts, with familiarity no longer correlating with meaningfulness. Context manipulation influenced familiarity, concreteness and difficulty ratings, which were lower in context than out of context, while meaningfulness increased. Throughout the different dimensions, the literary context seems to promote a global interpretative activity that enhances the openendedness of the metaphor as a semantic structure constantly open to all possible interpretations intended by the author and driven by the text. This dataset will be useful for the design of future experimental studies both on literary metaphor and on the role of context in figurative meaning, combining ecological validity and aesthetic aspects of language. © 2014 Bambini et al.


PubMed | University of Salento and Institute for Advanced Study IUSS
Type: Journal Article | Journal: PloS one | Year: 2014

Defining the specific role of the factors that affect metaphor processing is a fundamental step for fully understanding figurative language comprehension, either in discourse and conversation or in reading poems and novels. This study extends the currently available materials on everyday metaphorical expressions by providing the first dataset of metaphors extracted from literary texts and scored for the major psycholinguistic variables, considering also the effect of context. A set of 115 Italian literary metaphors presented in isolation (Experiment 1) and a subset of 65 literary metaphors embedded in their original texts (Experiment 2) were rated on several dimensions (word and phrase frequency, readability, cloze probability, familiarity, concreteness, difficulty and meaningfulness). Overall, literary metaphors scored around medium-low values on all dimensions in both experiments. Collected data were subjected to correlation analysis, which showed the presence of a strong cluster of variables-mainly familiarity, difficulty, and meaningfulness-when literary metaphor were presented in isolation. A weaker cluster was observed when literary metaphors were presented in the original contexts, with familiarity no longer correlating with meaningfulness. Context manipulation influenced familiarity, concreteness and difficulty ratings, which were lower in context than out of context, while meaningfulness increased. Throughout the different dimensions, the literary context seems to promote a global interpretative activity that enhances the open-endedness of the metaphor as a semantic structure constantly open to all possible interpretations intended by the author and driven by the text. This dataset will be useful for the design of future experimental studies both on literary metaphor and on the role of context in figurative meaning, combining ecological validity and aesthetic aspects of language.

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