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Bambini V.,Institute for Advanced Study IUSS | Arcara G.,University of Padua | Martinelli I.,National Neurological Institute C Mondino | Bernini S.,National Neurological Institute C Mondino | And 6 more authors.
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. © 2016 Elsevier Inc.

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.

Monteiro R.,Institute for Advanced Study IUSS | Monteiro R.,University of Porto | Marques M.,University of Porto | Adhikari G.,European Center for Training and Research in Earthquake Engineering | And 2 more authors.
Engineering Structures | Year: 2014

From a nonlinear static procedure perspective, one of the key issues is the employment of a demand spectrum that takes into account, through an adequate reduction of its ordinates, the hysteretic energy dissipation capacity of the structure being assessed. There are certainly a relatively large number of past parametric studies dedicated to the validation of different approaches to translate such structural energy dissipation capacity into spectral reduction factors, however such studies have focused mainly, if not exclusively, on single-degree-of-freedom (SDOF) systems. It seems, therefore, that verification on full structural systems, such as building frames, is needed in order to verify the adequacy of using existing SDOF-derived relationships in the assessment of multiple-degree-of-freedom (MDOF) systems, in the framework of a proper nonlinear static procedure. Nineteen spectral reduction approaches are considered herein and a generous set of frame buildings, corresponding to different configurations, design type and materials, is used for application. The main goal of this work is hence the definition of the best reduction factor to use when applying a nonlinear static procedure to seismically assess a frame building. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

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.

Bosia M.,San Raffaele Scientific Institute | Bosia M.,Institute for Advanced Study IUSS | Pigoni A.,Vita-Salute San Raffaele University | Pirovano A.,Vita-Salute San Raffaele University | And 12 more authors.
Neurological Sciences | Year: 2015

Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene, a key regulator of prefrontal cortex (PFC) dopamine (DA) availability, has been extensively studied in relation to cognitive domains, mainly executive functions, that are impaired in schizophrenia, but results are still controversial. Since recent studies in patients affected by neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders suggested a role of saitohin (STH) gene as a concurring factor in hypofrontality, we hypothesize that STH and COMT polymorphisms could have an additive effect on cognition in schizophrenia. Three forty three clinically stabilized patients with schizophrenia were assessed with a broad neuropsychological battery including the Brief Assessment of Cognition in Schizophrenia, the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and the Continuous Performance Test and were genotyped for COMT Val108/158Met and STH Q7R polymorphisms. We observed the effects of COMT on speed of processing and executive functions, as well as a significant effect of STH on executive functions performances. Moreover, a significant interaction between COMT and STH polymorphisms was found on executive functions, with COMT Val/Val and STH R carriers performing worse. Our results showed a significant interaction effect of COMT and STH polymorphisms on cognitive performances, strengthening the involvement of STH in cognitive impairments, especially in the domains commonly impaired in schizophrenia. © 2014, Springer-Verlag Italia.

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