Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB

Chieti, Italy

Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB

Chieti, Italy
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Ebisch S.J.H.,University of Chieti Pescara | Ebisch S.J.H.,Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB | Salone A.,University of Chieti Pescara | Ferri F.,University of Parma | And 7 more authors.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience | Year: 2013

Social dysfunction has been recognized as an elementary feature of schizophrenia, but it remains a crucial issue whether social deficits in schizophrenia concern the inter-subjective domain or primarily have their roots in disturbances of self-experience. Social perception comprises vicarious processes grounding an experiential inter-relationship with others as well asself-regulation processes allowing to maintain a coherent sense of self. The present study investigated whether the functional neural basis underlying these processes is altered in first-episode schizophrenia (FES). Twenty-four FES patients and 22 healthy control participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging during a social perception task requiring them to watch videos depicting other individuals'inanimate and animate/social tactile stimulations, and a tactile localizer condition. Activation in ventral premotor cortex for observed bodily tactile stimulations was reduced in the FES group and negatively correlated with self-experience disturbances.Moreover, FES patients showed aberrant differential activation in posterior insula for first-person tactile experiences and observed affective tactile stimulations. These findings suggest that social perception in FES at a pre-reflective level is characterized by disturbances of self-experience, including impaired multisensory representations and self-other distinction. However, the results also show that social perception in FES involves more complex alterations of neural activation at multiple processing levels.© The Author (2012). Published by Oxford University Press.


Ferri F.,University of Parma | Ferri F.,Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB | Salone A.,University of Chieti Pescara | Ebisch S.J.,Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB | And 7 more authors.
Neuropsychologia | Year: 2012

Schizophrenia is often associated with deficits in the domain of language, which are thought to be closely related to deficits in the structure of semantic knowledge. The main aim of the present study was to behaviorally investigate whether semantic impairments in schizophrenia are present also at the very basic level of action verb processing, in particular at the level of motor simulation. We used a go-no go paradigm both for a semantic decision task (with either an early, EGD, or a delayed go-signal delivery, DGD) and for a lexical decision task (control task). Only the first task requires motor simulation to be solved. We found that first-episode schizophrenia (FES) patients, like healthy control (HC) participants, use motor simulation as a basic strategy to semantically judge action verbs. In the EGD condition, both motor simulation and action verb understanding seem to be preserved in FES. However, differently from HC participants, FES patients kept on using the simulation strategy also with the DGD condition, whereas, simultaneously, task performance during this condition appeared to be less efficient and sensitive. Voxel-based morphometry analysis suggested that this altered performance in FES patients could be related to structural brain abnormalities in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. We propose that a prolonged motor simulation in FES may serve as a compensatory strategy for impairments in the selection of action representation and/or for memory deficits disclosed by the DGD condition during the semantic decision task investigated in the present study. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.


Ebisch S.J.H.,University of Chieti Pescara | Ebisch S.J.H.,Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB | Mantini D.,ETH Zurich | Mantini D.,University of Oxford | And 8 more authors.
NeuroImage | Year: 2013

The brain is organized into functionally specific networks as characterized by intrinsic functional relationships within discrete sets of brain regions. However, it is poorly understood whether such functional networks are dynamically organized according to specific task-states. The anterior insular cortex (aIC)-dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC)/medial frontal cortex (mFC) network has been proposed to play a central role in human cognitive abilities. The present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study aimed at testing whether functional interactions of the aIC-dACC/mFC network in terms of temporally correlated patterns of neural activity across brain regions are dynamically modulated by transitory, ongoing task demands. For this purpose, functional interactions of the aIC-dACC/mFC network are compared during two distinguishable fluid reasoning tasks, Visualization and Induction. The results show an increased functional coupling of bilateral aIC with visual cortices in the occipital lobe during the Visualization task, whereas coupling of mFC with right anterior frontal cortex was enhanced during the Induction task. These task-specific modulations of functional interactions likely reflect ability related neural processing. Furthermore, functional connectivity strength between right aIC and right dACC/mFC reliably predicts general task performance. The findings suggest that the analysis of long-range functional interactions may provide complementary information about brain-behavior relationships. On the basis of our results, it is proposed that the aIC-dACC/mFC network contributes to the integration of task-common and task-specific information based on its within-network as well as its between-network dynamic functional interactions. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.


Ebisch S.J.,Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB | Ebisch S.J.,University of Chieti Pescara | Aureli T.,University of Chieti Pescara | Bafunno D.,University of Chieti Pescara | And 6 more authors.
Biological Psychology | Year: 2012

Mothers' ability to empathically share offspring's emotional feelings is considered integral to primary affective bonds and a healthy socio-emotional development. What neurobiological mechanism is responsible for this ability in humans? It has been proposed that the psychological and neural components of affective experiences are strictly associated with autonomic-visceral changes. Hence, the vicarious response of empathy may also embody a sharing of changes in body physiology. The present study aimed at investigating whether maternal empathy is accompanied by a synchrony in autonomic responses. We simultaneously recorded, in an ecological context with contact free methodology, the facial thermal imprints of mother and child, while the former observed the latter when involved in a distressing situation. The results showed a situation-specific parallelism between mothers' and children's facial temperature variations, providing preliminary evidence for a direct affective sharing involving autonomic responding. These findings support a multidimensional approach for the comprehension of emotional parent-child relationships. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.


Ebisch S.J.,University of Chieti Pescara | Ebisch S.J.,Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB | Perrucci M.G.,University of Chieti Pescara | Perrucci M.G.,Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB | And 7 more authors.
NeuroImage | Year: 2012

Neuroimaging research of fluid intelligence (Gf) has mainly focused on the neural basis of abilities explaining performance on cognitive tasks. However, the neuro-functional basis of clearly defined theoretical cognitive components underlying Gf remains unclear. Induction, visualization, and spatial relationships have the highest relevance for Gf (Carroll, 1993). Here we report a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study exploring the neural correlates of these abilities characterized by their unidimensionality and matched for task-difficulty, as evidenced by a psychometric calibration study. Twenty-two healthy young adult females, recruited from a large sample of 300 participants, with either below- or above-average Gf abilities underwent fMRI scanning during Gf task performance. The results reveal that these tasks activate a shared frontoparietal network. Specific activations were also observed, in particular for induction and visualization. The key findings suggest that Gf comprises distinguishable cognitive abilities, but the Gf construct is associated with a common network. © 2012 Elsevier Inc.


Galati G.,University of Rome La Sapienza | Galati G.,Laboratory of Neuropsychology | Committeri G.,University of Chieti Pescara | Committeri G.,Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB | And 6 more authors.
European Journal of Neuroscience | Year: 2011

In the monkey posterior parietal cortex (PPC), there is clear evidence of anatomically segregated neuronal populations specialized for planning saccades and arm-reaching movements. However, functional neuroimaging studies in humans have yielded controversial results. Here we show that the human PPC contains distinct subregions responsive to salient visual cues, some of which combine spatial and action-related signals into 'intentional' signals. Participants underwent event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing delayed saccades and long-range arm reaches instructed by visual cues. We focused on activity in the time period following the cue and preceding the actual movement. The use of individual cortical surface reconstructions with detailed sulcal labeling allowed the definition of six responsive regions with distinctive anatomical locations in the PPC. Each region exhibited a distinctive combination of transient and sustained signals during the delay, modulated by either the cue spatial location (contralateral vs. ipsilateral), the instructed action (saccades vs. reaching) or both. Importantly, a lateral and a medial dorsal parietal region showed sustained responses during the delay preferentially for contralateral saccadic and reaching trials, respectively. In the lateral region, preference for saccades was evident only as a more sustained response during saccadic vs. reaching delays, whereas the medial region also showed a higher transient response to cues signaling reaching vs. saccadic actions. These response profiles closely match the behavior of neurons in the macaque lateral and medial intraparietal area, respectively, and suggest that these corresponding human regions are encoding spatially directed action plans or 'intentions'. © 2011 The Authors. European Journal of Neuroscience © 2011 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


Engert V.,Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences | Merla A.,Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB | Merla A.,University of Chieti Pescara | Grant J.A.,Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences | And 4 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

High resolution thermal infrared imaging is a pioneering method giving indices of sympathetic activity via the contact-free recording of facial tissues (thermal imprints). Compared to established stress markers, the great advantage of this method is its non-invasiveness. The goal of our study was to pilot the use of thermal infrared imaging in the classical setting of human stress research. Thermal imprints were compared to established stress markers (heart rate, heart rate variability, finger temperature, alpha-amylase and cortisol) in 15 participants undergoing anticipation, stress and recovery phases of two laboratory stress tests, the Cold Pressor Test and the Trier Social Stress Test. The majority of the thermal imprints proved to be change-sensitive in both tests. While correlations between the thermal imprints and established stress markers were mostly non-significant, the thermal imprints (but not the established stress makers) did correlate with stress-induced mood changes. Multivariate pattern analysis revealed that in contrast to the established stress markers the thermal imprints could not disambiguate anticipation, stress and recovery phases of both tests. Overall, these results suggest that thermal infrared imaging is a valuable method for the estimation of sympathetic activity in the stress laboratory setting. The use of this non-invasive method may be particularly beneficial for covert recordings, in the study of special populations showing difficulties in complying with the standard instruments of data collection and in the domain of psychophysiological covariance research. Meanwhile, the established stress markers seem to be superior when it comes to the characterization of complex physiological states during the different phases of the stress cycle. © 2014 Engert et al.


Ambrosini E.,University of Chieti Pescara | Ambrosini E.,Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB | Ciavarro M.,Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB | Ciavarro M.,University of Bologna | And 10 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Background: Several psychophysical experiments found evidence for the involvement of gaze-centered and/or body-centered coordinates in arm-movement planning and execution. Here we aimed at investigating the frames of reference involved in the visuomotor transformations for reaching towards visual targets in space by taking target eccentricity and performing hand into account. Methodology/Principal Findings: We examined several performance measures while subjects reached, in complete darkness, memorized targets situated at different locations relative to the gaze and/or to the body, thus distinguishing between an eye-centered and a body-centered frame of reference involved in the computation of the movement vector. The errors seem to be mainly affected by the visual hemifield of the target, independently from its location relative to the body, with an overestimation error in the horizontal reaching dimension (retinal exaggeration effect). The use of several target locations within the perifoveal visual field allowed us to reveal a novel finding, that is, a positive linear correlation between horizontal overestimation errors and target retinal eccentricity. In addition, we found an independent influence of the performing hand on the visuomotor transformation process, with each hand misreaching towards the ipsilateral side. Conclusions: While supporting the existence of an internal mechanism of target-effector integration in multiple frames of reference, the present data, especially the linear overshoot at small target eccentricities, clearly indicate the primary role of gaze-centered coding of target location in the visuomotor transformation for reaching. © 2012 Ambrosini et al.


Ioannou S.,University of Parma | Ioannou S.,Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB | Ioannou S.,University of Chieti Pescara | Ebisch S.,Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB | And 13 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

So far inferences on early moral development and higher order self conscious emotions have mostly been based on behavioral data. Emotions though, as far as arguments support, are multidimensional notions. Not only do they involve behavioral actions upon perception of an event, but they also carry autonomic physiological markers. The current study aimed to examine and characterise physiological signs that underlie self-conscious emotions in early childhood, while grounding them on behavioral analyses. For this purpose, the "mishap paradigm" was used as the most reliable method for evoking feelings of "guilt" in children and autonomic facial temperature variation were detected by functional Infrared Imaging (fIRI). Fifteen children (age: 39-42 months) participated in the study. They were asked to play with a toy, falsely informed that it was the experimenter's "favourite", while being unaware that it was pre-planned to break. Mishap of the toy during engagement caused sympathetic arousal as shown by peripheral nasal vasoconstriction leading to a marked temperature drop, compared to baseline. Soothing after the mishap phase induced an increase in nose temperature, associated with parasympathetic activity suggesting that the child's distress was neutralized, or even overcompensated. Behavioral analyses reported signs of distress evoked by the paradigm, backing up the thermal observation. The results suggest that the integration of physiological elements should be crucial in research concerning socio-emotional development. fIRI is a non invasive and non contact method providing a powerful tool for inferring early moral emotional signs based on physiological observations of peripheral vasoconstriction, while preserving an ecological and natural context. © 2013 Ioannou et al.

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