Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology

Santa Lucia di Serino, Italy

Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology

Santa Lucia di Serino, Italy
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MacLellan M.J.,Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology | Ivanenko Y.P.,Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology | Cappellini G.,Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology | Labini F.S.,Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Neurophysiology | Year: 2012

Interlimb coordination of crawling kinematics in humans shares features with other primates and nonprimate quadrupeds, and it has been suggested that this is due to a similar organization of the locomotor pattern generators (CPGs). To extend the previous findings and to further explore the neural control of bipedal vs. quadrupedal locomotion, we used a crawling paradigm in which healthy adults crawled on their hands and feet at different speeds and at different surface inclinations (13°, 27°, and 35°). Ground reaction forces, limb kinematics, and electromyographic (EMG) activity from 26 upper and lower limb muscles on the right side of the body were collected. The EMG activity was mapped onto the spinal cord in approximate rostrocaudal locations of the motoneu-ron pools to characterize the general features of cervical and lumbo-sacral spinal cord activation. The spatiotemporal pattern of spinal cord activity significantly differed between quadrupedal and bipedal gaits. In addition, participants exhibited a large range of kinematic coordination styles (diagonal vs. lateral patterns), which is in contrast to the stereotypical kinematics of upright bipedal walking, suggesting flexible coupling of cervical and lumbosacral pattern generators. Results showed strikingly dissimilar directional horizontal forces for the arms and legs, considerably retracted average leg orientation, and substantially smaller sacral vs. lumbar motoneuron activity compared with quadrupedal gait in animals. A gradual transition to a more vertical body orientation (increasing the inclination of the treadmill) led to the appearance of more prominent sacral activity (related to activation of ankle plantar flexors), typical of bipedal walking. The findings highlight the reorganization and adaptation of CPG networks involved in the control of quadrupedal human locomotion and a high specialization of the musculoskeletal apparatus to specific gaits. © 2012 the American Physiological Society.

Picado-Muino D.,European Center for Soft Computing | Borgelt C.,European Center for Soft Computing | Berger D.,Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology | Gerstein G.,University of Pennsylvania | And 3 more authors.
Frontiers in Neuroinformatics | Year: 2013

Cell assemblies, defined as groups of neurons exhibiting precise spike coordination, were proposed as a model of network processing in the cortex. Fortunately, in recent years considerable progress has been made in multi-electrode recordings, which enable recording massively parallel spike trains of hundred(s) of neurons simultaneously. However, due to the challenges inherent in multivariate approaches, most studies in favor of cortical cell assemblies still resorted to analyzing pairwise interactions. However, to recover the underlying correlation structures, higher-order correlations need to be identified directly. Inspired by the Accretion method proposed by Gerstein et al. (1978) we propose a new assembly detection method based on frequent item set mining (FIM). In contrast to Accretion, FIM searches effectively and without redundancy for individual spike patterns that exceed a given support threshold. We study different search methods, with which the space of potential cell assemblies may be explored, as well as different test statistics and subset conditions with which candidate assemblies may be assessed and filtered. It turns out that a core challenge of cell assembly detection is the problem of multiple testing, which causes a large number of false discoveries. Unfortunately, criteria that address individual candidate assemblies and try to assess them with statistical tests and/or subset conditions do not help much to tackle this problem. The core idea of our new method is that in order to cope with the multiple testing problem one has to shift the focus of statistical testing from specific assemblies (consisting of a specific set of neurons) to spike patterns of a certain size (i.e., with a certain number of neurons). This significantly reduces the number of necessary tests, thus alleviating the multiple testing problem. We demonstrate that our method is able to reliably suppress false discoveries, while it is still very sensitive in discovering synchronous activity. Since we exploit high-speed computational techniques from FIM for the tests, our method is also computationally efficient. © 2013 Picado-Muiño, Borgelt, Berger, Gerstein and Grdie;n.

Moscatelli A.,University of Rome Tor Vergata | Moscatelli A.,Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology | Moscatelli A.,Bielefeld University | Mezzetti M.,University of Rome Tor Vergata | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Vision | Year: 2012

In psychophysics, researchers usually apply a two-level model for the analysis of the behavior of the single subject and the population. This classical model has two main disadvantages. First, the second level of the analysis discards information on trial repetitions and subject-specific variability. Second, the model does not easily allow assessing the goodness of fit. As an alternative to this classical approach, here we propose the Generalized Linear Mixed Model (GLMM). The GLMM separately estimates the variability of fixed and random effects, it has a higher statistical power, and it allows an easier assessment of the goodness of fit compared with the classical two-level model. GLMMs have been frequently used in many disciplines since the 1990s; however, they have been rarely applied in psychophysics. Furthermore, to our knowledge, the issue of estimating the point-of-subjective-equivalence (PSE) within the GLMM framework has never been addressed. Therefore the article has two purposes: It provides a brief introduction to the usage of the GLMM in psychophysics, and it evaluates two different methods to estimate the PSE and its variability within the GLMM framework. We compare the performance of the GLMM and the classical two-level model on published experimental data and simulated data. We report that the estimated values of the parameters were similar between the two models and Type I errors were below the confidence level in both models. However, the GLMM has a higher statistical power than the two-level model. Moreover, one can easily compare the fit of different GLMMs according to different criteria. In conclusion, we argue that the GLMM can be a useful method in psychophysics. © 2012 ARVO.

Bosco G.,University of Rome Tor Vergata | Bosco G.,Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology | Delle Monache S.,University of Rome Tor Vergata | Delle Monache S.,Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology | And 2 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Control of interceptive actions may involve fine interplay between feedback-based and predictive mechanisms. These processes rely heavily on target motion information available when the target is visible. However, short-term visual memory signals as well as implicit knowledge about the environment may also contribute to elaborate a predictive representation of the target trajectory, especially when visual feedback is partially unavailable because other objects occlude the visual target. To determine how different processes and information sources are integrated in the control of the interceptive action, we manipulated a computer-generated visual environment representing a baseball game. Twenty-four subjects intercepted fly-ball trajectories by moving a mouse cursor and by indicating the interception with a button press. In two separate sessions, fly-ball trajectories were either fully visible or occluded for 750, 1000 or 1250 ms before ball landing. Natural ball motion was perturbed during the descending trajectory with effects of either weightlessness (0 g) or increased gravity (2 g) at times such that, for occluded trajectories, 500 ms of perturbed motion were visible before ball disappearance. To examine the contribution of previous visual experience with the perturbed trajectories to the interception of invisible targets, the order of visible and occluded sessions was permuted among subjects. Under these experimental conditions, we showed that, with fully visible targets, subjects combined servo-control and predictive strategies. Instead, when intercepting occluded targets, subjects relied mostly on predictive mechanisms based, however, on different type of information depending on previous visual experience. In fact, subjects without prior experience of the perturbed trajectories showed interceptive errors consistent with predictive estimates of the ball trajectory based on a-priori knowledge of gravity. Conversely, the interceptive responses of subjects previously exposed to fully visible trajectories were compatible with the fact that implicit knowledge of the perturbed motion was also taken into account for the extrapolation of occluded trajectories. © 2012 Bosco et al.

Carrozzo M.,National Research Council Italy | Carrozzo M.,Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology | Moscatelli A.,Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology | Lacquaniti F.,Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology | Lacquaniti F.,University of Rome Tor Vergata
PLoS ONE | Year: 2010

Background: How do we estimate time when watching an action? The idea that events are timed by a centralized clock has recently been called into question in favour of distributed, specialized mechanisms. Here we provide evidence for a critical specialization: animate and inanimate events are separately timed by humans. Methodology/Principal Findings: In different experiments, observers were asked to intercept a moving target or to discriminate the duration of a stationary flash while viewing different scenes. Time estimates were systematically shorter in the sessions involving human characters moving in the scene than in those involving inanimate moving characters. Remarkably, the animate/inanimate context also affected randomly intermingled trials which always depicted the same still character. Conclusions/Significance: The existence of distinct time bases for animate and inanimate events might be related to the partial segregation of the neural networks processing these two categories of objects, and could enhance our ability to predict critically timed actions. © 2010 Lacquaniti et al.

Alessandro C.,University of Zürich | Carbajal J.P.,University of Zürich | D'Avella A.,Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology
Lecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics) | Year: 2012

Taking inspiration from the hypothesis of muscle synergies, we propose a method to generate open loop controllers for an agent solving point-to-point reaching tasks. The controller output is defined as a linear combination of a small set of predefined actuations, termed synergies. The method can be interpreted from a developmental perspective, since it allows the agent to autonomously synthesize and adapt an effective set of synergies to new behavioral needs. This scheme greatly reduces the dimensionality of the control problem, while keeping a good performance level. The framework is evaluated in a planar kinematic chain, and the quality of the solutions is quantified in several scenarios. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.

Moscatelli A.,Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology | Lacquaniti F.,Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology | Lacquaniti F.,University of Rome Tor Vergata
Journal of Vision | Year: 2011

In contrast with the anisotropies in spatial and motion vision, anisotropies in the perception of motion duration have not been investigated to our knowledge. Here, we addressed this issue by asking observers to judge the duration of motion of a target accelerating over a fixed length path in one of different directions. Observers watched either a pictorial or a quasiblank scene, while being upright or tilted by 45°relative to the monitor and Earth's gravity. Finally, observers were upright and we tilted the scene by 45°. We found systematic anisotropies in the precision of the responses, the performance being better for downward motion than for upward motion relative to the scene both when the observer and the scene were upright and when either the observer or the scene were tilted by 45°, although tilting decreased the size of the effect. We argue that implicit knowledge about gravity force is incorporated in the neural mechanisms computing elapsed time. Furthermore, the results suggest that the effects of a virtual gravity can be represented with respect to a vertical direction concordant with the visual scene orientation and discordant with the direction of Earth's gravity. © ARVO.

Fiorentini C.,University College London | Viviani P.,Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology
Journal of Vision | Year: 2011

Some evidence suggests that it is easier to identify facial expressions (FEs) shown as dynamic displays than as photographs (dynamic advantage hypothesis). Previously, this has been tested by using dynamic FEs simulated either by morphing a neutral face into an emotional one or by computer animations. For the first time, we tested the dynamic advantage hypothesis by using high-speed recordings of actors' FEs. In the dynamic condition, stimuli were graded blends of two recordings (duration: 4.18 s), each describing the unfolding of an expression from neutral to apex. In the static condition, stimuli (duration: 3 s) were blends of just the apex of the same recordings. Stimuli for both conditions were generated by linearly morphing one expression into the other. Performance was estimated by a forced-choice task asking participants to identify which prototype the morphed stimulus was more similar to. Identification accuracy was not different between conditions. Response times (RTs) measured from stimulus onset were shorter for static than for dynamic stimuli. Yet, most responses to dynamic stimuli were given before expressions reached their apex. Thus, with a threshold model, we tested whether discriminative information is integrated more effectively in dynamic than in static conditions. We did not find any systematic difference. In short, neither identification accuracy nor RTs supported the dynamic advantage hypothesis. © ARVO.

Zago M.,Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology
Journal of vision | Year: 2011

Dealing with upside-down objects is difficult and takes time. Among the cues that are critical for defining object orientation, the visible influence of gravity on the object's motion has received limited attention. Here, we manipulated the alignment of visible gravity and structural visual cues between each other and relative to the orientation of the observer and physical gravity. Participants pressed a button triggering a hitter to intercept a target accelerated by a virtual gravity. A factorial design assessed the effects of scene orientation (normal or inverted) and target gravity (normal or inverted). We found that interception was significantly more successful when scene direction was concordant with target gravity direction, irrespective of whether both were upright or inverted. This was so independent of the hitter type and when performance feedback to the participants was either available (Experiment 1) or unavailable (Experiment 2). These results show that the combined influence of visible gravity and structural visual cues can outweigh both physical gravity and viewer-centered cues, leading to rely instead on the congruence of the apparent physical forces acting on people and objects in the scene.

Solopova I.A.,Russian Academy of Sciences | Selionov V.A.,Russian Academy of Sciences | Kazennikov O.V.,Russian Academy of Sciences | Ivanenko Y.P.,Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology
Neuroscience Letters | Year: 2014

Here, we compared motor evoked potentials (MEP) in response to transcranial magnetic stimulation of the motor cortex and the H-reflex during voluntary and vibration-induced air-stepping movements in humans. Both the MEPs (in mm biceps femoris, rectus femoris and tibialis anterior) and H-reflex (in m soleus) were significantly smaller during vibration-induced cyclic leg movements at matched amplitudes of angular motion and muscle activity. These findings highlight differences between voluntary and non-voluntary activation of the spinal pattern generator circuitry in humans, presumably due to an extra facilitatory effect of voluntary control/triggering of stepping on spinal motoneurons and interneurons. The results support the idea of active engagement of supraspinal motor areas in developing central pattern generator-modulating therapies. © 2014 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.

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