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  • The heritability of multi-modal connectivity in human brain activity.

    17 May 2018

    Patterns of intrinsic human brain activity exhibit a profile of functional connectivity that is associated with behaviour and cognitive performance, and deteriorates with disease. This paper investigates the relative importance of genetic factors and the common environment between twins in determining this functional connectivity profile. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on 820 subjects from the Human Connectome Project, and magnetoencephalographic (MEG) recordings from a subset, the heritability of connectivity among 39 cortical regions was estimated. On average over all connections, genes account for about 15% of the observed variance in fMRI connectivity (and about 10% in alpha-band and 20% in beta-band oscillatory power synchronisation), which substantially exceeds the contribution from the environment shared between twins. Therefore, insofar as twins share a common upbringing, it appears that genes, rather than the developmental environment, have the dominant role in determining the coupling of neuronal activity.

  • Discovering dynamic brain networks from big data in rest and task.

    17 May 2018

    Brain activity is a dynamic combination of the responses to sensory inputs and its own spontaneous processing. Consequently, such brain activity is continuously changing whether or not one is focusing on an externally imposed task. Previously, we have introduced an analysis method that allows us, using Hidden Markov Models (HMM), to model task or rest brain activity as a dynamic sequence of distinct brain networks, overcoming many of the limitations posed by sliding window approaches. Here, we present an advance that enables the HMM to handle very large amounts of data, making possible the inference of very reproducible and interpretable dynamic brain networks in a range of different datasets, including task, rest, MEG and fMRI, with potentially thousands of subjects. We anticipate that the generation of large and publicly available datasets from initiatives such as the Human Connectome Project and UK Biobank, in combination with computational methods that can work at this scale, will bring a breakthrough in our understanding of brain function in both health and disease.

  • Breathlessness and the body: Neuroimaging clues for the inferential leap

    30 November 2017

    © 2017 The Author(s) Breathlessness debilitates millions of people with chronic illness. Mismatch between breathlessness severity and objective disease markers is common and poorly understood. Traditionally, sensory perception was conceptualised as a stimulus-response relationship, although this cannot explain how conditioned symptoms may occur in the absence of physiological signals from the lungs or airways. A Bayesian model is now proposed, in which the brain generates sensations based on expectations learnt from past experiences (priors), which are then checked against incoming afferent signals. In this model, psychological factors may act as moderators. They may alter priors, change the relative attention towards incoming sensory information, or alter comparisons between priors and sensations, leading to more variable interpretation of an equivalent afferent input. In the present study we conducted a supplementary analysis of previously published data (Hayen et al., 2017). We hypothesised that individual differences in psychological traits (anxiety, depression, anxiety sensitivity) would correlate with the variability of subjective perceptions of equivalent breathlessness challenges. To better understand the resulting inferential leap in the brain, we explored where these behavioural measures correlated with functional brain activity across subjects. Behaviourally, anxiety sensitivity was found to positively correlate with each subject's variability of intensity and unpleasantness during mild breathlessness, and with variability of unpleasantness during strong breathlessness. In the brain, anxiety sensitivity was found to negatively correlate with precuneus activity during anticipation, positively correlate with anterior insula activity during mild breathlessness, and negatively correlate with parietal sensorimotor areas during strong breathlessness. Our findings suggest that anxiety sensitivity may reduce the robustness of this Bayesian sensory perception system, increasing the variability of breathlessness perception and possibly susceptibility to symptom misinterpretation. These preliminary findings in healthy individuals demonstrate how differences in psychological function influence the way we experience bodily sensations, which might direct us towards better understanding of symptom mismatch in clinical populations.

  • Impact of Vital Dyes on Cell Viability and Transduction Efficiency of AAV Vectors Used in Retinal Gene Therapy Surgery: An In Vitro and In Vivo Analysis.

    10 May 2018

    PURPOSE: Treatment of inherited retinal degenerations using adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors involves delivery by subretinal injection. In the latter stages, alteration of normal anatomy may cause difficulty in visualizing the retinotomy, retinal detachment extension, and vector diffusion. Vital dyes may be useful surgical adjuncts, but their safety and impact on AAV transduction are largely unknown. METHODS: The effects of Sodium Fluorescein (SF), Membrane Blue (MB), and Membrane Blue Dual (DB) at a range of dilutions were assessed on human embryonic kidney cells in vitro using an AAV2-green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter at different multiplicities of infection. Flow cytometry analysis was performed to assess both cell viability and transduction efficiency. The effect on quantitative (q)PCR titer was determined. Balanced salt solution (BSS) or dilute DB (1:5 in BSS) were delivered subretinally into left/right eyes of C57BL/6J mice (n = 12). Retinal structure and function were analyzed by optical coherence tomography, autofluorescence, dark-and light-adapted full-field electroretinography. RESULTS: DB and MB were not toxic at any concentration tested, SF only when undiluted. The presence of dyes did not adversely affect the genomic titer. DB even increased the values, due to presence of surfactant in the formulation. AAV2-GFP transduction efficiency was not reduced by the dyes. No structural and functional toxic effects were observed following subretinal delivery of DB. CONCLUSIONS: Only undiluted SF affected cell viability. No effects on qPCR titer and transduction efficiency were observed. DB does not appear toxic when delivered subretinally and improves titer accuracy. DB may therefore be a safe and helpful adjunct during gene therapy surgery. TRANSLATIONAL RELEVANCE: This paper might be of interest to the retinal gene therapy community: it is a "bench to bedside" research paper about the potential use of dyes as a surgical adjunct during the gene therapy surgery. We have tested the potential toxicity and impact on transduction efficiency in an in vitro and in vivo model.

  • The interaction between subclinical psychotic experiences, insomnia and objective measures of sleep.

    30 April 2018

    Investigations into schizophrenia have revealed a high incidence of comorbidity with disturbed sleep and circadian timing. Acknowledging this comorbidity on a dimensional level, we tested prospectively whether subclinical psychotic symptoms are more prevalent in individuals with insomnia. An insomnia group (n=21) and controls (n=22) were recruited on their subjective sleep quality, recorded actigraphically for 3weeks and assessed for psychotic-like experiences with The Prodromal Questionnaire-16. Using multivariate Poisson regression analyses, we found that objective and subjective sleep measures interact to predict the highest risk for psychotic experiences. Objective measures of sleep and statistical modelling are rarely used in either clinical trials or practice for schizophrenia, yet this study highlights their value in these areas.

  • Computing the Social Brain Connectome Across Systems and States.

    6 December 2017

    Social skills probably emerge from the interaction between different neural processing levels. However, social neuroscience is fragmented into highly specialized, rarely cross-referenced topics. The present study attempts a systematic reconciliation by deriving a social brain definition from neural activity meta-analyses on social-cognitive capacities. The social brain was characterized by meta-analytic connectivity modeling evaluating coactivation in task-focused brain states and physiological fluctuations evaluating correlations in task-free brain states. Network clustering proposed a functional segregation into (1) lower sensory, (2) limbic, (3) intermediate, and (4) high associative neural circuits that together mediate various social phenomena. Functional profiling suggested that no brain region or network is exclusively devoted to social processes. Finally, nodes of the putative mirror-neuron system were coherently cross-connected during tasks and more tightly coupled to embodied simulation systems rather than abstract emulation systems. These first steps may help reintegrate the specialized research agendas in the social and affective sciences.

  • Specifying the brain anatomy underlying temporo-parietal junction activations for theory of mind: A review using probabilistic atlases from different imaging modalities.

    14 May 2018

    In this quantitative review, we specified the anatomical basis of brain activity reported in the Temporo-Parietal Junction (TPJ) in Theory of Mind (ToM) research. Using probabilistic brain atlases, we labeled TPJ peak coordinates reported in the literature. This was carried out for four different atlas modalities: (i) gyral-parcellation, (ii) sulco-gyral parcellation, (iii) cytoarchitectonic parcellation and (iv) connectivity-based parcellation. In addition, our review distinguished between two ToM task types (false belief and social animations) and a nonsocial task (attention reorienting). We estimated the mean probabilities of activation for each atlas label, and found that for all three task types part of TPJ activations fell into the same areas: (i) Angular Gyrus (AG) and Lateral Occpital Cortex (LOC) in terms of a gyral atlas, (ii) AG and Superior Temporal Sulcus (STS) in terms of a sulco-gyral atlas, (iii) areas PGa and PGp in terms of cytoarchitecture and (iv) area TPJp in terms of a connectivity-based parcellation atlas. Beside these commonalities, we also found that individual task types showed preferential activation for particular labels. Main findings for the right hemisphere were preferential activation for false belief tasks in AG/PGa, and in Supramarginal Gyrus (SMG)/PFm for attention reorienting. Social animations showed strongest selective activation in the left hemisphere, specifically in left Middle Temporal Gyrus (MTG). We discuss how our results (i.e., identified atlas structures) can provide a new reference for describing future findings, with the aim to integrate different labels and terminologies used for studying brain activity around the TPJ. Hum Brain Mapp 38:4788-4805, 2017. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

  • Hippocampal synaptic plasticity, spatial memory and anxiety.

    14 May 2018

    Recent studies using transgenic mice lacking NMDA receptors in the hippocampus challenge the long-standing hypothesis that hippocampal long-term potentiation-like mechanisms underlie the encoding and storage of associative long-term spatial memories. However, it may not be the synaptic plasticity-dependent memory hypothesis that is wrong; instead, it may be the role of the hippocampus that needs to be re-examined. We present an account of hippocampal function that explains its role in both memory and anxiety.