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  • The neuropsychology of male adults with high-functioning autism or asperger syndrome.

    8 August 2018

    Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is diagnosed on the basis of behavioral symptoms, but cognitive abilities may also be useful in characterizing individuals with ASD. One hundred seventy-eight high-functioning male adults, half with ASD and half without, completed tasks assessing IQ, a broad range of cognitive skills, and autistic and comorbid symptomatology. The aims of the study were, first, to determine whether significant differences existed between cases and controls on cognitive tasks, and whether cognitive profiles, derived using a multivariate classification method with data from multiple cognitive tasks, could distinguish between the two groups. Second, to establish whether cognitive skill level was correlated with degree of autistic symptom severity, and third, whether cognitive skill level was correlated with degree of comorbid psychopathology. Fourth, cognitive characteristics of individuals with Asperger Syndrome (AS) and high-functioning autism (HFA) were compared. After controlling for IQ, ASD and control groups scored significantly differently on tasks of social cognition, motor performance, and executive function (P's < 0.05). To investigate cognitive profiles, 12 variables were entered into a support vector machine (SVM), which achieved good classification accuracy (81%) at a level significantly better than chance (P < 0.0001). After correcting for multiple correlations, there were no significant associations between cognitive performance and severity of either autistic or comorbid symptomatology. There were no significant differences between AS and HFA groups on the cognitive tasks. Cognitive classification models could be a useful aid to the diagnostic process when used in conjunction with other data sources-including clinical history.

  • Simultaneous measurement of DeltaR2 and DeltaR2* in cat brain during hypoxia and hypercapnia.

    8 August 2018

    One of the most important issues in blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD)-based brain functional magnetic resonance imaging is the understanding of the vascular structures that are responsible for the signal changes observed. The T2*-related signal changes observed during variations in susceptibility-induced magnetic field gradients are a function both of non-refocusable mechanisms, such as diffusion, and of refocusable effects such as field inhomogeneities. Conversely, T2-related signal changes are only a function of non-refocusable effects. It has been suggested that T2-weighted images could be less sensitive to blood susceptibility changes in a macrovascular environment than T2*-weighted images and could thus be more accurate in identifying the "activation" of the parenchyma rather than "draining vein" effects. In this study we use hypoxia and hypercapnia challenges in cats to provide a change in blood deoxyhemoglobin concentration (as a model for classic BOLD changes and not as a model for neuronal activation). A combined gradient echo and spin echo echo-planar-imaging (EPI) pulse sequence was used to map DeltaR2 (i.e., Delta(1/T2)) and DeltaR2* (i.e., Delta(1/T2*)) changes during the challenges. Our experiments demonstrate that: (i) the acquisition of T2-weighted EPI data does not in itself differentiate signal changes in the parenchyma from those occurring in regions around larger vessels, but that (ii) the simultaneous acquisition of T2- and T2*-weighted images could be useful in identifying microvascular regions in gray matter by analyzing the ratio DeltaR2/DeltaR2*. This value seems independent of the degree of deoxyhemoglobin concentration change, but is related to properties of the vascular environment. We suggest a possible application of the results to the study of brain function in humans.

  • Activation of prefrontal cortex in children during a nonspatial working memory task with functional MRI.

    8 August 2018

    Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to examine the pattern of activity of prefrontal cortex in prepubertal children during performance of a nonspatial working memory task. The children observed sequences of letters and responded whenever a letter repeated with exactly one nonidentical letter intervening. In a comparison task, subjects monitored similar sequences of letters for any occurrence of a single, prespecified target letter. Location of activation closely approximated that observed in a recent fMRI study with adults using exactly the same task. Activation of the inferior and middle frontal gyri was reliably observed within individual subjects during performance of the working memory task relative to the comparison task. Activation increased and decreased with a time course that was highly consistent with the task manipulations and correlated with behavioral performance. To our knowledge, this study is one of the first to demonstrate the applicability of fMRI to a normative developmental population. Issues of age dependence of the hemodynamic responses of fMRI are discussed.

  • Correction for geometric distortion in echo planar images from B0 field variations.

    8 August 2018

    A method is described for the correction of geometric distortions occurring in echo planar images. The geometric distortions are caused in large part by static magnetic field inhomogeneities, leading to pixel shifts, particularly in the phase encode direction. By characterizing the field inhomogeneities from a field map, the image can be unwarped so that accurate alignment to conventionally collected images can be made. The algorithm to perform the unwarping is described, and results from echo planar images collected at 1.5 and 4 Tesla are shown.

  • Characterization of and correction for eddy current artifacts in echo planar diffusion imaging.

    8 August 2018

    Magnetic resonance diffusion imaging is potentially an important tool for the noninvasive characterization of normal and pathological tissue. The technique, however, is prone to a number of artifacts that can severely affect its ability to provide clinically useful information. In this study, the problem of eddy current-induced geometric distortions that occur in diffusion images acquired with echo planar sequences was addressed. These geometric distortions produce artifacts in computed maps of diffusion parameters and are caused by misalignments in the individual diffusion-weighted images that comprise the diffusion data set. A new approach is presented to characterize and calibrate the eddy current effects, enabling the eddy current distortions to be corrected in sets of interleaved (or snapshot) echo planar diffusion images. Correction is achieved by acquiring one-dimensional field maps in the read and phase encode direction for each slice and each diffusion step. The method is then demonstrated through the correction of distortions in diffusion images of the human brain. It is shown that by using the eddy current correction scheme outlined, the eddy current-induced artifacts in the diffusion-weighted images are almost completely eliminated. In addition, there is a significant improvement in the quality of the resulting diffusion tensor maps.

  • Evaluation of methemoglobin as an autologous intravascular MRI contrast agent.

    8 August 2018

    Methemoglobin (MetHb) was evaluated as an intravascular paramagnetic contrast agent. Methemoglobin formation was induced by 4-dimethylaminophenol (4-DMAP), causing a reduction in blood T2* in vitro. The 4-DMAP generated metHb with a time constant of 62 s. A 4-DMAP bolus did not decrease measurably the signal intensity in the in vivo rabbit kidney in the first pass. At steady state, a MetHb concentration of 24.8 +/- 2.3% resulted in a signal decrease of 9.2 +/- 2.6% in the kidney. Methemoglobin is an effective vascular T2* relaxation agent, but the formation of MetHb by 4-DMAP is too slow for first-pass imaging. A more effective conversion agent resulting in a bolus of at least 25% MetHb within 5 s would result in a detectable first-pass signal and a viable contrast technique.

  • Correction for vascular artifacts in cerebral blood flow values measured by using arterial spin tagging techniques.

    8 August 2018

    "Vascular" artifacts can have substantial effects on human cerebral blood flow values calculated by using arterial spin tagging approaches. One vascular artifact arises from the contribution of "tagged" arterial water spins to the observed change in brain water MR signal. This artifact can be reduced if large bipolar gradients are used to "crush" the MR signal from moving arterial water spins. A second vascular artifact arises from relaxation of "tagged" arterial blood during transit from the tagging plane to the capillary exchange site in the imaging slice. This artifact can be corrected if the arterial transit times are measured by using "dynamic" spin tagging approaches. The mean transit time from the tagging plane to capillary exchange sites in a gray matter region of interest was calculated to be approximately 0.94 s. Cerebral blood flow values calculated for seven normal volunteers agree reasonably well with values calculated by using radioactive tracer approaches.

  • Perfusion imaging with compensation for asymmetric magnetization transfer effects.

    8 August 2018

    The effects of off-resonance radio-frequency irradiation on the intensity of the MR signal from water protons in the cat brain are asymmetric around the chemical shift of the water signal. This asymmetry, which could arise from a shift in the magnetization transfer spectrum approximately 1.5 ppm upfield from the solvent water signal, must be taken into account to compensate for magnetization transfer effects inherent in arterial spin tagging approaches that use a single radio-frequency coil. Two approaches that either correct for, or circumvent, the apparent upfield shift of the magnetization transfer spectrum are presented, and a perfusion image of the cat brain, using flow-induced adiabatic inversion of arterial water protons, is presented. Other problems in obtaining quantitative cerebral blood flow values using the arterial spin tagging approach are discussed.

  • The acquisition of skilled motor performance: fast and slow experience-driven changes in primary motor cortex.

    8 August 2018

    Behavioral and neurophysiological studies suggest that skill learning can be mediated by discrete, experience-driven changes within specific neural representations subserving the performance of the trained task. We have shown that a few minutes of daily practice on a sequential finger opposition task induced large, incremental performance gains over a few weeks of training. These gains did not generalize to the contralateral hand nor to a matched sequence of identical component movements, suggesting that a lateralized representation of the learned sequence of movements evolved through practice. This interpretation was supported by functional MRI data showing that a more extensive representation of the trained sequence emerged in primary motor cortex after 3 weeks of training. The imaging data, however, also indicated important changes occurring in primary motor cortex during the initial scanning sessions, which we proposed may reflect the setting up of a task-specific motor processing routine. Here we provide behavioral and functional MRI data on experience-dependent changes induced by a limited amount of repetitions within the first imaging session. We show that this limited training experience can be sufficient to trigger performance gains that require time to become evident. We propose that skilled motor performance is acquired in several stages: "fast" learning, an initial, within-session improvement phase, followed by a period of consolidation of several hours duration, and then "slow" learning, consisting of delayed, incremental gains in performance emerging after continued practice. This time course may reflect basic mechanisms of neuronal plasticity in the adult brain that subserve the acquisition and retention of many different skills.