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  • Alpha Oscillations Are Causally Linked to Inhibitory Abilities in Ageing.

    2 July 2018

    Aging adults typically show reduced ability to ignore task-irrelevant information, an essential skill for optimal performance in many cognitive operations, including those requiring working memory (WM) resources. In a first experiment, young and elderly human participants of both genders performed an established WM paradigm probing inhibitory abilities by means of valid, invalid, and neutral retro-cues. Elderly participants showed an overall cost, especially in performing invalid trials, whereas younger participants' general performance was comparatively higher, as expected.Inhibitory abilities have been linked to alpha brain oscillations but it is yet unknown whether in aging these oscillations (also typically impoverished) and inhibitory abilities are causally linked. To probe this possible causal link in aging, we compared in a second experiment parietal alpha-transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) with either no stimulation (Sham) or with two control stimulation frequencies (theta- and gamma-tACS) in the elderly group while performing the same WM paradigm. Alpha- (but not theta- or gamma-) tACS selectively and significantly improved performance (now comparable to younger adults' performance in the first experiment), particularly for invalid cues where initially elderly showed the highest costs. Alpha oscillations are therefore causally linked to inhibitory abilities and frequency-tuned alpha-tACS interventions can selectively change these abilities in the elderly.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Ignoring task-irrelevant information, an ability associated to rhythmic brain activity in the alpha frequency band, is fundamental for optimal performance. Indeed, impoverished inhibitory abilities contribute to age-related decline in cognitive functions like working memory (WM), the capacity to briefly hold information in mind. Whether in aging adults alpha oscillations and inhibitory abilities are causally linked is yet unknown. We experimentally manipulated frequency-tuned brain activity using transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), combined with a retro-cue paradigm assessing WM and inhibition. We found that alpha-tACS induced a significant improvement in target responses and misbinding errors, two indexes of inhibition. We concluded that in aging alpha oscillations are causally linked to inhibitory abilities, and that despite being impoverished, these abilities are still malleable.

  • Reprint of: Early Behavioural Facilitation by Temporal Expectations in Complex Visual-motor Sequences.

    3 July 2018

    In daily life, temporal expectations may derive from incidental learning of recurring patterns of intervals. We investigated the incidental acquisition and utilisation of combined temporal-ordinal (spatial/effector) structure in complex visual-motor sequences using a modified version of a serial reaction time (SRT) task. In this task, not only the series of targets/responses, but also the series of intervals between subsequent targets was repeated across multiple presentations of the same sequence. Each participant completed three sessions. In the first session, only the repeating sequence was presented. During the second and third session, occasional probe blocks were presented, where a new (unlearned) spatial-temporal sequence was introduced. We first confirm that participants not only got faster over time, but that they were slower and less accurate during probe blocks, indicating that they incidentally learned the sequence structure. Having established a robust behavioural benefit induced by the repeating spatial-temporal sequence, we next addressed our central hypothesis that implicit temporal orienting (evoked by the learned temporal structure) would have the largest influence on performance for targets following short (as opposed to longer) intervals between temporally structured sequence elements, paralleling classical observations in tasks using explicit temporal cues. We found that indeed, reaction time differences between new and repeated sequences were largest for the short interval, compared to the medium and long intervals, and that this was the case, even when comparing late blocks (where the repeated sequence had been incidentally learned), to early blocks (where this sequence was still unfamiliar). We conclude that incidentally acquired temporal expectations that follow a sequential structure can have a robust facilitatory influence on visually-guided behavioural responses and that, like more explicit forms of temporal orienting, this effect is most pronounced for sequence elements that are expected at short inter-element intervals.

  • The effects of improving sleep on mental health (OASIS): a randomised controlled trial with mediation analysis.

    3 July 2018

    BACKGROUND: Sleep difficulties might be a contributory causal factor in the occurrence of mental health problems. If this is true, improving sleep should benefit psychological health. We aimed to determine whether treating insomnia leads to a reduction in paranoia and hallucinations. METHODS: We did this single-blind, randomised controlled trial (OASIS) at 26 UK universities. University students with insomnia were randomly assigned (1:1) with simple randomisation to receive digital cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for insomnia or usual care, and the research team were masked to the treatment. Online assessments took place at weeks 0, 3, 10 (end of therapy), and 22. The primary outcome measures were for insomnia, paranoia, and hallucinatory experiences. We did intention-to-treat analyses. The trial is registered with the ISRCTN registry, number ISRCTN61272251. FINDINGS: Between March 5, 2015, and Feb 17, 2016, we randomly assigned 3755 participants to receive digital CBT for insomnia (n=1891) or usual practice (n=1864). Compared with usual practice, the sleep intervention at 10 weeks reduced insomnia (adjusted difference 4·78, 95% CI 4·29 to 5·26, Cohen's d=1·11; p<0·0001), paranoia (-2·22, -2·98 to -1·45, Cohen's d=0·19; p<0·0001), and hallucinations (-1·58, -1·98 to -1·18, Cohen's d=0·24; p<0·0001). Insomnia was a mediator of change in paranoia and hallucinations. No adverse events were reported. INTERPRETATION: To our knowledge, this is the largest randomised controlled trial of a psychological intervention for a mental health problem. It provides strong evidence that insomnia is a causal factor in the occurrence of psychotic experiences and other mental health problems. Whether the results generalise beyond a student population requires testing. The treatment of disrupted sleep might require a higher priority in mental health provision. FUNDING: Wellcome Trust.

  • Oxford Subarachnoid Haemorrhage Research Group

    6 June 2017


    Our group aims to achieve a better understanding of what happens in the brains of patients who have just had a subarachnoid haemorrhage, which is a type of stroke.

  • Experimental and Clinical Sleep Medicine

    22 February 2018

    Professor Colin Espie is the Director, and Dr. Simon Kyle the Deputy Director, of the Experimental and Clinical Sleep Medicine group with the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, University of Oxford. We conduct human experimental and clinical studies on sleep and disorders of sleep with the aim of understanding their pathophysiology and in the mechanisms of action of treatments. Our research is supported by numerous national and international funders, including the Wellcome Trust, NIHR, Swiss National Science Foundation, Education Endowment Fund, and the Dr. Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation, amongst others.

  • Action, Cognition & Neurotherapeutics

    10 June 2015


    We aim to understand processes of selective attention and action, learning and memory in the human brain. Through experiments in healthy volunteers and patients with brain disorders we seek to characterize how information processing networks respond (adaptively or maladaptively) when challenged by interference. Our motivation is to develop rational neurocognitive intervention strategies to help promote recovery from conditions such as depression and brain injury.

  • pain & mind

    11 August 2016


    Beliefs shape our perception of pain. Using non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging in humans, we investigate how beliefs are generated, maintained and revised in the brain and how they influence pain perception.

  • Diagnostic and Advisory Service for Neuromyelitis Optica

    15 January 2013


    Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is a rare disease causing inflammation in the spinal cord and optic nerves. The NMO service brings together expertise in diagnostics and clinical management to improve outcomes for this often isolated group of patients.

  • Autoimmune Neurology Group

    18 June 2014


    Research, diagnostic and testing service of autoantibodies associated with neurological diseases.

  • Oxford Centre for Neuroinflammation

    22 February 2018


    We bring together biomedical, analytical and clinical expertise to shed new light on the causes that underpin neurodegenerative diseases.

  • WIN Neuroplastics network

    15 January 2013


    Neuroplastics is a collaborative network of three research groups at WIN with a shared interest in brain plasticity. We study how the brain changes when we learn, as we get older, or when we recover from damage such as stroke. We use brain imaging to monitor brain change and we aim to develop new approaches to facilitate learning, recovery and healthy ageing.

  • Courses

    19 October 2012

  • Anaesthesia in Developing Countries

    4 March 2013

    Five day International Course, Uganda. The 2018 course will be held in Mbale, Uganda from the 12 to 16 November and is now fully booked.

  • Global Surgery

    27 March 2018

    This five-day course looks at the provision of surgical services at a global level, encompassing all related specialties including obstetrics, gynaecology and anaesthesia/critical care.

  • Neuropathology

    15 January 2013


    Neuropathology is at the interface of clinical and basic neurosciences.