Year of publication
- Meditation increases the depth of information processing (2012)
- During meditation, practitioners are required to center their attention on a specific object for extended periods of time. When their thoughts get diverted, they learn to quickly disengage from the distracter. We hypothesized that learning to respond to the dual demand of engaging attention on specific objects and disengaging quickly from distracters enhances the efficiency by which meditation practitioners can allocate attention. We tested this hypothesis in a global-to-local task while measuring electroencephalographic activity from a group of eight highly trained Buddhist monks and nuns and a group of eight age and education matched controls with no previous meditation experience. Specifically, we investigated the effect of attentional training on the global precedence effect, i.e., faster detection of targets on a global than on a local level. We expected to find a reduced global precedence effect in meditation practitioners but not in controls, reflecting that meditators can more quickly disengage their attention from the dominant global level. Analysis of reaction times confirmed this prediction. To investigate the underlying changes in brain activity and their time course, we analyzed event-related potentials. Meditators showed an enhanced ability to select the respective target level, as reflected by enhanced processing of target level information. In contrast with control group, which showed a local target selection effect only in the P1 and a global target selection effect in the P3 component, meditators showed effects of local information processing in the P1, N2, and P3 and of global processing for the N1, N2, and P3. Thus, meditators seem to display enhanced depth of processing. In addition, meditation altered the uptake of information such that meditators selected target level information earlier in the processing sequence than controls. In a longitudinal experiment, we could replicate the behavioral effects, suggesting that meditation modulates attention already after a 4-day meditation retreat. Together, these results suggest that practicing meditation enhances the speed with which attention can be allocated and relocated, thus increasing the depth of information processing and reducing response latency.
- Auditory motion capturing ambiguous visual motion (2012)
- In this study, it is demonstrated that moving sounds have an effect on the direction in which one sees visual stimuli move. During the main experiment sounds were presented consecutively at four speaker locations inducing left or rightward auditory apparent motion. On the path of auditory apparent motion, visual apparent motion stimuli were presented with a high degree of directional ambiguity. The main outcome of this experiment is that our participants perceived visual apparent motion stimuli that were ambiguous (equally likely to be perceived as moving left or rightward) more often as moving in the same direction than in the opposite direction of auditory apparent motion. During the control experiment we replicated this finding and found no effect of sound motion direction on eye movements. This indicates that auditory motion can capture our visual motion percept when visual motion direction is insufficiently determinate without affecting eye movements.
- Context Matters: The Illusive Simplicity of Macaque V1 Receptive Fields (2012)
- Even in V1, where neurons have well characterized classical receptive fields (CRFs), it has been difficult to deduce which features of natural scenes stimuli they actually respond to. Forward models based upon CRF stimuli have had limited success in predicting the response of V1 neurons to natural scenes. As natural scenes exhibit complex spatial and temporal correlations, this could be due to surround effects that modulate the sensitivity of the CRF. Here, instead of attempting a forward model, we quantify the importance of the natural scenes surround for awake macaque monkeys by modeling it non-parametrically. We also quantify the influence of two forms of trial to trial variability. The first is related to the neuron’s own spike history. The second is related to ongoing mean field population activity reflected by the local field potential (LFP). We find that the surround produces strong temporal modulations in the firing rate that can be both suppressive and facilitative. Further, the LFP is found to induce a precise timing in spikes, which tend to be temporally localized on sharp LFP transients in the gamma frequency range. Using the pseudo R2 as a measure of model fit, we find that during natural scene viewing the CRF dominates, accounting for 60% of the fit, but that taken collectively the surround, spike history and LFP are almost as important, accounting for 40%. However, overall only a small proportion of V1 spiking statistics could be explained (R2~5%), even when the full stimulus, spike history and LFP were taken into account. This suggests that under natural scene conditions, the dominant influence on V1 neurons is not the stimulus, nor the mean field dynamics of the LFP, but the complex, incoherent dynamics of the network in which neurons are embedded.
- Synchronization dynamics in response to plaid stimuli in monkey V1 (2010)
- Gamma synchronization has generally been associated with grouping processes in the visual system. Here, we examine in monkey V1 whether gamma oscillations play a functional role in segmenting surfaces of plaid stimuli. Local field potentials (LFPs) and spiking activity were recorded simultaneously from multiple sites in the opercular and calcarine regions while the monkeys were presented with sequences of single and superimposed components of plaid stimuli. In accord with the previous studies, responses to the single components (gratings) exhibited strong and sustained gamma-band oscillations (30–65 Hz). The superposition of the second component, however, led to profound changes in the temporal structure of the responses, characterized by a drastic reduction of gamma oscillations in the spiking activity and systematic shifts to higher frequencies in the LFP (~10% increase). Comparisons between cerebral hemispheres and across monkeys revealed robust subject-specific spectral signatures. A possible interpretation of our results may be that single gratings induce strong cooperative interactions among populations of cells that share similar response properties, whereas plaids lead to competition. Overall, our results suggest that the functional architecture of the cortex is a major determinant of the neuronal synchronization dynamics in V1. Key words: attention , gamma , gratings , oscillation , visual cortex
- Analyzing possible pitfalls of cross-frequency analysis : poster presentation from Twentieth Annual Computational Neuroscience Meeting CNS*2011 Stockholm, Sweden, 23 - 28 July 2011 (2011)
- Poster presentation from Twentieth Annual Computational Neuroscience Meeting: CNS*2011 Stockholm, Sweden. 23-28 July 2011. One of the central questions in neuroscience is how neural activity is organized across different spatial and temporal scales. As larger populations oscillate and synchronize at lower frequencies and smaller ensembles are active at higher frequencies, a cross-frequency coupling would facilitate flexible coordination of neural activity simultaneously in time and space. Although various experiments have revealed amplitude-to-amplitude and phase-to-phase coupling, the most common and most celebrated result is that the phase of the lower frequency component modulates the amplitude of the higher frequency component. Over the recent 5 years the amount of experimental works finding such phase-amplitude coupling in LFP, ECoG, EEG and MEG has been tremendous (summarized in ). We suggest that although the mechanism of cross-frequency-coupling (CFC) is theoretically very tempting, the current analysis methods might overestimate any physiological CFC actually evident in the signals of LFP, ECoG, EEG and MEG. In particular, we point out three conceptual problems in assessing the components and their correlations of a time series. Although we focus on phase-amplitude coupling, most of our argument is relevant for any type of coupling. 1) The first conceptual problem is related to isolating physiological frequency components of the recorded signal. The key point is to notice that there are many different mathematical representations for a time series but the physical interpretation we make out of them is dependent on the choice of the components to be analyzed. In particular, when one isolates the components by Fourier-representation based filtering, it is the width of the filtering bands what defines what we consider as our components and how their power or group phase change in time. We will discuss clear cut examples where the interpretation of the existence of CFC depends on the width of the filtering process. 2) A second problem deals with the origin of spectral correlations as detected by current cross-frequency analysis. It is known that non-stationarities are associated with spectral correlations in the Fourier space. Therefore, there are two possibilities regarding the interpretation of any observed CFC. One scenario is that basic neuronal mechanisms indeed generate an interaction across different time scales (or frequencies) resulting in processes with non-stationary features. The other and problematic possibility is that unspecific non-stationarities can also be associated with spectral correlations which in turn will be detected by cross frequency measures even if physiologically there is no causal interaction between the frequencies. 3) We discuss on the role of non-linearities as generators of cross frequency interactions. As an example we performed a phase-amplitude coupling analysis of two nonlinearly related signals: atmospheric noise and the square of it (Figure 1) observing an enhancement of phase-amplitude coupling in the second signal while no pattern is observed in the first. Finally, we discuss some minimal conditions need to be tested to solve some of the ambiguities here noted. In summary, we simply want to point out that finding a significant cross frequency pattern does not always have to imply that there indeed is physiological cross frequency interaction in the brain.
- Adolescent Brain Maturation and Cortical Folding: Evidence for Reductions in Gyrification (2014)
- Evidence from anatomical and functional imaging studies have highlighted major modifications of cortical circuits during adolescence. These include reductions of gray matter (GM), increases in the myelination of cortico-cortical connections and changes in the architecture of large-scale cortical networks. It is currently unclear, however, how the ongoing developmental processes impact upon the folding of the cerebral cortex and how changes in gyrification relate to maturation of GM/WM-volume, thickness and surface area. In the current study, we acquired high-resolution (3 Tesla) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data from 79 healthy subjects (34 males and 45 females) between the ages of 12 and 23 years and performed whole brain analysis of cortical folding patterns with the gyrification index (GI). In addition to GI-values, we obtained estimates of cortical thickness, surface area, GM and white matter (WM) volume which permitted correlations with changes in gyrification. Our data show pronounced and widespread reductions in GI-values during adolescence in several cortical regions which include precentral, temporal and frontal areas. Decreases in gyrification overlap only partially with changes in the thickness, volume and surface of GM and were characterized overall by a linear developmental trajectory. Our data suggest that the observed reductions in GI-values represent an additional, important modification of the cerebral cortex during late brain maturation which may be related to cognitive development.