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Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Transcranial magnetic stimulation

233

Humans form beliefs asymmetrically; we tend to discount bad news but embrace good news. This reduced impact of unfavorable information on belief updating may have important societal implications, including the generation of financial market bubbles, ill preparedness in the face of natural disasters, and overly aggressive medical decisions. Here, we selectively improved people’s tendency to incorporate bad news into their beliefs by disrupting the function of the left (but not right) inferior frontal gyrus using transcranial magnetic stimulation, thereby eliminating the engrained “good news/bad news effect.” Our results provide an instance of how selective disruption of regional human brain function paradoxically enhances the ability to incorporate unfavorable information into beliefs of vulnerability.

Concepts: Neuroanatomy, Brain, Natural selection, Human brain, Frontal lobe, Transcranial magnetic stimulation, Religion, Inferior frontal gyrus

225

We present, to our knowledge, the first demonstration that a non-invasive brain-to-brain interface (BBI) can be used to allow one human to guess what is on the mind of another human through an interactive question-and-answering paradigm similar to the “20 Questions” game. As in previous non-invasive BBI studies in humans, our interface uses electroencephalography (EEG) to detect specific patterns of brain activity from one participant (the “respondent”), and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to deliver functionally-relevant information to the brain of a second participant (the “inquirer”). Our results extend previous BBI research by (1) using stimulation of the visual cortex to convey visual stimuli that are privately experienced and consciously perceived by the inquirer; (2) exploiting real-time rather than off-line communication of information from one brain to another; and (3) employing an interactive task, in which the inquirer and respondent must exchange information bi-directionally to collaboratively solve the task. The results demonstrate that using the BBI, ten participants (five inquirer-respondent pairs) can successfully identify a “mystery item” using a true/false question-answering protocol similar to the “20 Questions” game, with high levels of accuracy that are significantly greater than a control condition in which participants were connected through a sham BBI.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Electroencephalography, Visual perception, Mind, Transcranial magnetic stimulation, Problem solving, Neurotechnology

178

The field of non-pharmacological therapies for treatment resistant depression (TRD) is rapidly evolving and new somatic therapies are valuable options for patients who have failed numerous other treatments. A major challenge for clinicians (and patients alike) is how to integrate the results from published clinical trials in the clinical decision-making process.We reviewed the literature for articles reporting results for clinical trials in particular efficacy data, contraindications and side effects of somatic therapies including electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) and deep brain stimulation (DBS). Each of these devices has an indication for patients with different level of treatment resistance, based on acuteness of illness, likelihood of response, costs and associated risks. ECT is widely available and its effects are relatively rapid in severe TRD, but its cognitive adverse effects may be cumbersome. TMS is safe and well tolerated, and it has been approved by FDA for adults who have failed to respond to one antidepressant, but its use in TRD is still controversial as it is not supported by rigorous double-blind randomized clinical trials. The options requiring surgical approach are VNS and DBS. VNS has been FDA-approved for TRD, however it is not indicated for management of acute illness. DBS for TRD is still an experimental area of investigation and double-blind clinical trials are underway.

Concepts: Clinical trial, Medical terms, Deep brain stimulation, Vagus nerve stimulation, Transcranial magnetic stimulation, Neurotechnology, Electroconvulsive therapy, Treatment-resistant depression

175

Electrical stimulation is currently used to treat a wide range of cardiovascular, sensory and neurological diseases. Despite its success, there are significant limitations to its application, including incompatibility with magnetic resonance imaging, limited control of electric fields and decreased performance associated with tissue inflammation. Magnetic stimulation overcomes these limitations but existing devices (that is, transcranial magnetic stimulation) are large, reducing their translation to chronic applications. In addition, existing devices are not effective for deeper, sub-cortical targets. Here we demonstrate that sub-millimeter coils can activate neuronal tissue. Interestingly, the results of both modelling and physiological experiments suggest that different spatial orientations of the coils relative to the neuronal tissue can be used to generate specific neural responses. These results raise the possibility that micro-magnetic stimulation coils, small enough to be implanted within the brain parenchyma, may prove to be an effective alternative to existing stimulation devices.

Concepts: Neuron, Brain, Magnetic field, Brain tumor, Human brain, Magnetic resonance imaging, Neurology, Transcranial magnetic stimulation

169

Contagious yawning, in which yawning is triggered involuntarily when we observe another person yawn, is a common form of echophenomena-the automatic imitation of another’s words (echolalia) or actions (echopraxia) [1]. The neural basis for echophenomena is unknown; however, it has been proposed that it is linked to disinhibition of the human mirror-neuron system [1-4] and hyper-excitability of cortical motor areas [1]. We investigated the neural basis for contagious yawning using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Thirty-six adults viewed video clips that showed another individual yawning and, in separate blocks, were instructed to either resist yawning or allow themselves to yawn. Participants were videoed throughout and their yawns or stifled yawns were counted. We used TMS to quantify motor cortical excitability and physiological inhibition for each participant, and these measures were then used to predict the propensity for contagious yawning across participants. We demonstrate that instructions to resist yawning increase the urge to yawn and alter how yawns are expressed (i.e., full versus stifled yawns) but do not alter the individual propensity for contagious yawning. By contrast, TMS measures of cortical excitability and physiological inhibition were significant predictors of contagious yawning and accounted for approximately 50% of the variability in contagious yawning. These data demonstrate that individual variability in the propensity for contagious yawning is determined by cortical excitability and physiological inhibition in the primary motor cortex.

Concepts: Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Transcranial magnetic stimulation, Motor cortex, Primary motor cortex, Stretching, Yawn

169

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) allows for non-invasive interference with ongoing neural processing. Applied in a chronometric design over early visual cortex (EVC), TMS has proved valuable in indicating at which particular time point EVC must remain unperturbed for (conscious) vision to be established. In the current study, we set out to examine the effect of EVC TMS across a broad range of time points, both before (pre-stimulus) and after (post-stimulus) the onset of symbolic visual stimuli. Behavioral priming studies have shown that the behavioral impact of a visual stimulus can be independent from its conscious perception, suggesting two independent neural signatures. To assess whether TMS-induced suppression of visual awareness can be dissociated from behavioral priming in the temporal domain, we thus implemented three different measures of visual processing, namely performance on a standard visual discrimination task, a subjective rating of stimulus visibility, and a visual priming task. To control for non-neural TMS effects, we performed electrooculographical recordings, placebo TMS (sham), and control site TMS (vertex). Our results suggest that, when considering the appropriate control data, the temporal pattern of EVC TMS disruption on visual discrimination, subjective awareness and behavioral priming are not dissociable. Instead, TMS to EVC disrupts visual perception holistically, both when applied before and after the onset of a visual stimulus. The current findings are discussed in light of their implications on models of visual awareness and (subliminal) priming.

Concepts: Brain, Visual perception, Visual system, Perception, Consciousness, Transcranial magnetic stimulation, Amblyopia, Lateral geniculate nucleus

168

Peripheral electrical stimulation (PES) is a common clinical technique known to induce changes in corticomotor excitability; PES applied to induce a tetanic motor contraction increases, and PES at sub-motor threshold (sensory) intensities decreases, corticomotor excitability. Understanding of the mechanisms underlying these opposite changes in corticomotor excitability remains elusive. Modulation of primary sensory cortex (S1) excitability could underlie altered corticomotor excitability with PES. Here we examined whether changes in primary sensory (S1) and motor (M1) cortex excitability follow the same time-course when PES is applied using identical stimulus parameters. Corticomotor excitability was measured using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and sensory cortex excitability using somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) before and after 30 min of PES to right abductor pollicis brevis (APB). Two PES paradigms were tested in separate sessions; PES sufficient to induce a tetanic motor contraction (30-50 Hz; strong motor intensity) and PES at sub motor-threshold intensity (100 Hz). PES applied to induce strong activation of APB increased the size of the N(20)-P(25) component, thought to reflect sensory processing at cortical level, and increased corticomotor excitability. PES at sensory intensity decreased the size of the P25-N33 component and reduced corticomotor excitability. A positive correlation was observed between the changes in amplitude of the cortical SEP components and corticomotor excitability following sensory and motor PES. Sensory PES also increased the sub-cortical P(14)-N(20) SEP component. These findings provide evidence that PES results in co-modulation of S1 and M1 excitability, possibly due to cortico-cortical projections between S1 and M1. This mechanism may underpin changes in corticomotor excitability in response to afferent input generated by PES.

Concepts: Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Somatosensory system, Evoked potential, Transcranial magnetic stimulation, Adductor pollicis muscle

167

The idea of motor resonance was born at the time that it was demonstrated that cortical and spinal pathways of the motor system are specifically activated during both action-observation and execution. What is not known is if the human action observation-execution matching system simulates actions through motor representations specifically attuned to the laterality of the observed effectors (i.e., effector-dependent representations) or through abstract motor representations unconnected to the observed effector (i.e., effector-independent representations). To answer that question we need to know how the information necessary for motor resonance is represented or integrated within the representation of an effector. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)-induced motor evoked potentials (MEPs) were thus recorded from the dominant and non-dominant hands of left- and right-handed participants while they observed a left- or a right-handed model grasping an object. The anatomical correspondence between the effector being observed and the observer’s effector classically reported in the literature was confirmed by the MEP response in the dominant hand of participants observing models with their same hand preference. This effect was found in both left- as well as in right-handers. When a broader spectrum of options, such as actions performed by a model with a different hand preference, was instead considered, that correspondence disappeared. Motor resonance was noted in the observer’s dominant effector regardless of the laterality of the hand being observed. This would indicate that there is a more sophisticated mechanism which works to convert someone else’s pattern of movement into the observer’s optimal motor commands and that effector-independent representations specifically modulate motor resonance.

Concepts: Left-handedness, Evoked potential, Transcranial magnetic stimulation, Handedness, Right-handedness, Laterality

164

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a promising tool for cognitive enhancement and neurorehabilitation in clinical disorders in both cognitive and clinical domains (e.g., chronic pain, tinnitus). Here we suggest the potential role of tDCS in modulating cortical excitation/inhibition (E/I) balance and thereby inducing improvements. We suggest that part of the mechanism of action of tDCS can be explained by non-invasive modulations of the E/I balance.

Concepts: Electricity, Electrochemistry, Pain, Direct current, Alternating current, Transcranial magnetic stimulation, Chronic pain, Transcranial direct current stimulation

163

Human sensory and motor systems provide the natural means for the exchange of information between individuals, and, hence, the basis for human civilization. The recent development of brain-computer interfaces (BCI) has provided an important element for the creation of brain-to-brain communication systems, and precise brain stimulation techniques are now available for the realization of non-invasive computer-brain interfaces (CBI). These technologies, BCI and CBI, can be combined to realize the vision of non-invasive, computer-mediated brain-to-brain (B2B) communication between subjects (hyperinteraction). Here we demonstrate the conscious transmission of information between human brains through the intact scalp and without intervention of motor or peripheral sensory systems. Pseudo-random binary streams encoding words were transmitted between the minds of emitter and receiver subjects separated by great distances, representing the realization of the first human brain-to-brain interface. In a series of experiments, we established internet-mediated B2B communication by combining a BCI based on voluntary motor imagery-controlled electroencephalographic (EEG) changes with a CBI inducing the conscious perception of phosphenes (light flashes) through neuronavigated, robotized transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), with special care taken to block sensory (tactile, visual or auditory) cues. Our results provide a critical proof-of-principle demonstration for the development of conscious B2B communication technologies. More fully developed, related implementations will open new research venues in cognitive, social and clinical neuroscience and the scientific study of consciousness. We envision that hyperinteraction technologies will eventually have a profound impact on the social structure of our civilization and raise important ethical issues.

Concepts: Brain, Science, Perception, Sensory system, Sense, Mind, Cognitive neuroscience, Transcranial magnetic stimulation