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Journal: Neuropsychologia


Recollection of previously experienced events is a key element of human memory that entails recovery of spatial, perceptual, and mental state details. While deficits in this capacity in association with brain disease have serious functional consequences, little is known about individual differences in autobiographical memory in healthy individuals. Recently, healthy adults with highly superior autobiographical capacities have been identified (e.g., LePort et al., 2012). Here we report data from three healthy, high functioning adults with the reverse pattern: lifelong severely deficient autobiographical memory (SDAM) with otherwise preserved cognitive function. Their self-reported selective inability to vividly recollect personally experienced events from a first-person perspective was corroborated by absence of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and event-related potential (ERP) biomarkers associated with naturalistic and laboratory episodic recollection, as well as by behavioural evidence of impaired episodic retrieval, particularly for visual information. Yet learning and memory was otherwise intact, as long as these tasks could be accomplished by non-episodic processes. Thus these individuals function normally in day-to-day life, even though their past is experienced in the absence of recollection.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Cognitive psychology, Magnetic resonance imaging, Cognition, Memory, Hippocampus, Knowledge


Beliefs profoundly affect people’s lives, but their cognitive and neural pathways are poorly understood. Although previous research has identified the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) as critical to representing religious beliefs, the means by which vmPFC enables religious belief is uncertain. We hypothesized that the vmPFC represents diverse religious beliefs and that a vmPFC lesion would be associated with religious fundamentalism, or the narrowing of religious beliefs. To test this prediction, we assessed religious adherence with a widely-used religious fundamentalism scale in a large sample of 119 patients with penetrating traumatic brain injury (pTBI). If the vmPFC is crucial to modulating diverse personal religious beliefs, we predicted that pTBI patients with lesions to the vmPFC would exhibit greater fundamentalism, and that this would be modulated by cognitive flexibility and trait openness. Instead, we found that participants with dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) lesions have fundamentalist beliefs similar to patients with vmPFC lesions and that the effect of a dlPFC lesion on fundamentalism was significantly mediated by decreased cognitive flexibility and openness. These findings indicate that cognitive flexibility and openness are necessary for flexible and adaptive religious commitment, and that such diversity of religious thought is dependent on dlPFC functionality.

Concepts: Brain, Faith, Cerebrum, Attention versus memory in prefrontal cortex, Religion, Prefrontal cortex, Ventromedial prefrontal cortex, Fundamentalism


Dissociative experiences, involving altered states of consciousness, have long been understood as a consequence or response to traumatic experiences, where a reduced level of consciousness may aid in survival during and after a traumatic event. Indeed, the dissociative subtype of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD-DS) was added recently to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5(th) edition (DSM-5). Dissociative symptoms are present across a host of neuropsychiatric conditions, including PTSD, psychotic spectrum illnesses, anxiety and mood disorders. Transdiagnostically, the presence of dissociative symptoms is associated with a greater illness burden and reduced treatment outcomes. Critically, dissociative symptoms are related to impaired performance on measures of attention, executive functioning, memory, and social cognition and may contribute to the widespread cognitive dysfunction observed across psychiatric illnesses. Despite this knowledge, the relation between dissociative symptoms and reduced cognitive function remains poorly understood. Here, we review the evidence linking dissociative symptoms to cognitive dysfunction across neuropsychiatric disorders. In addition, we explore two potential neurobiological mechanisms that may underlie the relation between dissociative symptoms and cognitive dysfunction in trauma-related neuropsychiatric conditions. Specifically, we hypothesize that: 1) functional sensory deafferentation at the level of the thalamus as observed in the defense cascade model of dissociation may underlie reduced attention and arousal leading to progressive cognitive dysfunction and; 2) altered functional connectivity between key brain networks implicated in cognitive functioning among may represent a critical neurobiological mechanism linking dissociative symptoms and cognitive dysfunction in patients with PTSD-DS and transdiagnostically.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognition, Psychological trauma, Mind, Cognitive neuroscience, Knowledge, Posttraumatic stress disorder, Psychiatry


There is strong incentive to improve our cognitive abilities, and brain training has emerged as a promising approach for achieving this goal. While the idea that extensive ‘training’ on computerized tasks will improve general cognitive functioning is appealing, the evidence to support this remains contentious. This is, in part, because of poor criteria for selecting training tasks and outcome measures resulting in inconsistent definitions of what constitutes transferable improvement to cognition. The current study used a targeted training approach to investigate whether training on two different, but related, working memory tasks (across two experiments, with 72 participants) produced transferable benefits to similar (quantified based on cognitive and neural profiles) untrained test tasks. Despite significant improvement on both training tasks, participants did not improve on either test task. In fact, performance on the test tasks after training were nearly identical to a passive control group. These results indicate that, despite maximizing the likelihood of producing transferable benefits, brain training does not generalize, even to very similar tasks. Our study calls into question the benefit of cognitive training beyond practice effects, and provides a new framework for future investigations into the efficacy of brain training.


Patients with injury to early visual cortex or its inputs can display the Riddoch phenomenon: preserved awareness for moving but not stationary stimuli. We provide a detailed case report of a patient with the Riddoch phenomenon, MC. MC has extensive bilateral lesions to occipitotemporal cortex that include most early visual cortex and complete blindness in visual field perimetry testing with static targets. Nevertheless, she shows a remarkably robust preserved ability to perceive motion, enabling her to navigate through cluttered environments and perform actions like catching moving balls. Comparisons of MC’s structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data to a probabilistic atlas based on controls reveals that MC’s lesions encompass the posterior, lateral, and ventral early visual cortex bilaterally (V1, V2, V3A/B, LO1/2, TO1/2, hV4 and VO1 in both hemispheres) as well as more extensive damage to right parietal (inferior parietal lobule) and left ventral occipitotemporal cortex (VO1, PHC1/2). She shows some sparing of anterior occipital cortex, which may account for her ability to see moving targets beyond ~15 degrees eccentricity during perimetry. Most strikingly, functional and structural MRI revealed robust and reliable spared functionality of the middle temporal motion complex (MT+) bilaterally. Moreover, consistent with her preserved ability to discriminate motion direction in psychophysical testing, MC also shows direction-selective adaptation in MT+. A variety of tests did not enable us to discern whether input to MT+ was driven by her spared anterior occipital cortex or subcortical inputs. Nevertheless, MC shows rich motion perception despite profoundly impaired static and form vision, combined with clear preservation of activation in MT+, thus supporting the role of MT+ in the Riddoch phenomenon.


Sentence comprehension requires processing of argument structure information associated with verbs, i.e. the number and type of arguments that they select. Many individuals with agrammatic aphasia show impaired production of verbs with greater argument structure density. The extent to which these participants also show argument structure deficits during comprehension, however, is unclear. Some studies find normal access to verb arguments, whereas others report impaired ability. The present study investigated verb argument structure processing in agrammatic aphasia by examining event-related potentials associated with argument structure violations in healthy young and older adults as well as aphasic individuals. A semantic violation condition was included to investigate possible differences in sensitivity to semantic and argument structure information during sentence processing. Results for the healthy control participants showed a negativity followed by a positive shift (N400-P600) in the argument structure violation condition, as found in previous ERP studies (Friederici & Frisch, 2000; Frisch, Hahne, & Friederici, 2004). In contrast, individuals with agrammatic aphasia showed a P600, but no N400, response to argument structure mismatches. Additionally, compared to the control groups, the agrammatic participants showed an attenuated, but relatively preserved, N400 response to semantic violations. These data show that agrammatic individuals do not demonstrate normal real-time sensitivity to verb argument structure requirements during sentence processing.

Concepts: Subject, Verb, Verb argument, Expressive aphasia


Empathy is the lens through which we view others' emotion expressions, and respond to them. In this study, empathy and facial emotion recognition were investigated in adults with autism spectrum conditions (ASC; N=314), parents of a child with ASC (N=297) and IQ-matched controls (N=184). Participants completed a self-report measure of empathy (the Empathy Quotient [EQ]) and a modified version of the Karolinska Directed Emotional Faces Task (KDEF) using an online test interface. Results showed that mean scores on the EQ were significantly lower in fathers (p<0.05) but not mothers (p>0.05) of children with ASC compared to controls, whilst both males and females with ASC obtained significantly lower EQ scores (p<0.001) than controls. On the KDEF, statistical analyses revealed poorer overall performance by adults with ASC (p<0.001) compared to the control group. When the 6 distinct basic emotions were analysed separately, the ASC group showed impaired performance across five out of six expressions (happy, sad, angry, afraid and disgusted). Parents of a child with ASC were not significantly worse than controls at recognising any of the basic emotions, after controlling for age and non-verbal IQ (all p>0.05). Finally, results indicated significant differences between males and females with ASC for emotion recognition performance (p<0.05) but not for self-reported empathy (p>0.05). These findings suggest that self-reported empathy deficits in fathers of autistic probands are part of the ‘broader autism phenotype’. This study also reports new findings of sex differences amongst people with ASC in emotion recognition, as well as replicating previous work demonstrating empathy difficulties in adults with ASC. The use of empathy measures as quantitative endophenotypes for ASC is discussed.

Concepts: Psychology, Sex, Autism, Asperger syndrome, Autism spectrum, Empathy, Emotion, Paul Ekman


Why do individuals fail to exercise regularly despite knowledge of the risks associated with physical inactivity? Automatic processes regulating exercise behaviors may partly explain this paradox. Yet, these processes have only been investigated with behavioral outcomes (i.e., based on reaction times). Here, using electroencephalography, we investigated the cortical activity underlying automatic approach and avoidance tendencies toward stimuli depicting physical activity and sedentary behaviors in 29 young adults who were physically active (n=14) or physically inactive but with the intention of becoming physically active (n=15). Behavioral results showed faster reactions when approaching physical activity compared to sedentary behaviors and when avoiding sedentary behaviors compared to physical activity. These faster reactions were more pronounced in physically active individuals and were associated with changes during sensory integration (earlier onset latency and larger positive deflection of the stimulus-locked lateralized readiness potentials) but not during motor preparation (no effect on the response-locked lateralized readiness potentials). Faster reactions when avoiding sedentary behaviors compared to physical activity were also associated with higher conflict monitoring (larger early and late N1 event-related potentials) and higher inhibition (larger N2 event-related potentials), irrespective of the usual level of physical activity. These results suggest that additional cortical resources were required to counteract an attraction to sedentary behaviors. Data and Materials []. Preprint [].


Individual differences across a variety of cognitive processes are functionally associated with individual differences in intrinsic networks such as the default mode network (DMN). Furthermore, the extent to which these networks correlate or anticorrelate has been associated with performance in a variety of circumstances. Despite the established role of the DMN in mind wandering processes, little research has investigated how large-scale brain networks at rest relate to mind wandering tendencies outside the laboratory. Here we examine the extent to which the DMN, along with the dorsal attention network (DAN) and frontoparietal control network (FPCN) correlate with the tendency to mind wander in daily life. Participants completed the Mind Wandering Questionnaire and a 5-minute resting state fMRI scan. In addition, participants completed measures of executive function, fluid intelligence, and creativity. We observed significant positive correlations between trait mind wandering and 1) increased DMN connectivity at rest and 2) increased connectivity between the DMN and FPCN at rest. Lastly, we found significant positive correlations between trait mind wandering and fluid intelligence (Ravens) and creativity (Remote Associates Task). We interpret these findings within the context of current theories of mind wandering and executive function and discuss the possibility that certain instances of mind wandering may not be inherently harmful. Due to the controversial nature of global signal regression (GSReg) in functional connectivity analyses, we performed our analyses with and without GSReg and contrast the results from each set of analyses.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Attention, Cognition, Cognitive science, Perception, Mind, Thought


Neglect patients show contralesional deficits in egocentric and object-centred visuospatial tasks. The extent to which these different phenomena are modulated by sensory stimulation remains to be clarified. Subliminal galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS) induces imperceptible, polarity-specific changes in the cortical vestibular systems without the unpleasant side effects (nystagmus, vertigo) induced by caloric vestibular stimulation. While previous studies showed vestibular stimulation effects on egocentric spatial neglect phenomena, such effects were rarely demonstrated in object-centred neglect. Here, we applied bipolar subsensory GVS over the mastoids (mean intensity: 0.7mA) to investigate its influence on egocentric (digit cancellation, text copying), object-centred (copy of symmetrical figures), or both (line bisection) components of visual neglect in 24 patients with unilateral right hemisphere stroke. Patients were assigned to two patient groups (impaired vs. normal in the respective task) on the basis of cut-off scores derived from the literature or from normal controls. Both groups performed all tasks under three experimental conditions carried out on three separate days: (a) sham/baseline GVS where no electric current was applied, (b) left cathodal/right anodal (CL/AR) GVS and © left anodal/right cathodal (AL/CR) GVS, for a period of 20min per session. CL/AR GVS significantly improved line bisection and text copying whereas AL/CR GVS significantly ameliorated figure copying and digit cancellation. These GVS effects were selectively observed in the impaired- but not in the unimpaired patient group. In conclusion, subliminal GVS modulates ego- and object-centred components of visual neglect rapidly. Implications for neurorehabilitation are discussed.

Concepts: Patient, Vestibular system, Sensory system, Task, Induced demand, Hemispatial neglect, Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation