200 research outputs found

    Gravitational cues modulate the shape of defensive peripersonal space

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    The potential damage caused by an environmental threat increases with proximity to the body, so animals perform more effective and stronger defensive responses when threatening stimuli occur nearby the body, in a region termed the defensive peripersonal space (DPPS). We recently characterized the fine-grained geometry of the face's DPPS by recording the enhancement of the blink reflex elicited by electrical stimulation of the median nerve (hand-blink reflex, HBR), when the hand is closer to the face. The resulting DPPS has the shape of a bubble, elongated asymmetrically along the rostro-caudal axis, extending further above eye-level. We hypothesized that this vertical asymmetry is determined by gravitational cues: the probability that a threat will hit the body is higher when it comes from above. By systematically altering body posture, we show that the extent of DPPS asymmetry is defined in an earth-centred coordinate frame. This observation suggests the brain takes gravitational cues to automatically update threat value in an adaptive mechanism that accounts for the simple fact that objects fall down

    Hyperscanning Alone Cannot Prove Causality. Multibrain Stimulation Can

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    Towards a unified neural mechanism for reactive adaptive behaviour

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    Surviving in natural environments requires animals to sense sudden events and swiftly adapt behaviour accordingly. The study of such Reactive Adaptive Behaviour (RAB) has been central to a number of research streams, all orbiting around movement science but progressing in parallel, with little cross-field fertilization. We first provide a concise review of these research streams, independently describing four types of RAB: (1) cortico-muscular resonance, (2) stimulus locked response, (3) online motor correction and (4) action stopping. We then highlight remarkable similarities across these four RABs, suggesting that they might be subserved by the same neural mechanism, and propose directions for future research on this topic

    Better safe than sorry? The safety margin surrounding the body is increased by anxiety

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    The defensive peripersonal space represents a "safety margin" advantageous for survival. Its spatial extension and the possible relationship with personality traits have never been investigated. Here, in a population of 15 healthy human participants, we show that the defensive peripersonal space has a sharp boundary, located between 20 and 40 cm from the face, and that within such space there is a thin, "highest-risk area" closest to the face (i.e., an "ultra-near" defensive space). Single-subject analysis revealed clear interindividual differences in the extension of such peripersonal space. These differences are positively related to individual variability in trait anxiety. These findings point to the potential for measuring a range of defensive behaviors in relation to individual levels of anxiety. Such measures will allow developing procedures to test risk assessment abilities, particularly in professions that require reacting quickly to aversive stimuli near the body, such as firemen, policemen, and military officers. This may also lead to possible interventions to improve their performance under pressure

    Fine-grained nociceptive maps in primary somatosensory cortex

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    Topographic maps of the receptive surface are a fundamental feature of neural organization in many sensory systems. While touch is finely mapped in the cerebral cortex, it remains controversial how precise any cortical nociceptive map may be. Given that nociceptive innervation density is relatively low on distal skin regions such as the digits, one might conclude that the nociceptive system lacks fine representation of these regions. Indeed, only gross spatial organization of nociceptive maps has been reported so far. However, here we reveal the existence of fine-grained somatotopy for nociceptive inputs to the digits in human primary somatosensory cortex (SI). Using painful nociceptive-selective laser stimuli to the hand, and phase-encoded fMRI analysis methods, we observed somatotopic maps of the digits in contralateral SI. These nociceptive maps were highly aligned with maps of non-painful tactile stimuli, suggesting comparable cortical representations for, and possible interactions between, mechanoreceptive and nociceptive signals. Our findings may also be valuable for future studies tracking the timecourse and the spatial pattern of plastic changes in cortical organization involved in chronic pain

    Linking pain and the body: neural correlates of visually induced analgesia

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    The visual context of seeing the body can reduce the experience of acute pain, producing a multisensory analgesia. Here we investigated the neural correlates of this “visually induced analgesia” using fMRI. We induced acute pain with an infrared laser while human participants looked either at their stimulated right hand or at another object. Behavioral results confirmed the expected analgesic effect of seeing the body, while fMRI results revealed an associated reduction of laser-induced activity in ipsilateral primary somatosensory cortex (SI) and contralateral operculoinsular cortex during the visual context of seeing the body. We further identified two known cortical networks activated by sensory stimulation: (1) a set of brain areas consistently activated by painful stimuli (the so-called “pain matrix”), and (2) an extensive set of posterior brain areas activated by the visual perception of the body (“visual body network”). Connectivity analyses via psychophysiological interactions revealed that the visual context of seeing the body increased effective connectivity (i.e., functional coupling) between posterior parietal nodes of the visual body network and the purported pain matrix. Increased connectivity with these posterior parietal nodes was seen for several pain-related regions, including somatosensory area SII, anterior and posterior insula, and anterior cingulate cortex. These findings suggest that visually induced analgesia does not involve an overall reduction of the cortical response elicited by laser stimulation, but is consequent to the interplay between the brain's pain network and a posterior network for body perception, resulting in modulation of the experience of pain

    Transcranial magnetic stimulation over human secondary somatosensory cortex disrupts perception of pain intensity.

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    Pain is a complex sensory experience resulting from the activity of a network of brain regions. However, the functional contribution of individual regions in this network remains poorly understood. We delivered single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to the contralateral primary somatosensory cortex (S1), secondary somatosensory cortex (S2) and vertex (control site) 120 msec after selective stimulation of nociceptive afferents using neodymium:yttrium-aluminium-perovskite (Nd:YAP) laser pulses causing painful sensations. Participants were required to judge either the intensity (medium/high) or the spatial location (proximal/distal) of the stimulus in a two-alternative forced choice paradigm. When TMS pulses were delivered over S2, participants' ability to judge pain intensity was disrupted, as compared to S1 and vertex (control) stimulation. Signal-detection analysis demonstrated a loss of sensitivity to stimulation intensity, rather than a shift in perceived pain level or response bias. We did not find any effect of TMS on the ability to localise nociceptive stimuli on the skin. The novel finding that TMS over S2 can disrupt perception of pain intensity suggests a causal role for S2 in encoding of pain intensity

    Nociceptive-Evoked Potentials Are Sensitive to Behaviorally Relevant Stimulus Displacements in Egocentric Coordinates.

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    Feature selection has been extensively studied in the context of goal-directed behavior, where it is heavily driven by top-down factors. A more primitive version of this function is the detection of bottom-up changes in stimulus features in the environment. Indeed, the nervous system is tuned to detect fast-rising, intense stimuli that are likely to reflect threats, such as nociceptive somatosensory stimuli. These stimuli elicit large brain potentials maximal at the scalp vertex. When elicited by nociceptive laser stimuli, these responses are labeled laser-evoked potentials (LEPs). Although it has been shown that changes in stimulus modality and increases in stimulus intensity evoke large LEPs, it has yet to be determined whether stimulus displacements affect the amplitude of the main LEP waves (N1, N2, and P2). Here, in three experiments, we identified a set of rules that the human nervous system obeys to identify changes in the spatial location of a nociceptive stimulus. We showed that the N2 wave is sensitive to: (1) large displacements between consecutive stimuli in egocentric, but not somatotopic coordinates; and (2) displacements that entail a behaviorally relevant change in the stimulus location. These findings indicate that nociceptive-evoked vertex potentials are sensitive to behaviorally relevant changes in the location of a nociceptive stimulus with respect to the body, and that the hand is a particularly behaviorally important site

    Interpersonal interactions and empathy modulate perception of threat and defensive responses

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    The defensive peripersonal space (DPPS) is a vital "safety margin" surrounding the body. When a threatening stimulus is delivered inside the DPPS, subcortical defensive responses like the hand-blink reflex (HBR) are adjusted depending on the perceived threat content. In three experiments, we explored whether and how defensive responses are affected by the interpersonal interaction within the DPPS of the face. In Experiment 1, we found that the HBR is enhanced when the threat is brought close to the face not only by one's own stimulated hand, but also by another person's hand, although to a significantly lesser extent. In Experiments 2 and 3, we found that the HBR is also enhanced when the hand of the participant enters the DPPS of another individual, either in egocentric or in allocentric perspective. This enhancement is larger in participants with strong empathic tendency when the other individual is in a third person perspective. These results indicate that interpersonal interactions shape perception of threat and defensive responses. These effects are particularly evident in individuals with greater tendency to having empathic concern to other people
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