57 research outputs found

    Editorial: Insights into structural and functional organization of the brain: evidence from neuroimaging and non-invasive brain stimulation techniques

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    The brain is a complex and dynamic system that underlies our behavior, emotions, and cognition (1–3). To better understand the structural and functional organization of the brain, neuroimaging and brain stimulation techniques have emerged as powerful tools (Nyatega et al.) (4–9)

    Amygdala response to emotional stimuli without awareness: Facts and interpretations

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    Over the past two decades, evidence has accumulated that the human amygdala exerts some of its functions also when the observer is not aware of the content, or even presence, of the triggering emotional stimulus. Nevertheless, there is as of yet no consensus on the limits and conditions that affect the extent of amygdala\u2019s response without focused attention or awareness. Here we review past and recent studies on this subject, examining neuroimaging literature on healthy participants as well as brain damaged patients, and we comment on their strengths and limits. We propose a theoretical distinction between processes involved in attentional unawareness, wherein the stimulus is potentially accessible to enter visual awareness but fails to do so because attention is diverted, and in sensory unawareness, wherein the stimulus fails to enter awareness because its normal processing in the visual cortex is suppressed. We argue this distinction, along with data sampling amygdala responses with high temporal resolution, helps to appreciate the multiplicity of functional and anatomical mechanisms centered on the amygdala and supporting its role in non-conscious emotion processing. Separate, but interacting, networks relay visual information to the amygdala exploiting different computational properties of subcortical and cortical routes, thereby supporting amygdala functions at different stages of emotion processing. This view reconciles some apparent contradictions in the literature, as well as seemingly contrasting proposals, such as the dual stage and the dual route model. We conclude that evidence in favor of the amygdala response without awareness is solid, albeit this response originates from different functional mechanisms and is driven by more complex neural networks than commonly assumed. Acknowledging the complexity of such mechanisms can foster new insights on the varieties of amygdala functions without awareness and their impact on human behavior

    Human Amygdala in Sensory and Attentional Unawareness: Neural Pathways and Behavioural Outcomes

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    One of the neural structures more often implicated in the processing of emotional signals in the absence of visual awareness is the amygdala. In this chapter, we review current evidence from human neuroscience in healthy and brain-damaged patients on the role of amygdala during non-conscious (visual) perception of emotional stimuli. Nevertheless, there is as of yet no consensus on the limits and conditions that affect the extent of amygdala’s response without focused attention or awareness. We propose to distinguish between attentional unawareness, a condition wherein the stimulus is potentially accessible to enter visual awareness but fails to do so because attention is diverted, and sensory unawareness, in which the stimulus fails to enter awareness because its normal processing in the visual cortex is suppressed. Within this conceptual framework, some of the apparently contradictory findings seem to gain new coherence and converge on the role of the amygdala in supporting different types of non-conscious emotion processing. Amygdala responses in the absence of awareness are linked to different functional mechanisms and are driven by more complex neural networks than commonly assumed. Acknowledging this complexity can be helpful to foster new studies on amygdala functions without awareness and their impact on human behaviour

    Beyond the “Pain Matrix,” inter-run synchronization during mechanical nociceptive stimulation

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    Pain is a complex experience that is thought to emerge from the activity of multiple brain areas, some of which are inconsistently detected using traditional fMRI analysis. One hypothesis is that the traditional analysis of pain-related cerebral responses, by relying on the correlation of a predictor and the canonical hemodynamic response function (HRF)- the general linear model (GLM)- may under-detect the activity of those areas involved in stimulus processing that do not present a canonical HRF. In this study, we employed an innovative data-driven processing approach- an inter-run synchronization (IRS) analysis- that has the advantage of not establishing any pre-determined predictor definition. With this method we were able to evidence the involvement of several brain regions that are not usually found when using predictor-based analysis. These areas are synchronized during the administration of mechanical punctate stimuli and are characterized by a BOLD response different from the canonical HRF. This finding opens to new approaches in the study of pain imaging

    A deep neural network model of the primate superior colliculus for emotion recognition

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    Although sensory processing is pivotal to nearly every theory of emotion, the evaluation of the visual input as ‘emotional’ (e.g. a smile as signalling happiness) has been traditionally assumed to take place in supramodal ‘limbic’ brain regions. Accordingly, subcortical structures of ancient evolutionary origin that receive direct input from the retina, such as the superior colliculus (SC), are traditionally conceptualized as passive relay centres. However, mounting evidence suggests that the SC is endowed with the necessary infrastructure and computational capabilities for the innate recognition and initial categorization of emotionally salient features from retinal information. Here, we built a neurobiologically inspired convolutional deep neural network (DNN) model that approximates physiological, anatomical and connectional properties of the retino-collicular circuit. This enabled us to characterize and isolate the initial computations and discriminations that the DNN model of the SC can perform on facial expressions, based uniquely on the information it directly receives from the virtual retina. Trained to discriminate facial expressions of basic emotions, our model matches human error patterns and above chance, yet suboptimal, classification accuracy analogous to that reported in patients with V1 damage, who rely on retino-collicular pathways for non-conscious vision of emotional attributes. When presented with gratings of different spatial frequencies and orientations never ‘seen’ before, the SC model exhibits spontaneous tuning to low spatial frequencies and reduced orientation discrimination, as can be expected from the prevalence of the magnocellular (M) over parvocellular (P) projections. Likewise, face manipulation that biases processing towards the M or P pathway affects expression recognition in the SC model accordingly, an effect that dovetails with variations of activity in the human SC purposely measured with ultra-high field functional magnetic resonance imaging. Lastly, the DNN generates saliency maps and extracts visual features, demonstrating that certain face parts, like the mouth or the eyes, provide higher discriminative information than other parts as a function of emotional expressions like happiness and sadness. The present findings support the contention that the SC possesses the necessary infrastructure to analyse the visual features that define facial emotional stimuli also without additional processing stages in the visual cortex or in ‘limbic’ areas

    Node detection using high-dimensional fuzzy parcellation applied to the insular cortex

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    Several functional connectivity approaches require the definition of a set of regions of interest (ROIs) that act as network nodes. Different methods have been developed to define these nodes and to derive their functional and effective connections, most of which are rather complex. Here we aim to propose a relatively simple “one-step” border detection and ROI estimation procedure employing the fuzzy c-mean clustering algorithm. To test this procedure and to explore insular connectivity beyond the two/three-region model currently proposed in the literature, we parcellated the insular cortex of 20 healthy right-handed volunteers scanned in a resting state. By employing a high-dimensional functional connectivity-based clustering process, we confirmed the two patterns of connectivity previously described. This method revealed a complex pattern of functional connectivity where the two previously detected insular clusters are subdivided into several other networks, some of which are not commonly associated with the insular cortex, such as the default mode network and parts of the dorsal attentional network. Furthermore, the detection of nodes was reliable, as demonstrated by the confirmative analysis performed on a replication group of subjects
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