302 research outputs found

    About connections

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    Despite the attention attracted by "connectomics", one can lose sight of the very real questions concerning "What are connections?" In the neuroimaging community, "structural" connectivity is ground truth and underlying constraint on "functional" or "effective" connectivity. It is referenced to underlying anatomy; but, as increasingly remarked, there is a large gap between the wealth of human brain mapping and the relatively scant data on actual anatomical connectivity. Moreover, connections have typically been discussed as "pairwise", point x projecting to point y (or: to points y and z), or more recently, in graph theoretical terms, as "nodes" or regions and the interconnecting "edges". This is a convenient shorthand, but tends not to capture the richness and nuance of basic anatomical properties as identified in the classic tradition of tracer studies. The present short review accordingly revisits connectional weights, heterogeneity, reciprocity, topography, and hierarchical organization, drawing on concrete examples. The emphasis is on presynaptic long-distance connections, motivated by the intention to probe current assumptions and promote discussions about further progress and synthesis

    Zinc-positive and zinc-negative connections of the claustrum

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    Three features often mentioned as characteristic of the claustrum are its widespread connections with cortical areas, the reciprocity of these connections in general, and the origin of cortico-claustral connections from a distinctive subtype of layer 6 pyramidal cells (Sherk, 1986; Katz, 1987; Tanne-Gariepy et al., 2002; Crick and Koch, 2005; Smythies et al., 2012). Another feature, often overlooked, is that a proportion of claustral-cortical neurons use synaptic zinc and that zinc+ terminations are moderately dense in the claustrum. This article will summarize data about zinc and the claustrum and present the case that cortico-claustral neurons might also be zinc-positive (Zn+). I conclude with comments on the likely implications for claustral identity and function

    Weight Consistency Specifies Regularities of Macaque Cortical Networks

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    To what extent cortical pathways show significant weight differences and whether these differences are consistent across animals (thereby comprising robust connectivity profiles) is an important and unresolved neuroanatomical issue. Here we report a quantitative retrograde tracer analysis in the cynomolgus macaque monkey of the weight consistency of the afferents of cortical areas across brains via calculation of a weight index (fraction of labeled neurons, FLN). Injection in 8 cortical areas (3 occipital plus 5 in the other lobes) revealed a consistent pattern: small subcortical input (1.3% cumulative FLN), high local intrinsic connectivity (80% FLN), high-input form neighboring areas (15% cumulative FLN), and weak long-range corticocortical connectivity (3% cumulative FLN). Corticocortical FLN values of projections to areas V1, V2, and V4 showed heavy-tailed, lognormal distributions spanning 5 orders of magnitude that were consistent, demonstrating significant connectivity profiles. These results indicate that 1) connection weight heterogeneity plays an important role in determining cortical network specificity, 2) high investment in local projections highlights the importance of local processing, and 3) transmission of information across multiple hierarchy levels mainly involves pathways having low FLN values

    Benefits of Stimulus Congruency for Multisensory Facilitation of Visual Learning

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    Background. Studies of perceptual learning have largely focused on unisensory stimuli. However, multisensory interactions are ubiquitous in perception, even at early processing stages, and thus can potentially play a role in learning. Here, we examine the effect of auditory-visual congruency on visual learning. Methodology/Principle Findings. Subjects were trained over five days on a visual motion coherence detection task with either congruent audiovisual, or incongruent audiovisual stimuli. Comparing performance on visual-only trials, we find that training with congruent audiovisual stimuli produces significantly better learning than training with incongruent audiovisual stimuli or with only visual stimuli. Conclusions/ Significance. This advantage from stimulus congruency during training suggests that the benefits of multisensory training may result from audiovisual interactions at a perceptual rather than cognitive level

    STEM education in the twenty-first century: learning at work-an exploration of design and technology teacher perceptions and practices

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    Teachers’ knowledge of STEM education, their understanding, and pedagogical application of that knowledge is intrinsically linked to the subsequent effectiveness of STEM delivery within their own practice; where a teacher’s knowledge and understanding is deficient, the potential for pupil learning is ineffective and limited. Set within the context of secondary age phase education in England and Wales (11–16 years old), this paper explores how teachers working within the field of design and technology education acquire new knowledge in STEM; how understanding is developed and subsequently embedded within their practice to support the creation of a diverse STEM-literate society. The purpose being to determine mechanisms by which knowledge acquisition occurs, to reconnoitre potential implications for education and learning at work, including consideration of the role which new technologies play in the development of STEM knowledge within and across contributory STEM subject disciplines. Underpinned by an interpretivist ontology, work presented here builds upon the premise that design and technology is an interdisciplinary educational construct and not viewed as being of equal status to other STEM disciplines including maths and science. Drawing upon the philosophical field of symbolic interactionism and constructivist grounded theory, work embraces an abductive methodology where participants are encouraged to relate design and technology within the context of STEM education. Emergent findings are discussed in relation to their potential to support teachers’ educational development for the advancement of STEM literacy, and help secure design and technology’s place as a subject of value within a twenty-first Century curriculum

    Rapid and Reversible Recruitment of Early Visual Cortex for Touch

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    The loss of vision has been associated with enhanced performance in non-visual tasks such as tactile discrimination and sound localization. Current evidence suggests that these functional gains are linked to the recruitment of the occipital visual cortex for non-visual processing, but the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying these crossmodal changes remain uncertain. One possible explanation is that visual deprivation is associated with an unmasking of non-visual input into visual cortex.We investigated the effect of sudden, complete and prolonged visual deprivation (five days) in normally sighted adult individuals while they were immersed in an intensive tactile training program. Following the five-day period, blindfolded subjects performed better on a Braille character discrimination task. In the blindfold group, serial fMRI scans revealed an increase in BOLD signal within the occipital cortex in response to tactile stimulation after five days of complete visual deprivation. This increase in signal was no longer present 24 hours after blindfold removal. Finally, reversible disruption of occipital cortex function on the fifth day (by repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation; rTMS) impaired Braille character recognition ability in the blindfold group but not in non-blindfolded controls. This disruptive effect was no longer evident once the blindfold had been removed for 24 hours.Overall, our findings suggest that sudden and complete visual deprivation in normally sighted individuals can lead to profound, but rapidly reversible, neuroplastic changes by which the occipital cortex becomes engaged in processing of non-visual information. The speed and dynamic nature of the observed changes suggests that normally inhibited or masked functions in the sighted are revealed by visual loss. The unmasking of pre-existing connections and shifts in connectivity represent rapid, early plastic changes, which presumably can lead, if sustained and reinforced, to slower developing, but more permanent structural changes, such as the establishment of new neural connections in the blind

    Visually Driven Activation in Macaque Areas V2 and V3 without Input from the Primary Visual Cortex

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    Creating focal lesions in primary visual cortex (V1) provides an opportunity to study the role of extra-geniculo-striate pathways for activating extrastriate visual cortex. Previous studies have shown that more than 95% of neurons in macaque area V2 and V3 stop firing after reversibly cooling V1 [1], [2], [3]. However, no studies on long term recovery in areas V2, V3 following permanent V1 lesions have been reported in the macaque. Here we use macaque fMRI to study area V2, V3 activity patterns from 1 to 22 months after lesioning area V1. We find that visually driven BOLD responses persist inside the V1-lesion projection zones (LPZ) of areas V2 and V3, but are reduced in strength by ∼70%, on average, compared to pre-lesion levels. Monitoring the LPZ activity over time starting one month following the V1 lesion did not reveal systematic changes in BOLD signal amplitude. Surprisingly, the retinotopic organization inside the LPZ of areas V2, V3 remained similar to that of the non-lesioned hemisphere, suggesting that LPZ activation in V2, V3 is not the result of input arising from nearby (non-lesioned) V1 cortex. Electrophysiology recordings of multi-unit activity corroborated the BOLD observations: visually driven multi-unit responses could be elicited inside the V2 LPZ, even when the visual stimulus was entirely contained within the scotoma induced by the V1 lesion. Restricting the stimulus to the intact visual hemi-field produced no significant BOLD modulation inside the V2, V3 LPZs. We conclude that the observed activity patterns are largely mediated by parallel, V1-bypassing, subcortical pathways that can activate areas V2 and V3 in the absence of V1 input. Such pathways may contribute to the behavioral phenomenon of blindsight

    Hierarchical Models in the Brain

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    This paper describes a general model that subsumes many parametric models for continuous data. The model comprises hidden layers of state-space or dynamic causal models, arranged so that the output of one provides input to another. The ensuing hierarchy furnishes a model for many types of data, of arbitrary complexity. Special cases range from the general linear model for static data to generalised convolution models, with system noise, for nonlinear time-series analysis. Crucially, all of these models can be inverted using exactly the same scheme, namely, dynamic expectation maximization. This means that a single model and optimisation scheme can be used to invert a wide range of models. We present the model and a brief review of its inversion to disclose the relationships among, apparently, diverse generative models of empirical data. We then show that this inversion can be formulated as a simple neural network and may provide a useful metaphor for inference and learning in the brain
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