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  • Can the feel of the haptic interaction modify a user's emotional state

    3 July 2018

    Haptic perception constitutes an important component of our everyday interaction with many products. At the same time, several studies have, in recent years, demonstrated the importance of involving the emotions in the user-product interaction process. The present study was designed to investigate whether haptic interactions can affect, or modulate, people's responses to standardized emotional stimuli. 36 participants completed a self-assessment test concerning their emotional state utilizing as a pointer either a PHANToM device simulating a viscous force field while they moved the stylus, or else a stylus with no force field. During the presentation of the emotional pictures, various physiological parameters were recorded from participants. The results revealed a significant difference in the self-reported arousal associated with the pictures but no significant difference in the physiological measures. The behavioural findings are interpreted in terms of an effect of the haptic feedback on participants' perceived/interpreted emotional arousal. These results suggest that haptic feedback could, in the future, be used to modify participants' interpretation of their physiological states. © 2013 IEEE.

  • Anti-extinction in the tactile modality.

    3 July 2018

    Patients with extinction fail to report a contralesional stimulus when it is presented at the same time as an ipsilesional stimulus, and patients with unilateral neglect fail to report a contralesional stimulus even when there is no competing ipsilesional stimulus. Whereas extinction and neglect are common following stroke, the related phenomenon of anti-extinction is rare--there are four cases of anti-extinction in the literature, and all four cases demonstrated anti-extinction in the visual modality. Patients with anti-extinction do report a contralesional stimulus when it is presented at the same time as an ipsilesional stimulus; but, like patients with neglect, they fail to report a contralesional stimulus when there is no competing ipsilesional stimulus. We present the first case ofanti-extinction in the tactile modality.

  • Functional neuroimaging of the interference between working memory and the control of periodic ankle movement timing.

    29 June 2018

    BACKGROUND: Limited information processing capacity in the brain necessitates task prioritisation and subsequent adaptive behavioural strategies for the dual-task coordination of locomotion with severe concurrent cognitive loading. Commonly observed strategies include prioritisation of gait at the cost of reduced performance in the cognitive task. Alternatively alterations of gait parameters such as gait velocity have been reported presumably to free processing capacity for the benefit of performance in the cognitive task. The aim of this study was to describe the neuroanatomical correlates of adaptive behavioural strategies in cognitive-motor dual-tasking when the competition for information processing capacity is severe and may exceed individuals' capacity limitations. METHODS: During an fMRI experiment, 12 young adults performed slow continuous, auditorily paced bilateral anti-phase ankle dorsi-plantarflexion movements as an element of normal gait at .5 Hz in single and dual task modes. The secondary task involved a visual, alphabetic N-back task with presentation rate jittered around .7 Hz. The N-back task, which randomly occurred in 0-back or 2-back form, was modified into a silent counting task to avoid confounding motor responses at the cost of slightly increasing the task's general coordinative complexity. Participants' ankle movements were recorded using an optoelectronic motion capture system to derive kinematic parameters representing the stability of the movement timing and synchronization. Participants were instructed to perform both tasks as accurately as possible. RESULTS: Increased processing complexity in the dual-task 2-back condition led to significant changes in movement parameters such as the average inter-response interval, the coefficient of variation of absolute asynchrony and the standard deviation of peak angular velocity. A regions-of-interest analysis indicated correlations between these parameters and local activations within the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) such that lower IFG activations coincided with performance decrements. CONCLUSIONS: Dual-task interference effects show that the production of periodically timed ankle movements, taken as modelling elements of the normal gait cycle, draws on higher-level cognitive resources involved in working memory. The interference effect predominantly concerns the timing accuracy of the ankle movements. Reduced activations within regions of the left IFG, and in some respect also within the superior parietal lobule, were identified as one factor affecting the timing of periodic ankle movements resulting in involuntary 'hastening' during severe dual-task working memory load. This 'hastening' phenomenon may be an expression of re-automated locomotor control when higher-order cognitive processing capacity can no longer be allocated to the movements due to the demands of the cognitive task. The results of our study also propose the left IFG as a target region to improve performance during dual-task walking by techniques for non-invasive brain stimulation.

  • Increased functional connectivity with puberty in the mentalising network involved in social emotion processing.

    3 July 2018

    This article is part of a Special Issue "Puberty and Adolescence". There is increasing evidence that puberty plays an important role in the structural and functional brain development seen in adolescence, but little is known of the pubertal influence on changes in functional connectivity. We explored how pubertal indicators (salivary concentrations of testosterone, oestradiol and DHEA; pubertal stage; menarcheal status) relate to functional connectivity between components of a mentalising network identified to be engaged in social emotion processing by our prior work, using psychophysiological interaction (PPI) analysis. Female adolescents aged 11 to 13years were scanned whilst silently reading scenarios designed to evoke either social emotions (guilt and embarrassment) or basic emotions (disgust and fear), of which only social compared to basic emotions require the representation of another person's mental states. Pubertal stage and menarcheal status were used to assign participants to pre/early or mid/late puberty groups. We found increased functional connectivity between the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC) and the right posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) and right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) during social relative to basic emotion processing. Moreover, increasing oestradiol concentrations were associated with increased functional connectivity between the DMPFC and the right TPJ during social relative to basic emotion processing, independent of age. Our analysis of the PPI data by phenotypic pubertal status showed that more advanced puberty stage was associated with enhanced functional connectivity between the DMPFC and the left anterior temporal cortex (ATC) during social relative to basic emotion processing, also independent of age. Our results suggest increased functional maturation of the social brain network with the advancement of puberty in girls.

  • Individual Differences in the Alignment of Structural and Functional Markers of the V5/MT Complex in Primates.

    3 July 2018

    Extrastriate visual area V5/MT in primates is defined both structurally by myeloarchitecture and functionally by distinct responses to visual motion. Myelination is directly identifiable from postmortem histology but also indirectly by image contrast with structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI). First, we compared the identification of V5/MT using both sMRI and histology in Rhesus macaques. A section-by-section comparison of histological slices with in vivo and postmortem sMRI for the same block of cortical tissue showed precise correspondence in localizing heavy myelination for V5/MT and neighboring MST. Thus, sMRI in macaques accurately locates histologically defined myelin within areas known to be motion selective. Second, we investigated the functionally homologous human motion complex (hMT+) using high-resolution in vivo imaging. Humans showed considerable intersubject variability in hMT+ location, when defined with myelin-weighted sMRI signals to reveal structure. When comparing sMRI markers to functional MRI in response to moving stimuli, a region of high myelin signal was generally located within the hMT+ complex. However, there were considerable differences in the alignment of structural and functional markers between individuals. Our results suggest that variation in area identification for hMT+ based on structural and functional markers reflects individual differences in human regional brain architecture.

  • Group size, vocal grooming and the origins of language.

    29 June 2018

    I argue that speech and language evolved through a series of stages individually designed to break through successive glass ceilings on group size. Language was simply the last of these (and hence evolved late in hominin evolution), but its precursors (laughter and singing) each played a crucial role in preparing the way for speech production.

  • The NMDA receptor partial agonist d-cycloserine does not enhance motor learning.

    3 July 2018

    RATIONALE: There has recently been increasing interest in pharmacological manipulations that could potentially enhance exposure-based cognitive behaviour therapy for anxiety disorders. One such medication is the partial NMDA agonist d-cycloserine. It has been suggested that d-cycloserine enhances cognitive behaviour therapy by making learning faster. While animal studies have supported this view of the drug accelerating learning, evidence in human studies has been mixed. We therefore designed an experiment to measure the effects of d-cycloserine on human motor learning. METHODS: Fifty-four healthy human volunteers were randomly assigned to a single dose of 250mg d-cycloserine versus placebo in a double-blind design. They then performed a motor sequence learning task. RESULTS: D-cycloserine did not increase the speed of motor learning or the overall amount learnt. However, we noted that participants on d-cycloserine tended to respond more carefully (shifting towards slower, but more correct responses). CONCLUSION: The results suggest that d-cycloserine does not exert beneficial effects on psychological treatments via mechanisms involved in motor learning. Further studies are needed to clarify the influence on other cognitive mechanisms.

  • A role beyond learning for NMDA receptors in reward-based decision-making-a pharmacological study using d-cycloserine.

    3 July 2018

    N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are known to fulfill crucial functions in many forms of learning and plasticity. More recently, biophysical models, however, have suggested an additional role of NMDA receptors in evidence integration for decision-making, going beyond their role in learning. We designed a task to study the role of NMDA receptors in human reward-guided learning and decision-making. Human participants were assigned to receive either 250 mg of the partial NMDA agonist d-cycloserine (n=20) or matching placebo capsules (n=27). Reward-guided learning and decision-making were assessed using a task in which participants had to integrate learnt and explicitly shown value information to maximize their monetary wins and minimize their losses. To tease apart the effects of NMDA on learning and decision-making we used simple learning models. D-cycloserine shifted decision-making towards a more optimal integration of the learnt and the explicitly shown information, in the absence of a direct learning effect. In conclusion, our results reveal a distinct role for NMDA receptors in reward-guided decision-making. We discuss these findings in the context of NMDA's roles in neuronal super-additivity and as crucial for evidence integration for decisions.

  • [German version of the math anxiety questionnaire (FRA) for 6- to 9-year-old children].

    29 June 2018

    OBJECTIVES: Is the FRA a reliable and valid instrument? Are there any gender differences concerning math anxiety? Are there any developmental changes in this regard in the course of the early grades? METHODS: Together with the dyscalculia test TEDI-MATH, the FRA was presented to a total of 450 children from the first to the third grade of primary school (at least 40 girls and 40 boys per semester). RESULTS: The total scale has an internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha) between 0.83 and 0.91. Correlations between arithmetic skills and the FRA scales were mostly significant. The significantly higher negative scores for girls were taken into account by providing standard scores corrected for gender. No systematic developmental changes could be observed. CONCLUSIONS: The FRA is the first German math anxiety questionnaire for primary school children. High reliability, standard scores corrected for gender, and economic handling make it an instrument well suited for use in clinical settings (e.g., dyscalculia diagnostics and intervention).