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  • The neural substrates of drawing: a voxel-based morphometry analysis of constructional, hierarchical, and spatial representation deficits.

    3 July 2018

    Deficits in the ability to draw objects, despite apparently intact perception and motor abilities, are defined as constructional apraxia. Constructional deficits, often diagnosed based on performance on copying complex figures, have been reported in a range of pathologies, perhaps reflecting the contribution of several underlying factors to poor figure drawing. The current study provides a comprehensive analysis of brain-behavior relationships in drawing disorders based on data from a large cohort of subacute stroke patients (n = 358) using whole-brain voxel-wise statistical analyses linked to behavioral measures from a complex figure copy task. We found that (i) overall poor performance on figure copying was associated with subcortical lesions (BG and thalamus), (ii) lateralized deficits with respect to the midline of the viewer were associated with lesions within the posterior parietal lobule, and (iii) spatial positioning errors across the entire figure were associated with lesions within visual processing areas (lingual gyrus and calcarine) and the insula. Furthermore, deficits in reproducing global aspects of form were associated with damage to the right middle temporal gyrus, whereas deficits in representing local features were linked to the left hemisphere lesions within calcarine cortex (extending into the cuneus and precuneus), the insula, and the TPJ. The current study provides strong evidence that impairments in separate cognitive mechanisms (e.g., spatial coding, attention, motor execution, and planning) linked to different brain lesions contribute to poor performance on complex figure copying tasks. The data support the argument that drawing depends on several cognitive processes operating via discrete neuronal networks and that constructional problems as well as hierarchical and spatial representation deficits contribute to poor figure copying.

  • Causal effect of disconnection lesions on interhemispheric functional connectivity in rhesus monkeys.

    3 July 2018

    In the absence of external stimuli or task demands, correlations in spontaneous brain activity (functional connectivity) reflect patterns of anatomical connectivity. Hence, resting-state functional connectivity has been used as a proxy measure for structural connectivity and as a biomarker for brain changes in disease. To relate changes in functional connectivity to physiological changes in the brain, it is important to understand how correlations in functional connectivity depend on the physical integrity of brain tissue. The causal nature of this relationship has been called into question by patient data suggesting that decreased structural connectivity does not necessarily lead to decreased functional connectivity. Here we provide evidence for a causal but complex relationship between structural connectivity and functional connectivity: we tested interhemispheric functional connectivity before and after corpus callosum section in rhesus monkeys. We found that forebrain commissurotomy severely reduced interhemispheric functional connectivity, but surprisingly, this effect was greatly mitigated if the anterior commissure was left intact. Furthermore, intact structural connections increased their functional connectivity in line with the hypothesis that the inputs to each node are normalized. We conclude that functional connectivity is likely driven by corticocortical white matter connections but with complex network interactions such that a near-normal pattern of functional connectivity can be maintained by just a few indirect structural connections. These surprising results highlight the importance of network-level interactions in functional connectivity and may cast light on various paradoxical findings concerning changes in functional connectivity in disease states.

  • The functions of language: an experimental study.

    29 June 2018

    We test between four separate hypotheses (social gossip, social contracts, mate advertising and factual information exchange) for the function(s) of language using a recall paradigm. Subjects recalled the social content of stories (irrespective of whether this concerned social behavior, defection or romantic events) significantly better than they did ecological information. Recall rates were no better on ecological stories if they involved flamboyant language, suggesting that, if true, Miller's "Scheherazade effect" may not be independent of content. One interpretation of these results might be that language evolved as an all-purpose social tool, and perhaps acquired specialist functions (sexual advertising, contract formation, information exchange) at a later date through conventional evolutionary windows of opportunity.

  • Do birds of a feather flock together? The relationship between similarity and altruism in social networks.

    3 July 2018

    Cooperation requires that individuals are able to identify, and preferentially associate with, others who have compatible preferences and the shared background knowledge needed to solve interpersonal coordination problems. The present study investigates the nature of such similarity within social networks, asking: What do friends have in common? And what is the relationship between similarity and altruism? The results show that similarity declines with frequency of contact; similarity in general is a significant predictor of altruism and emotional closeness; and, specifically, sharing a sense of humor, hobbies and interests, moral beliefs, and being from the same area are the best predictors. These results shed light on the structure of relationships within networks and provide a possible checklist for predicting attitudes toward strangers, and in-group identification.

  • Interaction between object-based attention and pertinence values shapes the attentional priority map of a multielement display.

    3 July 2018

    Previous studies have shown that the perceptual organization of the visual scene constrains the deployment of attention. Here we investigated how the organization of multiple elements into larger configurations alters their attentional weight, depending on the "pertinence" or behavioral importance of the elements' features. We assessed object-based effects on distinct aspects of the attentional priority map: top-down control, reflecting the tendency to encode targets rather than distracters, and the spatial distribution of attention weights across the visual scene, reflecting the tendency to report elements belonging to the same rather than different objects. In 2 experiments participants had to report the letters in briefly presented displays containing 8 letters and digits, in which pairs of characters could be connected with a line. Quantitative estimates of top-down control were obtained using Bundesen's Theory of Visual Attention (1990). The spatial distribution of attention weights was assessed using the "paired response index" (PRI), indicating responses for within-object pairs of letters. In Experiment 1, grouping along the task-relevant dimension (targets with targets and distracters with distracters) increased top-down control and enhanced the PRI; in contrast, task-irrelevant grouping (targets with distracters) did not affect performance. In Experiment 2, we disentangled the effect of target-target and distracter-distracter grouping: Pairwise grouping of distracters enhanced top-down control whereas pairwise grouping of targets changed the PRI. We conclude that object-based perceptual representations interact with pertinence values (of the elements' features and location) in the computation of attention weights, thereby creating a widespread pattern of attentional facilitation across the visual scene. (PsycINFO Database Record

  • Modulation of hippocampal theta and hippocampal-prefrontal cortex function by a schizophrenia risk gene.

    3 July 2018

    Hippocampal theta-band oscillations are thought to facilitate the co-ordination of brain activity across distributed networks, including between the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex (PFC). Impairments in hippocampus-PFC functional connectivity are implicated in schizophrenia and are associated with a polymorphism within the ZNF804A gene that shows a genome-wide significant association with schizophrenia. However, the mechanisms by which ZNF804A affects hippocampus-PFC connectivity are unknown. We used a multimodal imaging approach to investigate the impact of the ZNF804A polymorphism on hippocampal theta and hippocampal network coactivity. Healthy volunteers homozygous for the ZNF804A rs1344706 (A[risk]/C[nonrisk]) polymorphism were imaged at rest using both magnetoencephalography (MEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). A dual-regression approach was used to investigate coactivations between the hippocampal network and other brain regions for both modalities, focusing on the theta band in the case of MEG. We found a significant decrease in intrahippocampal theta (using MEG) and greater coactivation of the superior frontal gyrus with the hippocampal network (using fMRI) in risk versus nonrisk homozygotes. Furthermore, these measures showed a significant negative correlation. Our demonstration of an inverse relationship between hippocampal theta and hippocampus-PFC coactivation supports a role for hippocampal theta in coordinating hippocampal-prefrontal activity. The ZNF804A-related differences that we find in hippocampus-PFC coactivation are consistent with previously reported associations with functional connectivity and with these changes lying downstream of altered hippocampal theta. Changes in hippocampal-PFC co-ordination, driven by differences in oscillatory activity, may be one mechanism by which ZNF804A impacts on brain function and risk for psychosis.

  • Investigating language organization with TMS

    3 July 2018

    © Oxford University Press, 2008. All rights reserved. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is becoming an increasingly important tool for investigating the neurological basis of language. This article reviews the history of language studies that span a range of TMS methodologies. TMS offers a powerful tool for investigating the effects of brain damage. It answers questions of recovery mechanisms and methods to improve outcomes. In language studies, the most commonly used form of TMS is to generate 'virtual patients' by temporarily disrupting cortical processing. This article explains how TMS studies not only confirm but also clarify the specific regional contributions to semantic and phonological processing. There has been little work with regard to the role of TMS in the area of neurobiology of reading and reading disorders. The number of existing TMS techniques have not been applied to language, despite their obvious potential but this field is bound to grow in the field of language research.

  • Neural activation in speech production and reading aloud in native and non-native languages.

    3 July 2018

    We used fMRI to investigate neural activation in reading aloud in bilinguals differing in age of acquisition. Three groups were compared: French-English bilinguals who acquired two languages from birth (simultaneous), French-English bilinguals who learned their L2 after the age of 5 years (sequential), and English-speaking monolinguals. While the bilingual groups contrasted in age of acquisition, they were matched for language proficiency, although sequential bilinguals produced speech with a less native-like accent in their L2 than in their L1. Simultaneous bilinguals activated similar brain regions to an equivalent degree when reading in their two languages. In contrast, sequential bilinguals more strongly activated areas related to speech-motor control and orthographic to phonological mapping, the left inferior frontal gyrus, left premotor cortex, and left fusiform gyrus, when reading aloud in L2 compared to L1. In addition, the activity in these regions showed a significant positive correlation with age of acquisition. The results provide evidence for the engagement of overlapping neural substrates for processing two languages when acquired in native context from birth. However, it appears that the maturation of certain brain regions for both speech production and phonological encoding is limited by a sensitive period for L2 acquisition regardless of language proficiency.

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  • Wellcome Language and Reading Project

    30 September 2015

    Led by Professor Maggie Snowling, Professor Charles Hulme and Dr Emma Hayiou-Thomas this six-year longitudinal study from 2007, funded by the Wellcome Trust, investigated the nature of the developmental relationships between dyslexia and specific language impairment (SLI).

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    29 August 2015

    The Oxford Vision Group (OxVis) brings together researchers in Oxford who are interested in vision, and provides a forum for the sharing of ideas, skills and approaches.

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