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  • The DCDC2 deletion is not a risk factor for dyslexia.

    7 December 2017

    Dyslexia is a specific impairment in learning to read and has strong heritability. An intronic deletion within the DCDC2 gene, with ~8% frequency in European populations, is increasingly used as a marker for dyslexia in neuroimaging and behavioral studies. At a mechanistic level, this deletion has been proposed to influence sensory processing capacity, and in particular sensitivity to visual coherent motion. Our re-assessment of the literature, however, did not reveal strong support for a role of this specific deletion in dyslexia. We also analyzed data from five distinct cohorts, enriched for individuals with dyslexia, and did not identify any signal indicative of associations for the DCDC2 deletion with reading-related measures, including in a combined sample analysis (N=526). We believe we conducted the first replication analysis for a proposed deletion effect on visual motion perception and found no association (N=445 siblings). We also report that the DCDC2 deletion has a frequency of 37.6% in a cohort representative of the general population recruited in Hong Kong (N=220). This figure, together with a lack of association between the deletion and reading abilities in this cohort, indicates the low likelihood of a direct deletion effect on reading skills. Therefore, on the basis of multiple strands of evidence, we conclude that the DCDC2 deletion is not a strong risk factor for dyslexia. Our analyses and literature re-evaluation are important for interpreting current developments within multidisciplinary studies of dyslexia and, more generally, contribute to current discussions about the importance of reproducibility in science.

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

    12 December 2017

    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.

    8 December 2017

    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.

    12 December 2017

    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.

    12 December 2017

    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.

    12 December 2017

    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.

    8 December 2017

    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

    20 November 2017

    © 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.

  • Laboratory of Social Neuroscience (Dr. Andrew Bell)

    13 September 2013

    Our research seeks to understand the neural mechanisms underlying the perception of social cues, such as facial expressions, and how these processes are ultimately used to guide social behaviour.

  • Mathematical Development and Disabilities Research Group (Dr. Ann Dowker)

    13 September 2013

    Studies developmental and individual differences in arithmetic. Effects of language and culture on development of arithmetic. Attitudes to maths and mathematics anxiety. Strong interest in developing interventions for individuals with mathematical difficulties.

  • Oxford Centre for Emotions and Affective Neuroscience (Prof. Elaine Fox)

    11 September 2013

    The Oxford Centre for Emotions and Affective Neuroscience (OCEAN) aims to understand why some people are resilient and able to withstand whatever life throws at them, while others are emotionally vulnerable and at risk of developing anxiety disorders and depression. We use a variety of multidisciplinary approaches utilizing methods from cognitive psychology, neuroscience and molecular genetics to understand human emotions and affective reactivity across the lifespan.

  • Decision and Action Laboratory (Prof. Matthew Rushworth)

    30 May 2013

    Our research is concerned with: 1) the operation of neural circuits during decision-making and social interaction; 2) understanding functional interactions between brain areas and the anatomical connections that mediate them.

  • oRANGE Lab

    26 October 2016

    Oxford Risk ANd resilience Genes and Environment research. We study the interplay between biology and social context in child and adolescent development. The overall aim of our research is to inform intervention strategies and policies designed to promote resilience among children at risk for emotional, behavioural or academic difficulties.

  • Attention & Cognitive Control Lab (Prof. Nick Yeung)

    3 September 2013

    We study the brain mechanisms of high-level cognitive functions, including attention, memory, and decision making. We investigate these topics using a combination of behavioural, computational, and brain imaging techniques.

  • Computational Psychopathology Laboratory (Prof. Robin A. Murphy)

    11 September 2013

    We study processes of associative learning in human and animal models with the goal of understanding how the brain and mental processes produce behaviour and as applied to human learning in the developing field of Computational Psychopathology

  • Oxford BabyLab

    5 August 2013

    We investigate language and cognitive development during infancy, with a particular emphasis on concept and vocabulary acquisition. We use eye-tracking, EEG and parental questionnaires to understand the mechanisms of change underlying infant development.

  • Social Psychology and Psychological Disorders

    16 May 2013

    Our research within this theme covers: inter-group beliefs, prejudice and behaviour; reducing inter-group conflict; individual-group communication, emotional control and regulation; developing, evaluating and disseminating psychological therapies for emotional disorders.

  • Developmental Science

    21 April 2017

    Our research investigates the development of language, numeracy, literacy and associated development disorders, the development of attention and executive functions and associated development disorders, emotional development.

  • Behavioural Neuroscience

    21 April 2017

    Research in this theme covers basic neural mechanisms of decision making, memory and learning and cognitive control. There is a particular focus on frontal and cingulate cortical and hippocampal function. Experiments use human and NHP brain imaging, direct brain stimulation and recording, psychopharmacology, in vivo voltammetry, TMS and tDCS, transgenic rodent models, neurophysiological recording and investigation of the effects of lesions.

  • Cognitive Neuroscience

    21 April 2017

    Cognitive Neuroscientists seek to understand how the cognitive mechanisms that guide human behaviour are implemented in the neural circuitry of the brain.