Research on inhibitory motor control has implicated several prefrontal as well as subcortical and parietal regions in response inhibition. Whether prefrontal regions are critical for inhibition, attention or task-set representation is still under debate. We investigated the influence of the lateral PFC in a response inhibition task by using cognitive electrophysiology in prefrontal lesion patients. Patients and age- and education-matched controls performed in a visual Stop-signal task featuring lateralized stimuli, designed to challenge either the intact or lesioned hemisphere. Participants also underwent a purely behavioral Go/Nogo task, which included a manipulation of inhibition difficulty (blocks with 50 vs. 80 % go-trials) and a Change-signal task that required switching to an alternative response. Patients and controls did not differ in their inhibitory speed (stop-signal and change-signal reaction time, SSRT and CSRT), but patients made more errors in the Go/Nogo task and showed more variable performance. The behavioral data stress the role of the PFC in maintaining inhibitory control but not in actual inhibition. These results support a dissociation between action cancellation and PFC- dependent action restraint. Laplacian transformed event-related potentials (ERPs) revealed reduced parietal activity in PFC patients in response to the stop-signals, and increased frontal activity over the intact hemisphere. This electrophysiological finding supports altered PFC- dependent visual processing of the stop-signal in parietal areas and compensatory activity in the intact frontal cortex. No group differences were found in the mu and beta decrease as measures of response preparation and inhibition at electrodes over sensorimotor cortex. Taken together, the data provide evidence for a central role of the lateral PFC in attentional control in the context of response inhibition.
lateral PFC; lesion; SSRT; stop-signal task; cognitive control
Improving performance in motor skill acquisition is proposed to be supported by tuning of neural networks. To address this issue we investigated changes of phase-amplitude cross-frequency coupling (paCFC) in neuronal networks during motor performance improvement. We recorded intracranially from subdural electrodes (electrocorticogram; ECoG) from 6 patients who learned 3 distinct motor tasks requiring coordination of finger movements with an external cue (serial response task, auditory motor coordination task, go/no-go). Performance improved in all subjects and all tasks during the first block and plateaued in subsequent blocks. Performance improvement was paralled by increasing neural changes in the trial-to-trial paCFC between theta (; 4–8 Hz) phase and high gamma (HG; 80–180 Hz) amplitude. Electrodes showing this covariation pattern (Pearson's r ranging up to .45) were located contralateral to the limb performing the task and were observed predominantly in motor brain regions. We observed stable paCFC when task performance asymptoted. Our results indicate that motor performance improvement is accompanied by adjustments in the dynamics and topology of neuronal network interactions in the and HG range. The location of the involved electrodes suggests that oscillatory dynamics in motor cortices support performance improvement with practice.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder affecting dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra leading to dysfunctional cortico-striato-thalamic-cortical loops. In addition to the characteristic motor symptoms, PD patients often show cognitive impairments, affective changes and other non-motor symptoms, suggesting system-wide effects on brain function. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging and graph-theory based analysis methods to investigate altered whole-brain intrinsic functional connectivity in PD patients (n = 37) compared to healthy controls (n = 20). Global network properties indicated less efficient processing in PD. Analysis of brain network modules pointed to increased connectivity within the sensorimotor network, but decreased interaction of the visual network with other brain modules. We found lower connectivity mainly between the cuneus and the ventral caudate, medial orbitofrontal cortex and the temporal lobe. To identify regions of altered connectivity, we mapped the degree of intrinsic functional connectivity both on ROI- and on voxel-level across the brain. Compared to healthy controls, PD patients showed lower connectedness in the medial and middle orbitofrontal cortex. The degree of connectivity was also decreased in the occipital lobe (cuneus and calcarine), but increased in the superior parietal cortex, posterior cingulate gyrus, supramarginal gyrus and supplementary motor area. Our results on global network and module properties indicated that PD manifests as a disconnection syndrome. This was most apparent in the visual network module. The higher connectedness within the sensorimotor module in PD patients may be related to compensation mechanism in order to overcome the functional deficit of the striato-cortical motor loops or to loss of mutual inhibition between brain networks. Abnormal connectivity in the visual network may be related to adaptation and compensation processes as a consequence of altered motor function. Our analysis approach proved sensitive for detecting disease-related localized effects as well as changes in network functions on intermediate and global scale.
Language switching is omnipresent in bilingual individuals. In fact, the ability to switch languages (code switching) is a very fast, efficient, and flexible process that seems to be a fundamental aspect of bilingual language processing. In this study, we aimed to characterize psychometrically self-perceived individual differences in language switching and to create a reliable measure of this behavioral pattern by introducing a bilingual switching questionnaire. As a working hypothesis based on the previous literature about code switching, we decomposed language switching into four constructs: (i) L1 switching tendencies (the tendency to switch to L1; L1-switch); (ii) L2 switching tendencies (L2-switch); (iii) contextual switch, which indexes the frequency of switches usually triggered by a particular situation, topic, or environment; and (iv) unintended switch, which measures the lack of intention and awareness of the language switches. A total of 582 Spanish–Catalan bilingual university students were studied. Twelve items were selected (three for each construct). The correlation matrix was factor-analyzed using minimum rank factor analysis followed by oblique direct oblimin rotation. The overall proportion of common variance explained by the four extracted factors was 0.86. Finally, to assess the external validity of the individual differences scored with the new questionnaire, we evaluated the correlations between these measures and several psychometric (language proficiency) and behavioral measures related to cognitive and attentional control. The present study highlights the importance of evaluating individual differences in language switching using self-assessment instruments when studying the interface between cognitive control and bilingualism.
bilingualism; natural language switching; cognitive control; psychometric
Reactive aggression after interpersonal provocation is a common behavior in humans. Little is known, however, about brain regions and neurotransmitters critical for the decision-making and affective processes involved in aggressive interactions. With the present fMRI study, we wanted to examine the role of serotonin in reactive aggression by means of an acute tryptophan depletion (ATD). Participants performed in a competitive reaction time task (Taylor Aggression Paradigm, TAP) which entitled the winner to punish the loser. The TAP seeks to elicit aggression by provocation. The study followed a double-blind between-subject design including only male participants. Behavioral data showed an aggression diminishing effect of ATD in low trait-aggressive participants, whereas no ATD effect was detected in high trait-aggressive participants. ATD also led to reduced insula activity during the decision phase, independently of the level of provocation. Whereas previous reports have suggested an inverse relationship between serotonin level and aggressive behavior with low levels of serotonin leading to higher aggression and vice versa, such a simple relationship is inconsistent with the current data.
In order to further understand the mechanisms involved in planning an aggressive act, we conducted an event-related potential (ERP) study of young men with and without a history of violence. Participants completed a competitive reaction time task (based on the Taylor aggression paradigm) against a virtual opponent. In "passive" blocks, participants were punished by the opponent when losing the trial but could not punish, when winning, whereas in "active" blocks, participants were able to punish the opponent when winning, but were not punished when losing. Participants selected punishment strength in a decision phase prior to each reaction time task and were informed whether they had won or lost in the outcome phase. Additionally, a flanker task was conducted to assess basic performance monitoring. Violent participants selected stronger punishments, especially in "active" blocks. During the decision phase, a frontal P200 was more pronounced for violent participants, whereas non-violent participants showed an enhanced frontal negativity around 300 ms. The P200 might reflect the decision to approach the opponent at a very early state, the latter negativity could reflect inhibition processes, leading to a more considerate reaction in non-violent participants. During the outcome phase, a Feedback-Related Negativity was seen in both groups. This effect was most pronounced when losing entailed a subsequent inability to retaliate. The groups did not differ in the flanker task, indicating intact basic performance monitoring. Our data suggest that the planning of an aggressive act is associated with distinct brain activity and that such activity is differentially represented in violent and non-violent individuals.
An extensive literature suggests a link between executive functions and aggressive behavior in humans, pointing mostly to an inverse relationship, i.e., increased tendencies toward aggression in individuals scoring low on executive function tests. This literature is limited, though, in terms of the groups studied and the measures of executive functions. In this paper, we present data from two studies addressing these issues. In a first behavioral study, we asked whether high trait aggressiveness is related to reduced executive functions. A sample of over 600 students performed in an extensive behavioral test battery including paradigms addressing executive functions such as the Eriksen Flanker task, Stroop task, n-back task, and Tower of London (TOL). High trait aggressive participants were found to have a significantly reduced latency score in the TOL, indicating more impulsive behavior compared to low trait aggressive participants. No other differences were detected. In an EEG-study, we assessed neural and behavioral correlates of error monitoring and response inhibition in participants who were characterized based on their laboratory-induced aggressive behavior in a competitive reaction time task. Participants who retaliated more in the aggression paradigm and had reduced frontal activity when being provoked did not, however, show any reduction in behavioral or neural correlates of executive control compared to the less aggressive participants. Our results question a strong relationship between aggression and executive functions at least for healthy, high-functioning people.
reactive aggression; executive functions; Eriksen Flanker task; stop-signal task; Taylor aggression paradigm; Tower of London
The A-kinase-anchoring protein 5 (AKAP5), a post-synaptic multi-adaptor molecule that binds G-protein-coupled receptors and intracellular signaling molecules has been implicated in emotional processing in rodents, but its role in human emotion and behavior is up to now still not quite clear. Here, we report an association of individual differences in aggressive behavior and anger expression with a functional genetic polymorphism (Pro100Leu) in the human AKAP5 gene. Among a cohort of 527 young, healthy individuals, carriers of the less common Leu allele (15.6% allele frequency) scored significantly lower in the physical aggression domain of the Buss and Perry Aggression Questionnaire and higher in the anger control dimension of the state-trait anger expression inventory. In a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment we could further demonstrate that AKAP5 Pro100Leu modulates the interaction of negative emotional processing and executive functions. In order to investigate implicit processes of anger control, we used the well-known flanker task to evoke processes of action monitoring and error processing and added task-irrelevant neutral or angry faces in the background of the flanker stimuli. In line with our predictions, Leu carriers showed increased activation of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) during emotional interference, which in turn predicted shorter reaction times and might be related to stronger control of emotional interference. Conversely, Pro homozygotes exhibited increased orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) activation during emotional interference, with no behavioral advantage. Immunohistochemistry revealed AKAP5 expression in post mortem human ACC and OFC. Our results suggest that AKAP5 Pro100Leu contributes to individual differences in human aggression and anger control. Further research is warranted to explore the detailed role of AKAP5 and its gene product in human emotion processing.
AKAP5; genetic; aggression; anger; fMRI
Actions of others may have immediate consequences for oneself. We probed the neural responses associated with the observation of another person's action using event-related potentials in a modified gambling task. In this task a "performer" bet either a higher or lower number and could win or lose this amount. Three different groups of "observers" were also studied. The first (neutral) group simply observed the performer's action, which had no consequences for the observers. In the second (parallel) group, wins/losses of the performer were paralleled by similar wins and losses by the observer. In the third (reverse) group, wins of the performer led to a loss of the observer and vice versa.
ERPs of the performers showed a mediofrontal feedback related negativity (FRN) to losses. The neutral and parallel observer groups did similarly show an FRN response to the performer's losses with a topography indistinguishable from that seen in the performers. In the reverse group, however, the FRN occurred for wins of the performer which translated to losses for the observer.
Taking into account previous experiments, we suggest that the FRN response in observers is driven by two evaluative processes (a) related to the benefit/loss for oneself and (b) related to the benefit/loss of another person.
Dopamine is believed to be a key neurotransmitter in the development of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Several recent studies point to an association of the dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) gene and this condition. More specifically, the 7 repeat variant of a variable number of tandem repeats (VNTR) polymorphism in exon III of this gene is suggested to bear a higher risk for ADHD. In the present study, we investigated the role of this polymorphism in the modulation of neurophysiological correlates of response inhibition (Go/Nogo task) in a healthy, high-functioning sample.
Homozygous 7 repeat carriers showed a tendency for more accurate behavior in the Go/Nogo task compared to homozygous 4 repeat carriers. Moreover, 7 repeat carriers presented an increased nogo-related theta band response together with a reduced go-related beta decrease.
These data point to improved cognitive functions and prefrontal control in the 7 repeat carriers, probably due to the D4 receptor's modulatory role in prefrontal areas. The results are discussed with respect to previous behavioral data on this polymorphism and animal studies on the impact of the D4 receptor on cognitive functions.
Recent research on the “embodiment of emotion” implies that experiencing an emotion may involve perceptual, somatovisceral, and motor feedback aspects. For example, manipulations of facial expression and posture appear to induce emotional states and influence how affective information is processed. The present study investigates whether performance monitoring, a cognitive process known to be under heavy control of the dopaminergic system, is modulated by induced facial expressions. In particular, we focused on the error-related negativity, an electrophysiological correlate of performance monitoring.
During a choice reaction task, participants held a Chinese chop stick either horizontally between the teeth (“smile” condition) or, in different runs, vertically (“no smile”) with the upper lip. In a third control condition, no chop stick was used (“no stick”). It could be shown on a separate sample that the facial feedback procedure is feasible to induce mild changes in positive affect. In the ERP sample, the smile condition, hypothesized to lead to an increase in dopaminergic activity, was associated with a decrease of ERN amplitude relative to “no smile” and “no stick” conditions.
Embodying emotions by induced facial expressions leads to a changes in the neural correlates of error detection. We suggest that this is due to the joint influence of the dopaminergic system on positive affect and performance monitoring.
Aggressive behavior is a common reaction in humans after an interpersonal provocation, but little is known about the underlying brain mechanisms. The present study analyzed oscillatory brain activity while participants were involved in an aggressive interaction to examine the neural processes subserving the associated decision and evaluation processes. Participants were selected from a larger sample because of their high scores in trait aggressiveness. We used a competitive reaction time task that induces aggressive behavior through provocation. Each trial is separated in a decision phase, during which the punishment for the opponent is set, and an outcome phase, during which the actual punishment is applied or received. We observed provocation-related differences during the decision phase in the theta band which differed depending on participants’ aggressive behavior: high provocation was associated with an increased frontal theta response in participants refraining from retaliation, but with reduced theta power in those who got back to the opponent. Moreover, more aggressive decisions after being punished were associated with a decrease of frontal theta power. Non-aggressive and aggressive participants differed also in their outcome-related response: being punished led to an increased frontal theta power compared to win trials in the latter only, pointing to differences in evaluation processes associated with their different behavioral reactions. The data thus support previous evidence for a role of prefrontal areas in the control of reactive aggression and extend behavioral studies on associations between aggression or violence and impaired prefrontal functions.
reactive aggression; electroencephalography; wavelet analysis; theta; beta
Implantation of deep brain stimulation (DBS) electrodes via stereotactic neurosurgery has become a standard procedure for the treatment of Parkinson's disease. More recently, the range of neuropsychiatric conditions and the possible target structures suitable for DBS have greatly increased. The former include obsessive compulsive disease, depression, obesity, tremor, dystonia, Tourette's syndrome and cluster-headache. In this article we argue that several of the target structures for DBS (nucleus accumbens, posterior inferior hypothalamus, nucleus subthalamicus, nuclei in the thalamus, globus pallidus internus, nucleus pedunculopontinus) are located at strategic positions within brain circuits related to motivational behaviors, learning, and motor regulation. Recording from DBS electrodes either during the operation or post-operatively from externalized leads while the patient is performing cognitive tasks tapping the functions of the respective circuits provides a new window on the brain mechanisms underlying these functions. This is exemplified by a study of a patient suffering from obsessive-compulsive disease from whom we recorded in a flanker task designed to assess action monitoring processes while he received a DBS electrode in the right nucleus accumbens. Clear error-related modulations were obtained from the target structure, demonstrating a role of the nucleus accumbens in action monitoring. Based on recent conceptualizations of several different functional loops and on neuroimaging results we suggest further lines of research using this new window on brain functions.
deep brain stimulation; action monitoring; motivation; subcortical nuclei; memory; nucleus accumbens; nucleus subthalamicus; electrophysiology
The use of D2/D3 dopaminergic agonists in Parkinson's disease (PD) may lead to pathological gambling. In a placebo-controlled double-blind study in healthy volunteers, we observed riskier choices in a lottery task after administration of the D3 receptor-preferring agonist pramipexole thus mimicking risk-taking behavior in PD. Moreover, we demonstrate decreased activation in the rostral basal ganglia and midbrain, key structures of the reward system, following unexpected high gains and therefore propose that pathological gambling in PD results from the need to seek higher rewards to overcome the blunted response in this system.
The Nucleus accumbens (Nacc) has been proposed to act as a limbic-motor interface. Here, using invasive intraoperative recordings in an awake patient suffering from obsessive-compulsive disease (OCD), we demonstrate that its activity is modulated by the quality of performance of the subject in a choice reaction time task designed to tap action monitoring processes. Action monitoring, that is, error detection and correction, is thought to be supported by a system involving the dopaminergic midbrain, the basal ganglia, and the medial prefrontal cortex. In surface electrophysiological recordings, action monitoring is indexed by an error-related negativity (ERN) appearing time-locked to the erroneous responses and emanating from the medial frontal cortex. In preoperative scalp recordings the patient's ERN was found to be significantly increased compared to a large (n = 83) normal sample, suggesting enhanced action monitoring processes. Intraoperatively, error-related modulations were obtained from the Nacc but not from a site 5 mm above. Importantly, cross-correlation analysis showed that error-related activity in the Nacc preceded surface activity by 40 ms. We propose that the Nacc is involved in action monitoring, possibly by using error signals from the dopaminergic midbrain to adjust the relative impact of limbic and prefrontal inputs on frontal control systems in order to optimize goal-directed behavior.
action monitoring; nucleus accumbens; event-related brain potentials; intracranial recordings; neurosurgery