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1.  A voxel-based lesion study on facial emotion recognition after penetrating brain injury 
The ability to read emotions in the face of another person is an important social skill that can be impaired in subjects with traumatic brain injury (TBI). To determine the brain regions that modulate facial emotion recognition, we conducted a whole-brain analysis using a well-validated facial emotion recognition task and voxel-based lesion symptom mapping (VLSM) in a large sample of patients with focal penetrating TBIs (pTBIs). Our results revealed that individuals with pTBI performed significantly worse than normal controls in recognizing unpleasant emotions. VLSM mapping results showed that impairment in facial emotion recognition was due to damage in a bilateral fronto-temporo-limbic network, including medial prefrontal cortex (PFC), anterior cingulate cortex, left insula and temporal areas. Beside those common areas, damage to the bilateral and anterior regions of PFC led to impairment in recognizing unpleasant emotions, whereas bilateral posterior PFC and left temporal areas led to impairment in recognizing pleasant emotions. Our findings add empirical evidence that the ability to read pleasant and unpleasant emotions in other people's faces is a complex process involving not only a common network that includes bilateral fronto-temporo-limbic lobes, but also other regions depending on emotional valence.
doi:10.1093/scan/nss041
PMCID: PMC3739908  PMID: 22496440
facial emotion recognition; voxel-based lesion symptom mapping; labeling task; basic emotions; traumatic brain injury
2.  Mental Paper Folding Performance Following Penetrating Traumatic Brain Injury in Combat Veterans: A Lesion Mapping Study 
Cerebral Cortex (New York, NY)  2012;23(7):1663-1672.
Mental paper folding is a complex measure of visuospatial ability involving a coordinated sequence of mental transformations and is often considered a measure of mental ability. The literature is inconclusive regarding the precise neural architecture that underlies performance. We combined the administration of the Armed Forces Qualification Test boxes subtest measuring mental paper folding ability, with a voxel-based lesion symptom mapping approach to identify brain regions associated with impaired mental paper folding ability. Using a large sample of subjects with penetrating traumatic brain injury and defined lesions studied over 2 time points, roughly 15 and 35 years post-injury, enabled us to answer the causal questions regarding mental paper folding impairment. Our results revealed that brain injury significantly exacerbates the decline of performance on mental paper folding tasks over time. Our study adds novel neuropsychological and neuroimaging support for parietal lobe involvement; specifically the right inferior parietal lobule (Broadmann's Area [BA] 40) and the left parahippocampal region (BAs 19, 36). Both areas were consistently associated with mental paper folding performance and demonstrate that the right parietal lobe and the left parahippocampal gyrus play an integral role in mental paper folding tasks.
doi:10.1093/cercor/bhs153
PMCID: PMC3673178  PMID: 22669970
inferior parietal; left hippocampal gyrus; lesion analysis; mental paper folding; penetrating head injury
3.  Oxytocin selectively increases perceptions of harm for victims but not the desire to punish offenders of criminal offenses 
The neuropeptide oxytocin functions as a hormone and neurotransmitter and facilitates complex social cognition and approach behavior. Given that empathy is an essential ingredient for third-party decision-making in institutions of justice, we investigated whether exogenous oxytocin modulates empathy of an unaffected third-party toward offenders and victims of criminal offenses. Healthy male participants received intranasal oxytocin or placebo in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, between-subjects design. Participants were given a set of legal vignettes that described an event during which an offender engaged in criminal offenses against victims. As an unaffected third-party, participants were asked to rate those criminal offenses on the degree to which the offender deserved punishment and how much harm was inflicted on the victim. Exogenous oxytocin selectively increased third-party decision-makers’ perceptions of harm for victims but not the desire to punish offenders of criminal offenses. We argue that oxytocin promoted empathic concern for the victim, which in turn increased the tendency for prosocial approach behavior regarding the interpersonal relationship between an unaffected third-party and a fictional victim in the criminal scenarios. Future research should explore the context- and person-dependent nature of exogenous oxytocin in individuals with antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy, in whom deficits in empathy feature prominently.
doi:10.1093/scan/nss026
PMCID: PMC3682434  PMID: 22368214
oxytocin; empathy; third-party decision-making; neurolaw; antisocial personality disorder; psychopathy
4.  Injured Brain Regions Associated with Anxiety in Vietnam Veterans 
Neuropsychologia  2013;51(4):686-694.
Anxiety negatively affects quality of life and psychosocial functioning. Previous research has shown that anxiety symptoms in healthy individuals are associated with variations in the volume of brain regions, such as the amygdala, hippocampus, and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. Brain lesion data also suggests the hemisphere damaged may affect levels of anxiety. We studied a sample of 182 male Vietnam War veterans with penetrating brain injuries, using a semi-automated voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping (VLSM) approach. VLSM reveals significant associations between a symptom such as anxiety and the location of brain lesions, and does not require a broad, subjective assignment of patients into categories based on lesion location. We found that lesioned brain regions in cortical and limbic areas of the left hemisphere, including middle, inferior and superior temporal lobe, hippocampus, and fusiform regions, along with smaller areas in the inferior occipital lobe, parahippocampus, amygdala, and insula, were associated with increased anxiety symptoms as measured by the Neurobehavioral Rating Scale (NRS). These results were corroborated by similar findings using Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI) anxiety scores, which supports these regions’ role in regulating anxiety.
In summary, using a semi-automated analysis tool, we detected an effect of focal brain damage on the presentation of anxiety. We also separated the effects of brain injury and war experience by including a control group of combat veterans without brain injury. We compared this control group against veterans with brain lesions in areas associated with anxiety, and against veterans with lesions only in other brain areas.
doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.01.003
PMCID: PMC3644343  PMID: 23328629
anxiety; traumatic brain injury; voxel-based lesion symptom mapping
5.  Preservation of General Intelligence following Traumatic Brain Injury: Contributions of the Met66 Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88733.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) promotes survival and synaptic plasticity in the human brain. The Val66Met polymorphism of the BDNF gene interferes with intracellular trafficking, packaging, and regulated secretion of this neurotrophin. The human prefrontal cortex (PFC) shows lifelong neuroplastic adaption implicating the Val66Met BDNF polymorphism in the recovery of higher-order executive functions after traumatic brain injury (TBI). In this study, we examined the effect of this BDNF polymorphism on the preservation of general intelligence following TBI. We genotyped a sample of male Vietnam combat veterans (n = 156) consisting of a frontal lobe lesion group with focal penetrating head injuries for the Val66Met BDNF polymorphism. Val/Met did not differ from Val/Val genotypes in general cognitive ability before TBI. However, we found substantial average differences between these groups in general intelligence (≈ half a standard deviation or 8 IQ points), verbal comprehension (6 IQ points), perceptual organization (6 IQ points), working memory (8 IQ points), and processing speed (8 IQ points) after TBI. These results support the conclusion that Val/Met genotypes preserve general cognitive functioning, whereas Val/Val genotypes are largely susceptible to TBI.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088733
PMCID: PMC3935849  PMID: 24586380
6.  BDNF Polymorphism–Dependent OFC and DLPFC Plasticity Differentially Moderates Implicit and Explicit Bias 
Cerebral Cortex (New York, NY)  2011;22(11):2602-2609.
This study examined the role of orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) plasticity in controlling implicit and explicit social biases. Normal controls and patients with varied OFC and DLPFC lesion size and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene, which promotes (methionine–valine [Met/Val] SNP) or stifles (valine–valine [Val/Val] SNP) plasticity in damaged PFC regions, completed measures of implicit and explicit social bias. Patients and controls demonstrated comparable levels of implicit bias, but patients with Met/Val SNPs exhibited less implicit bias when they had smaller OFC lesions compared with Val/Val patients with similar size lesions and those with large OFC lesions. Both patients and controls demonstrated patterns of explicit bias consistent with hypotheses. Patients with Met/Val SNPs exhibited less explicit bias when they had smaller DLPFC lesions sizes compared with Val/Val patients with similar size lesions and those with large DLPFC lesions. OFC lesion size and BDNF SNP type did not moderate explicit bias; DLPFC lesion size and BDNF SNP type did not moderate implicit bias (nor did other medial or lateral regions). Findings suggest that plasticity within specific PFC regions modulates the type and degree of social bias that individuals’ exhibit.
doi:10.1093/cercor/bhr337
PMCID: PMC3464413  PMID: 22123938
BDNF; implicit and explicit bias; PFC plasticity; social neuroscience; TBI
7.  Damage to the left ventromedial prefrontal cortex impacts affective theory of mind 
Studies investigating theory of mind (ToM) abilities (i.e. ability to understand and predict others’ mental states) have revealed that affective and cognitive functions play a significant role and that each of those functions are associated with distinct neural networks. Cognitive facets of ToM have implicated the medial prefrontal cortex, temporo-parietal junction and the anterior paracingulate cortex, whereas affective facets have implicated the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Although the vmPFC has repeatedly shown to be critical for affective functions, knowledge regarding the exact role of the left and right vmPFC in affective ToM is still obscure. Here, we compared performances of 30 patients with left, right and bilateral vmPFC lesions to two comparison groups (one without and one with brain injuries) on the Faux Pas Recognition task measuring the facets of ToM. We also investigated whether any deficits may be associated with other emotional measures, namely emotional empathy and emotional intelligence. Our results extend earlier findings by showing that the vmPFC is associated with abilities in affective ToM. More importantly, our results revealed that the left, and not the right vmPFC as indicated previously, is involved in affective ToM and that this deficit is associated with emotional intelligence.
doi:10.1093/scan/nsr071
PMCID: PMC3501703  PMID: 22021651
affective theory of mind; ventromedial prefrontal cortex; traumatic brain injury; emotional intelligence; empathy
8.  The Flexible Fairness: Equality, Earned Entitlement, and Self-Interest 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73106.
The current study explored whether earned entitlement modulated the perception of fairness in three experiments. A preliminary resource earning task was added before players decided how to allocate the resource they jointly earned. Participants’ decision in allocation, their responses to equal or unequal offers, whether advantageous or disadvantageous, and subjective ratings of fairness were all assessed in the current study. Behavioral results revealed that participants proposed more generous offers and showed enhanced tolerance to disadvantageous unequal offers from others when they performed worse than their presumed “partners,” while the reverse was true in the better-performance condition. The subjective ratings also indicated the effect of earned entitlement, such that worse performance was associated with higher perceived feelings of fairness for disadvantageous unequal offers, while better performance was associated with higher feelings of fairness for advantageous unequal offers. Equal offers were considered “fair” only when earned entitlement was even between two parties. In sum, the perception of fairness is modulated by an integration of egalitarian motivation and entitlement. In addition to justice principles, participants were also motivated by self-interest, such that participants placed more weight on entitlement in the better-performance condition than in the worse-performance condition. These results imply that earned entitlement is evaluated in a self-serving way.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0073106
PMCID: PMC3767679  PMID: 24039867
9.  Normative database of judgment of complexity task with functional near infrared spectroscopy – Application for TBI 
Neuroimage  2012;60(2):879-883.
The ability to assess frontal lobe function in a rapid, objective, and standardized way, without the need for expertise in cognitive test administration might be particularly helpful in mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), where objective measures are needed. Functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a reliable technique to noninvasively measure local hemodynamic changes in brain areas near the head surface. In this paper, we are combining fNIRS and frameless stereotaxy which allowed us to co-register the functional images with previously acquired anatomical MRI volumes. In our experiment, the subjects were asked to perform a task, evaluating the complexity of daily life activities, previously shown with fMRI to activate areas of the anterior frontal cortex. We reconstructed averaged oxyhemoglobin and deoxyhemoglobin data from 20 healthy subjects in spherical coordinate. The spherical coordinate is a natural representation of surface brain activation projection. Our results show surface activation projected from the medial frontopolar cortex which is consistent with previous fMRI results. With this original technique, we will construct a normative database for a simple cognitive test which can be useful in evaluating cognitive disability such as mild traumatic brain injury.
doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.01.104
PMCID: PMC3303953  PMID: 22306800
Near infrared spectroscopy; frameless stereotaxy; frontal cortex; group study
10.  An integrative architecture for general intelligence and executive function revealed by lesion mapping 
Brain  2012;135(4):1154-1164.
Although cognitive neuroscience has made remarkable progress in understanding the involvement of the prefrontal cortex in executive control, the broader functional networks that support high-level cognition and give rise to general intelligence remain to be well characterized. Here, we investigated the neural substrates of the general factor of intelligence (g) and executive function in 182 patients with focal brain damage using voxel-based lesion–symptom mapping. The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale and Delis–Kaplan Executive Function System were used to derive measures of g and executive function, respectively. Impaired performance on these measures was associated with damage to a distributed network of left lateralized brain areas, including regions of frontal and parietal cortex and white matter association tracts, which bind these areas into a coordinated system. The observed findings support an integrative framework for understanding the architecture of general intelligence and executive function, supporting their reliance upon a shared fronto-parietal network for the integration and control of cognitive representations and making specific recommendations for the application of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale and Delis–Kaplan Executive Function System to the study of high-level cognition in health and disease.
doi:10.1093/brain/aws021
PMCID: PMC3326251  PMID: 22396393
fronto-parietal network; general intelligence; executive function; voxel-based lesion–symptom mapping
11.  Fronto-parietal regulation of media violence exposure in adolescents: a multi-method study 
Adolescents spend a significant part of their leisure time watching TV programs and movies that portray violence. It is unknown, however, how the extent of violent media use and the severity of aggression displayed affect adolescents’ brain function. We investigated skin conductance responses, brain activation and functional brain connectivity to media violence in healthy adolescents. In an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment, subjects repeatedly viewed normed videos that displayed different degrees of aggressive behavior. We found a downward linear adaptation in skin conductance responses with increasing aggression and desensitization towards more aggressive videos. Our results further revealed adaptation in a fronto-parietal network including the left lateral orbitofrontal cortex (lOFC), right precuneus and bilateral inferior parietal lobules, again showing downward linear adaptations and desensitization towards more aggressive videos. Granger causality mapping analyses revealed attenuation in the left lOFC, indicating that activation during viewing aggressive media is driven by input from parietal regions that decreased over time, for more aggressive videos. We conclude that aggressive media activates an emotion–attention network that has the capability to blunt emotional responses through reduced attention with repeated viewing of aggressive media contents, which may restrict the linking of the consequences of aggression with an emotional response, and therefore potentially promotes aggressive attitudes and behavior.
doi:10.1093/scan/nsq079
PMCID: PMC3190206  PMID: 20934985
aggression; violence; functional magnetic resonance imaging; skin conductance response; Granger causality mapping
12.  Impairment of prosocial sentiments is associated with frontopolar and septal damage in frontotemporal dementia 
NeuroImage  2010;54(2):1735-1742.
Poets and philosophers have long acknowledged moral sentiments as key motivators of human social behavior. Prosocial sentiments, which include guilt, pity and embarrassment, enable us to care about others and to be concerned about our mistakes. Functional imaging studies have implicated frontopolar, ventromedial frontal and basal forebrain regions in the experience of prosocial sentiments. Patients with lesions of the frontopolar and ventromedial frontal areas were observed to behave inappropriately and less prosocially, which could be attributed to a generalized emotional blunting. Direct experimental evidence for brain regions distinctively associated with moral sentiment impairments is lacking, however. We investigated this issue in patients with the behavioral variant of frontotemporal dementia, a disorder in which early and selective impairments of social conduct are consistently observed. Using a novel moral sentiment task, we show that the degree of impairment of prosocial sentiments is associated with the degree of damage to frontopolar cortex and septal area, as assessed with 18-Fluoro-Deoxy-Glucose-Positron Emission Tomography, an established measure of neurodegenerative damage. This effect was dissociable from impairment of other-critical feelings (anger and disgust), which was in turn associated with dorsomedial prefrontal and amygdala dysfunction. Our findings suggest a critical role of the frontopolar cortex and septal region in enabling prosocial sentiments, a fundamental component of moral conscience.
doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.08.026
PMCID: PMC2997153  PMID: 20728544
frontopolar cortex; prefrontal cortex; subgenual; septal area; amygdala; orbitofrontal cortex; moral sentiment; emotion
13.  Developmental effects of aggressive behavior in male adolescents assessed with structural and functional brain imaging 
Aggressive behavior is common during adolescence. Although aggression-related functional changes in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and frontopolar cortex (FPC) have been reported in adults, the neural correlates of aggressive behavior in adolescents, particularly in the context of structural neurodevelopment, are obscure. We used functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the blood oxygenation level-depended signal and cortical thickness. In a block-designed experiment, 14–17-year old adolescents imagined aggressive and non-aggressive interactions with a peer. We show reduced vmPFC activation associated with imagined aggressive behavior as well as enhanced aggression-related activation and cortical thinning in the FPC with increasing age. Changes in FPC activation were also associated with judgments of the severity of aggressive acts. Reduced vmPFC activation was associated with greater aggression indicating its normal function is to exert inhibitory control over aggressive impulses. Concurrent FPC activation likely reflects foresight of harmful consequences that result from aggressive acts. The correlation of age-dependent activation changes and cortical thinning demonstrates ongoing maturation of the FPC during adolescence towards a refinement of social and cognitive information processing that can potentially facilitate mature social behavior in aggressive contexts.
doi:10.1093/scan/nsp036
PMCID: PMC3023076  PMID: 19770220
ventromedial prefrontal cortex; frontopolar cortex; fMRI; cortical thickness; neurodevelopment; trait anger
14.  Oxytocin Receptor Genetic Variation Promotes Human Trust Behavior 
Given that human trust behavior is heritable and intranasal administration of oxytocin enhances trust, the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene is an excellent candidate to investigate genetic contributions to individual variations in trust behavior. Although a single-nucleotide polymorphism involving an adenine (A)/guanine (G) transition (rs53576) has been associated with socio-emotional phenotypes, its link to trust behavior is unclear. We combined genotyping of healthy male students (n = 108) with the administration of a trust game experiment. Our results show that a common occurring genetic variation (rs53576) in the OXTR gene is reliably associated with trust behavior rather than a general increase in trustworthy or risk behaviors. Individuals homozygous for the G allele (GG) showed higher trust behavior than individuals with A allele carriers (AA/AG). Although the molecular functionality of this polymorphism is still unknown, future research should clarify how the OXTR gene interacts with other genes and the environment in promoting socio-emotional behaviors.
doi:10.3389/fnhum.2012.00004
PMCID: PMC3270329  PMID: 22347177
trust; oxytocin; social cognition; prosocial behavior; social interaction; oxytocin receptor gene; SNP
15.  Behavioral norms for condensed moral vignettes 
Moral judgment is an evaluation of the actions and character of a person made with respect to societal norms. Although many types of vignettes have been used in previous studies on moral beliefs and judgment, what is missing is a set of standardized common vignettes based in real life. The goal of this study was to provide researchers with stimuli that have values on several dimensions pertaining to moral judgment and whose underlying components are known. These values will allow researchers to select stimuli based on standardized ratings rather than on the results of pilot studies, while avoiding the limitations of the classic, abstract moral scenarios. Our study was composed of three phases, (i) collecting and shortening the vignettes, (ii) obtaining ratings of the vignettes on several dimensions including emotional intensity, degree of social norm violation, and level of harm or benefit caused and (iii) determining the underlying components of the vignettes by performing a factor analysis. We found three components that accounted for most of the variance: norm violation, social affect and intention. The resulting vignettes can be used in future parametric studies on moral judgment in behavioral, neuropsychological and functional imaging experiments.
doi:10.1093/scan/nsq005
PMCID: PMC2999756  PMID: 20154053
moral cognition; moral judgment; norms
16.  BDNF Polymorphism Predicts General Intelligence after Penetrating Traumatic Brain Injury 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27389.
Neuronal plasticity is a fundamental factor in cognitive outcome following traumatic brain injury. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a member of the neurotrophin family, plays an important role in this process. While there are many ways to measure cognitive outcome, general cognitive intelligence is a strong predictor of everyday decision-making, occupational attainment, social mobility and job performance. Thus it is an excellent measure of cognitive outcome following traumatic brain injury (TBI). Although the importance of the single-nucleotide polymorphisms polymorphism on cognitive function has been previously addressed, its role in recovery of general intelligence following TBI is unknown. We genotyped male Caucasian Vietnam combat veterans with focal penetrating TBI (pTBI) (n = 109) and non-head injured controls (n = 38) for 7 BDNF single-nucleotide polymorphisms. Subjects were administrated the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) at three different time periods: pre-injury on induction into the military, Phase II (10–15 years post-injury, and Phase III (30–35 years post-injury). Two single-nucleotide polymorphisms, rs7124442 and rs1519480, were significantly associated with post-injury recovery of general cognitive intelligence with the most pronounced effect at the Phase II time point, indicating lesion-induced plasticity. The genotypes accounted for 5% of the variance of the AFQT scores, independently of other significant predictors such as pre-injury intelligence and percentage of brain volume loss. These data indicate that genetic variations in BDNF play a significant role in lesion-induced recovery following pTBI. Identifying the underlying mechanism of this brain-derived neurotrophic factor effect could provide insight into an important aspect of post-traumatic cognitive recovery.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027389
PMCID: PMC3210804  PMID: 22087305
17.  Temporal Information Processing in Short- and Long-Term Memory of Patients with Schizophrenia 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26140.
Cognitive deficits of patients with schizophrenia have been largely recognized as core symptoms of the disorder. One neglected factor that contributes to these deficits is the comprehension of time. In the present study, we assessed temporal information processing and manipulation from short- and long-term memory in 34 patients with chronic schizophrenia and 34 matched healthy controls. On the short-term memory temporal-order reconstruction task, an incidental or intentional learning strategy was deployed. Patients showed worse overall performance than healthy controls. The intentional learning strategy led to dissociable performance improvement in both groups. Whereas healthy controls improved on a performance measure (serial organization), patients improved on an error measure (inappropriate semantic clustering) when using the intentional instead of the incidental learning strategy. On the long-term memory script-generation task, routine and non-routine events of everyday activities (e.g., buying groceries) had to be generated in either chronological or inverted temporal order. Patients were slower than controls at generating events in the chronological routine condition only. They also committed more sequencing and boundary errors in the inverted conditions. The number of irrelevant events was higher in patients in the chronological, non-routine condition. These results suggest that patients with schizophrenia imprecisely access temporal information from short- and long-term memory. In short-term memory, processing of temporal information led to a reduction in errors rather than, as was the case in healthy controls, to an improvement in temporal-order recall. When accessing temporal information from long-term memory, patients were slower and committed more sequencing, boundary, and intrusion errors. Together, these results suggest that time information can be accessed and processed only imprecisely by patients who provide evidence for impaired time comprehension. This could contribute to symptomatic cognitive deficits and strategic inefficiency in schizophrenia.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026140
PMCID: PMC3203868  PMID: 22053182
18.  The Role of the Met66 Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Allele in the Recovery of Executive Functioning after Combat-Related Traumatic Brain Injury 
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a member of the neurotrophin family, promotes survival and synaptic plasticity in the human brain. The Val66Met polymorphism of the BDNF gene interferes with intracellular trafficking, packaging, and regulated secretion of this neurotrophin. The human prefrontal cortex (PFC) shows lifelong neuroplastic adaption implicating the Val66Met BDNF polymorphism in the recovery of higher-order executive functions after traumatic brain injury (TBI). In this study, we examined the effect of this BDNF polymorphism on the recovery of executive functioning after TBI. We genotyped a sample of male Vietnam combat veterans consisting of a frontal lobe lesion group with focal penetrating head injuries and a non-head-injured control group for the Val66Met BDNF polymorphism. The Delis–Kaplan Executive Function System as a standardized psychometric battery was administrated to examine key domains of executive functions. The results revealed that the Met allele but not the hypothesized Val allele promotes recovery of executive functioning. Overall, the Met66 carriers in the lesion group performed as well as the Met66 carriers in the control group. The Met66 allele accounted for 6.2% of variance for executive functioning independently of other significant predictors including preinjury intelligence, left hemisphere volume loss, and dorsolateral PFC volume loss. The findings point to different mechanisms of the Val66Met BDNF gene in complex phenotypes under normal and pathological conditions. A better understanding of these mechanisms could be instrumental in the development and application of effective therapeutic strategies to facilitate recovery from TBI.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1399-10.2011
PMCID: PMC3195417  PMID: 21228168
19.  Self-Regulation of Amygdala Activation Using Real-Time fMRI Neurofeedback 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24522.
Real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (rtfMRI) with neurofeedback allows investigation of human brain neuroplastic changes that arise as subjects learn to modulate neurophysiological function using real-time feedback regarding their own hemodynamic responses to stimuli. We investigated the feasibility of training healthy humans to self-regulate the hemodynamic activity of the amygdala, which plays major roles in emotional processing. Participants in the experimental group were provided with ongoing information about the blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) activity in the left amygdala (LA) and were instructed to raise the BOLD rtfMRI signal by contemplating positive autobiographical memories. A control group was assigned the same task but was instead provided with sham feedback from the left horizontal segment of the intraparietal sulcus (HIPS) region. In the LA, we found a significant BOLD signal increase due to rtfMRI neurofeedback training in the experimental group versus the control group. This effect persisted during the Transfer run without neurofeedback. For the individual subjects in the experimental group the training effect on the LA BOLD activity correlated inversely with scores on the Difficulty Identifying Feelings subscale of the Toronto Alexithymia Scale. The whole brain data analysis revealed significant differences for Happy Memories versus Rest condition between the experimental and control groups. Functional connectivity analysis of the amygdala network revealed significant widespread correlations in a fronto-temporo-limbic network. Additionally, we identified six regions — right medial frontal polar cortex, bilateral dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, left anterior cingulate cortex, and bilateral superior frontal gyrus — where the functional connectivity with the LA increased significantly across the rtfMRI neurofeedback runs and the Transfer run. The findings demonstrate that healthy subjects can learn to regulate their amygdala activation using rtfMRI neurofeedback, suggesting possible applications of rtfMRI neurofeedback training in the treatment of patients with neuropsychiatric disorders.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024522
PMCID: PMC3169601  PMID: 21931738
20.  Lower Lateral Orbitofrontal Cortex Density Associated with More Frequent Exposure to Television and Movie Violence in Male Adolescents 
The relationship between cortical grey matter density and media violence exposure in healthy male adolescents was investigated using voxel-based morphometry and the Childrens’ Report of Exposure to Violence. Adolescents with more frequent exposure have lower left lateral orbitofrontal cortex density - a possible risk factor for altered socio-emotional functioning.
doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.11.196
PMCID: PMC2872635  PMID: 20472220
Voxel-based morphometry; media; aggression
21.  “Studying Injured Minds” – The Vietnam Head Injury Study and 40 Years of Brain Injury Research 
The study of those who have sustained traumatic brain injuries (TBI) during military conflicts has greatly facilitated research in the fields of neuropsychology, neurosurgery, psychiatry, neurology, and neuroimaging. The Vietnam Head Injury Study (VHIS) is a prospective, long-term follow-up study of a cohort of 1,221 Vietnam veterans with mostly penetrating brain injuries, which has stretched over more than 40 years. The scope of this study, both in terms of the types of injury and fields of examination, has been extremely broad. It has been instrumental in extending the field of TBI research and in exposing pressing medical and social issues that affect those who suffer such injuries. This review summarizes the history of conflict-related TBI research and the VHIS to date, as well as the vast range of important findings the VHIS has established.
doi:10.3389/fneur.2011.00015
PMCID: PMC3093742  PMID: 21625624
brain imaging; brain injury; brain lesion; neuropsychology
22.  Ventromedial prefrontal cortex modulates fatigue after penetrating traumatic brain injury 
Neurology  2010;74(9):749-754.
Background:
Fatigue is a common and disabling symptom in neurologic disorders including traumatic penetrating brain injury (PBI). Despite fatigue's prevalence and impact on quality of life, its pathophysiology is not understood. Studies on effort perception in healthy subjects, animal behavioral paradigms, and recent evidence in different clinical populations suggest that ventromedial prefrontal cortex could play a significant role in fatigue pathophysiology in neurologic conditions.
Methods:
We enrolled 97 PBI patients and 37 control subjects drawn from the Vietnam Head Injury Study registry. Fatigue was assessed with a self-report questionnaire and a clinician-rated instrument; lesion location and volume were evaluated on CT scans. PBI patients were divided in 3 groups according to lesion location: a nonfrontal lesion group, a ventromedial prefrontal cortex lesion (vmPFC) group, and a dorso/lateral prefrontal cortex (d/lPFC) group. Fatigue scores were compared among the 3 PBI groups and the healthy controls.
Results:
Individuals with vmPFC lesions were significantly more fatigued than individuals with d/lPFC lesions, individuals with nonfrontal lesions, and healthy controls, while these 3 latter groups were equally fatigued. VmPFC volume was correlated with fatigue scores, showing that the larger the lesion volume, the higher the fatigue scores.
Conclusions:
We demonstrated that ventromedial prefrontal cortex lesion (vmPFC) plays a critical role in penetrating brain injury–related fatigue, providing a rationale to link fatigue to different vmPFC functions such as effort and reward perception. The identification of the anatomic and cognitive basis of fatigue can contribute to developing pathophysiology-based treatments for this disabling symptom.
GLOSSARY
= Automated Anatomic Labeling;
= analysis of variance;
= Beck Depression Inventory;
= dorso/lateral prefrontal cortex;
= Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition;
= Neurobehavioral Rating Scale;
= nonfrontal lesion;
= penetrating brain injury;
= region of interest;
= Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV, Axis I;
= Vietnam Head Injury Study;
= ventromedial prefrontal cortex lesion.
doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181d25b6b
PMCID: PMC2836872  PMID: 20194914
23.  Fluid Intelligence Allows Flexible Recruitment of the Parieto-Frontal Network in Analogical Reasoning 
Fluid intelligence is the ability to think flexibly and to understand abstract relations. People with high fluid intelligence (hi-fluIQ) perform better in analogical reasoning tasks than people with average fluid intelligence (ave-fluIQ). Although previous neuroimaging studies reported involvement of parietal and frontal brain regions in geometric analogical reasoning (which is a prototypical task for fluid intelligence), however, neuroimaging findings on geometric analogical reasoning in hi-fluIQ are sparse. Furthermore, evidence on the relation between brain activation and intelligence while solving cognitive tasks is contradictory. The present study was designed to elucidate the cerebral correlates of geometric analogical reasoning in a sample of hi-fluIQ and ave-fluIQ high school students. We employed a geometric analogical reasoning task with graded levels of task difficulty and confirmed the involvement of the parieto-frontal network in solving this task. In addition to characterizing the brain regions involved in geometric analogical reasoning in hi-fluIQ and ave-fluIQ, we found that blood oxygenation level dependency (BOLD) signal changes were greater for hi-fluIQ than for ave-fluIQ in parietal brain regions. However, ave-fluIQ showed greater BOLD signal changes in the anterior cingulate cortex and medial frontal gyrus than hi-fluIQ. Thus, we showed that a similar network of brain regions is involved in geometric analogical reasoning in both groups. Interestingly, the relation between brain activation and intelligence is not mono-directional, but rather, it is specific for each brain region. The negative brain activation–intelligence relationship in frontal brain regions in hi-fluIQ goes along with a better behavioral performance and reflects a lower demand for executive monitoring compared to ave-fluIQ individuals. In conclusion, our data indicate that flexibly modulating the extent of regional cerebral activity is characteristic for fluid intelligence.
doi:10.3389/fnhum.2011.00022
PMCID: PMC3049247  PMID: 21415916
high fluid intelligence; geometric analogical reasoning; task difficulty; functional magnetic resonance imaging; parieto-frontal network
24.  An Evolutionarily Adaptive Neural Architecture for Social Reasoning 
Trends in neurosciences  2009;32(12):603-610.
Recent progress in cognitive neuroscience highlights the involvement of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in social cognition. Accumulating evidence demonstrates that representations within the lateral PFC enable people to coordinate their thoughts and actions with their intentions to support goal-directed social behavior. Despite the importance of this region in guiding social interactions, remarkably little is known about the functional organization and forms of social inference processed by the lateral PFC. Here we introduce a cognitive neuroscience framework for understanding the inferential architecture of the lateral PFC, drawing upon recent theoretical developments in evolutionary psychology and emerging neuroscience evidence about how this region may orchestrate behavior on the basis of evolutionarily adaptive social norms for obligatory, prohibited, and permissible courses of action.
doi:10.1016/j.tins.2009.09.001
PMCID: PMC2787908  PMID: 19782410
25.  The frontopolar cortex mediates event knowledge complexity: a parametric functional MRI study 
Neuroreport  2009;20(12):1093-1097.
Event knowledge is organized on the basis of goals that enable the selection of specific event sequences to organize everyday life activities. Although the medial prefrontal cortex represents event knowledge, little is known about its role in mediating event knowledge complexity. We used functional MRI to investigate the patterns of brain activation while healthy volunteers were engaged in the task of evaluating the complexity (i.e. numbers of events) of daily life activities selected on the basis of normative data. Within a left frontoparietal network, we isolated the medial frontopolar cortex as the only region that showed a linear relationship between changes in the blood oxygen level-dependent signal and changes in event knowledge complexity. Our results specify the importance of the medial frontopolar cortex in subserving event knowledge that is required to build and execute complex behavior.
doi:10.1097/WNR.0b013e32832e7ea5
PMCID: PMC2764527  PMID: 19590392
frontopolar cortex; hierarchy; humans; prefrontal cortex; sequence

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