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1.  Age and experience shape developmental changes in the neural basis of language-related learning 
Developmental science  2011;14(6):1261-1282.
Very little is known about the neural underpinnings of language learning across the lifespan and how these might be modified by maturational and experiential factors. Building on behavioral research highlighting the importance of early word segmentation (i.e. the detection of word boundaries in continuous speech) for subsequent language learning, here we characterize developmental changes in brain activity as this process occurs online, using data collected in a mixed cross-sectional and longitudinal design. One hundred and fifty-six participants, ranging from age 5 to adulthood, underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while listening to three novel streams of continuous speech, which contained either strong statistical regularities, strong statistical regularities and speech cues, or weak statistical regularities providing minimal cues to word boundaries. All age groups displayed significant signal increases over time in temporal cortices for the streams with high statistical regularities; however, we observed a significant right-to-left shift in the laterality of these learning-related increases with age. Interestingly, only the 5- to 10-year-old children displayed significant signal increases for the stream with low statistical regularities, suggesting an age-related decrease in sensitivity to more subtle statistical cues. Further, in a sample of 78 10-year-olds, we examined the impact of proficiency in a second language and level of pubertal development on learning-related signal increases, showing that the brain regions involved in language learning are influenced by both experiential and maturational factors.
doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2011.01075.x
PMCID: PMC3717169  PMID: 22010887
2.  Cracking the Language Code: Neural Mechanisms Underlying Speech Parsing 
Word segmentation, detecting word boundaries in continuous speech, is a critical aspect of language learning. Previous research in infants and adults demonstrated that a stream of speech can be readily segmented based solely on the statistical and speech cues afforded by the input. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the neural substrate of word segmentation was examined on-line as participants listened to three streams of concatenated syllables, containing either statistical regularities alone, statistical regularities and speech cues, or no cues. Despite the participants’ inability to explicitly detect differences between the speech streams, neural activity differed significantly across conditions, with left-lateralized signal increases in temporal cortices observed only when participants listened to streams containing statistical regularities, particularly the stream containing speech cues. In a second fMRI study, designed to verify that word segmentation had implicitly taken place, participants listened to trisyllabic combinations that occurred with different frequencies in the streams of speech they just heard (“words,” 45 times; “partwords,” 15 times; “nonwords,” once). Reliably greater activity in left inferior and middle frontal gyri was observed when comparing words with partwords and, to a lesser extent, when comparing partwords with nonwords. Activity in these regions, taken to index the implicit detection of word boundaries, was positively correlated with participants’ rapid auditory processing skills. These findings provide a neural signature of on-line word segmentation in the mature brain and an initial model with which to study developmental changes in the neural architecture involved in processing speech cues during language learning.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5501-05.2006
PMCID: PMC3713232  PMID: 16855090
fMRI; language; speech perception; word segmentation; statistical learning; auditory cortex; inferior frontal gyrus
3.  Using Confirmatory Factor Analysis to Measure Contemporaneous Activation of Defined Neuronal Networks in Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging 
Neuroimage  2012;60(4):1982-1991.
Functional neuroimaging often generates large amounts of data on regions of interest. Such data can be addressed effectively with a widely-used statistical technique based on measurement theory that has not yet been applied to neuroimaging. Confirmatory factor analysis is a convenient hypothesis-driven modeling environment that can be used to conduct formal statistical tests comparing alternative hypotheses regarding the elements of putative neuronal networks. In such models, measures of each activated region of interest are treated as indicators of an underlying latent construct that represents the contemporaneous activation of the elements in the network. As such, confirmatory factor analysis focuses analyses on the activation of hypothesized networks as a whole, improves statistical power by modeling measurement error, and provides a theory-based approach to data reduction with a robust statistical basis. This approach is illustrated using data on seven regions of interest in a hypothesized mesocorticostriatal reward system in a sample of 262 adult volunteers assessed during a card-guessing reward task. A latent construct reflecting contemporaneous activation of the reward system was found to be significantly associated with a latent construct measuring impulsivity, particularly in males.
doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.02.002
PMCID: PMC3321108  PMID: 22348884
confirmatory factor analysis; functional neuroimaging; measurement theory; mesocorticostriatal reward system; impulsivity; sex differences
4.  Sleep quality and neural circuit function supporting emotion regulation 
Background
Recent laboratory studies employing an extended sleep deprivation model have mapped sleep-related changes in behavior onto functional alterations in specific brain regions supporting emotion, suggesting possible biological mechanisms for an association between sleep difficulties and deficits in emotion regulation. However, it is not yet known if similar behavioral and neural changes are associated with the more modest variability in sleep observed in daily life.
Methods
We examined relationships between sleep and neural circuitry of emotion using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and fMRI data from a widely used emotion regulation task focusing on cognitive reappraisal of negative emotional stimuli in an unselected sample of 97 adult volunteers (48 women; mean age 42.78±7.37 years, range 30–54 years old).
Results
Emotion regulation was associated with greater activation in clusters located in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), and inferior parietal cortex. Only one subscale from the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, use of sleep medications, was related to BOLD responses in the dmPFC and dlPFC during cognitive reappraisal. Use of sleep medications predicted lesser BOLD responses during reappraisal, but other aspects of sleep, including sleep duration and subjective sleep quality, were not related to neural activation in this paradigm.
Conclusions
The relatively modest variability in sleep that is common in the general community is unlikely to cause significant disruption in neural circuits supporting reactivity or regulation by cognitive reappraisal of negative emotion. Use of sleep medication however, may influence emotion regulation circuitry, but additional studies are necessary to determine if such use plays a causal role in altering emotional responses.
doi:10.1186/2045-5380-2-22
PMCID: PMC3542038  PMID: 23216889
Emotion; Emotion regulation; Sleep; Sleep quality; FMRI
5.  Altered integration of speech and gesture in children with autism spectrum disorders 
Brain and Behavior  2012;2(5):606-619.
The presence of gesture during speech has been shown to impact perception, comprehension, learning, and memory in normal adults and typically developing children. In neurotypical individuals, the impact of viewing co-speech gestures representing an object and/or action (i.e., iconic gesture) or speech rhythm (i.e., beat gesture) has also been observed at the neural level. Yet, despite growing evidence of delayed gesture development in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), few studies have examined how the brain processes multimodal communicative cues occurring during everyday communication in individuals with ASD. Here, we used a previously validated functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) paradigm to examine the neural processing of co-speech beat gesture in children with ASD and matched controls. Consistent with prior observations in adults, typically developing children showed increased responses in right superior temporal gyrus and sulcus while listening to speech accompanied by beat gesture. Children with ASD, however, exhibited no significant modulatory effects in secondary auditory cortices for the presence of co-speech beat gesture. Rather, relative to their typically developing counterparts, children with ASD showed significantly greater activity in visual cortex while listening to speech accompanied by beat gesture. Importantly, the severity of their socio-communicative impairments correlated with activity in this region, such that the more impaired children demonstrated the greatest activity in visual areas while viewing co-speech beat gesture. These findings suggest that although the typically developing brain recognizes beat gesture as communicative and successfully integrates it with co-occurring speech, information from multiple sensory modalities is not effectively integrated during social communication in the autistic brain.
doi:10.1002/brb3.81
PMCID: PMC3489813  PMID: 23139906
Autism spectrum disorders; fMRI; gesture; language; superior temporal gyrus
6.  Subgenual anterior cingulate responses to peer rejection: A marker of adolescents’ risk for depression 
Development and psychopathology  2011;23(1):283-292.
Extensive developmental research has linked peer rejection during adolescence with a host of psychopathological outcomes, including depression. Moreover, recent neuroimaging research has suggested that increased activity in the subgenual region of the anterior cingulate cortex (subACC), which has been consistently linked with depression, is related to heightened sensitivity to peer rejection among adolescents. The goal of the current study was to directly test the hypothesis that adolescents’ subACC responses are predictive of their risk for future depression, by examining the relationship between subACC activity during peer rejection and increases in depressive symptoms during the following year. During a functional magnetic resonance imaging scan, 20 13-year-olds were ostensibly excluded by peers during an online social interaction. Participants’ depressive symptoms were assessed via parental reports at the time of the scan and 1 year later. Region of interest and whole-brain analyses indicated that greater subACC activity during exclusion was associated with increases in parent-reported depressive symptoms during the following year. These findings suggest that subACC responsivity to social exclusion may serve as a neural marker of adolescents’ risk for future depression and have implications for understanding the relationship between sensitivity to peer rejection and the increased risk of depression that occurs during adolescence.
doi:10.1017/S0954579410000799
PMCID: PMC3229829  PMID: 21262054
7.  No Neural Evidence of Statistical Learning During Exposure to Artificial Languages in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders 
Biological psychiatry  2010;68(4):345-351.
Background
Language delay is a hallmark feature of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The identification of word boundaries in continuous speech is a critical first step in language acquisition that can be accomplished via statistical learning and reliance on speech cues. Importantly, early word segmentation skills have been shown to predict later language development in typically developing (TD) children.
Methods
Here we investigated the neural correlates of online word segmentation in children with and without ASD with a well-established behavioral paradigm previously validated for functional magnetic resonance imaging. Eighteen high-functioning boys with ASD and 18 age- and IQ-matched TD boys underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while listening to two artificial languages (containing statistical or statistical + prosodic cues to word boundaries) and a random speech stream.
Results
Consistent with prior findings, in TD control subjects, activity in fronto-temporal-parietal networks decreased as the number of cues to word boundaries increased. The ASD children, however, did not show this facilitatory effect. Furthermore, statistical contrasts modeling changes in activity over time identified significant learning-related signal increases for both artificial languages in basal ganglia and left temporo-parietal cortex only in TD children. Finally, the level of communicative impairment in ASD children was inversely correlated with signal increases in these same regions during exposure to the artificial languages.
Conclusions
This is the first study to demonstrate significant abnormalities in the neural architecture subserving language-related learning in ASD children and to link the communicative impairments observed in this population to decreased sensitivity to the statistical and speech cues available in the language input.
doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.01.011
PMCID: PMC3229830  PMID: 20303070
Autism; implicit learning; language; neuroimaging; speech perception
8.  The Neural Basis of Speech Parsing in Children and Adults 
Developmental science  2010;13(2):385-406.
Word segmentation, detecting word boundaries in continuous speech, is a fundamental aspect of language learning that can occur solely by the computation of statistical and speech cues. Fifty-four children underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while listening to three streams of concatenated syllables, which contained either high statistical regularities, high statistical regularities and speech cues, or no easily-detectable cues. Significant signal increases over time in temporal cortices suggest that children utilized the cues to implicitly segment the speech streams. This was confirmed by the findings of a second fMRI run where children displayed reliably greater activity in left inferior frontal gyrus when listening to ‘words’ that occurred more frequently in the streams of speech they just heard. Finally, comparisons between activity observed in these children vs. previously-studied adults indicate significant developmental changes in the neural substrate of speech parsing.
doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2009.00895.x
PMCID: PMC3229831  PMID: 20136936
fMRI; language; development; speech perception; word segmentation; statistical learning
9.  Neural correlates of social exclusion during adolescence: understanding the distress of peer rejection 
Developmental research has demonstrated the harmful effects of peer rejection during adolescence; however, the neural mechanisms responsible for this salience remain unexplored. In this study, 23 adolescents were excluded during a ball-tossing game in which they believed they were playing with two other adolescents during an fMRI scan; in reality, participants played with a preset computer program. Afterwards, participants reported their exclusion-related distress and rejection sensitivity, and parents reported participants’ interpersonal competence. Similar to findings in adults, during social exclusion adolescents displayed insular activity that was positively related to self-reported distress, and right ventrolateral prefrontal activity that was negatively related to self-reported distress. Findings unique to adolescents indicated that activity in the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (subACC) related to greater distress, and that activity in the ventral striatum related to less distress and appeared to play a role in regulating activity in the subACC and other regions involved in emotional distress. Finally, adolescents with higher rejection sensitivity and interpersonal competence scores displayed greater neural evidence of emotional distress, and adolescents with higher interpersonal competence scores also displayed greater neural evidence of regulation, perhaps suggesting that adolescents who are vigilant regarding peer acceptance may be most sensitive to rejection experiences.
doi:10.1093/scan/nsp007
PMCID: PMC2686232  PMID: 19470528
peer rejection; adolescence; functional magnetic resonance imaging

Results 1-9 (9)