The availability of oral fluid HIV rapid testing provides an approach that may have the potential to expand HIV testing in China, especially among most-a-risk populations. There are few investigations about the acceptability of oral fluid HIV testing among most-at-risk populations in China.
A cross-sectional study with men who have sex with men (MSM), female sex workers (FSW) and voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) clients was conducted in three cities of Shandong province, China from 2011 to 2012. Data were collected by face-to-face questionnaire.
About 71% of participants were willing to accept the oral fluid HIV rapid testing, and home HIV testing was independently associated with acceptability of the new testing method among MSM, FSW and VCT clients (AOR of 4.46, 3.19 and 5.74, respectively). Independent predictors of oral fluid HIV rapid testing acceptability among MSM were having ever taken an oral fluid HIV rapid test (AOR= 15.25), having ever taken an HIV test (AOR= 2.07), and education level (AOR= 1.74). Engagement in HIV-related risk behaviors (AOR= 1.68) was an independent predictor of acceptability for FSW. Having taken an HIV test (AOR= 2.85) was an independent predictor of acceptability for VCT clients. The primary concern about the oral fluid HIV testing was accuracy. The median price they would pay for the testing ranged from 4.8 to 8.1 U.S. dollars.
High acceptability of oral fluid HIV rapid testing was shown among most-at-risk populations. Findings provide support for oral rapid HIV testing as another HIV prevention tool, and provide a backdrop for the implementation of HIV home testing in the near future. Appropriate pricing and increased public education through awareness campaigns that address concerns about the accuracy and safety of the oral fluid HIV rapid testing may help increase acceptability and use among most-at-risk populations in China.
During speech perception, humans integrate auditory information from the voice with visual information from the face. This multisensory integration increases perceptual precision, but only if the two cues come from the same talker; this requirement has been largely ignored by current models of speech perception. We describe a generative model of multisensory speech perception that includes this critical step of determining the likelihood that the voice and face information have a common cause. A key feature of the model is that it is based on a principled analysis of how an observer should solve this causal inference problem using the asynchrony between two cues and the reliability of the cues. This allows the model to make predictions about the behavior of subjects performing a synchrony judgment task, predictive power that does not exist in other approaches, such as post-hoc fitting of Gaussian curves to behavioral data. We tested the model predictions against the performance of 37 subjects performing a synchrony judgment task viewing audiovisual speech under a variety of manipulations, including varying asynchronies, intelligibility, and visual cue reliability. The causal inference model outperformed the Gaussian model across two experiments, providing a better fit to the behavioral data with fewer parameters. Because the causal inference model is derived from a principled understanding of the task, model parameters are directly interpretable in terms of stimulus and subject properties.
causal inference; synchrony judgments; speech perception; multisensory integration; Bayesian observer
Lin28 plays important roles in development, stem cell maintenance, oncogenesis and metabolism. As an RNA-binding protein, it blocks the biogenesis primarily of let-7 family miRNAs and also promotes translation of a cohort of mRNAs involved in cell growth, metabolism and pluripotency, likely through recognition of distinct sequence and structural motifs within mRNAs. Here, we show that one such motif, shared by multiple Lin28-responsive elements (LREs) present in Lin28 mRNA targets also participates in a Drosha-dependent regulation and may contribute to destabilization of its cognate mRNAs. We further show that the same mutations in the LREs known to abolish Lin28 binding and stimulation of translation also abrogate Drosha-dependent mRNA destabilization, and that this effect is independent of miRNAs, uncovering a previously unsuspected coupling between Drosha-dependent destabilization and Lin28-mediated regulation. Thus, Lin28-dependent stimulation of translation of target mRNAs may, in part, serve to compensate for their intrinsic instability, thereby ensuring optimal levels of expression of genes critical for cell viability, metabolism and pluripotency.
Lin28; Drosha; stem cell; oncogene; RNA stability; metabolism
The Sun’s procedure is a surgical technique proposed by Dr. Li-Zhong Sun in 2002 that integrates total aortic arch replacement using a tetrafurcated graft with implantation of a specially designed frozen elephant trunk (Cronus®) in the descending aorta. It is used as a treatment option for extensive aortic dissections or aneurysms involving the ascending aorta, aortic arch and the descending aorta. The technical essentials of Sun’s procedure include implantation of the special open stented graft into the descending aorta, total arch replacement with a 4-branched vascular graft, right axillary artery cannulation, selective antegrade cerebral perfusion for brain protection, moderate hypothermic circulatory arrest at 25 °C, a special anastomotic sequence for aortic reconstruction (i.e., proximal descending aorta → left carotid artery → ascending aorta → left subclavian artery → innominate artery), and early rewarming and reperfusion after distal anastomosis to minimize cerebral and cardiac ischemia. The core advantage of Sun’s procedure lies in the use of a unique stented graft, which has superior technical simplicity, flexibility, inherent mechanical durability and an extra centimeter of attached regular vascular graft at both ends. Since its introduction in 2003, the Sun’s procedure has produced satisfactory early and long-term results in over 8,000 patients in China and more than 200 patients in South American countries. In a series of 1,092 patients, the authors have achieved an in-hospital mortality rate of 6.27% (7.98% in emergent or urgent vs. 3.98% in elective cases). Given the accumulating clinical experience and the consequent, continual evolution of surgical indications, the Sun’s procedure is becoming increasingly applied/used worldwide as an innovative and imaginative enhancement of surgical options for the dissected (or aneurysmal) ascending aorta, aortic arch and proximal descending aorta, and may become the next standard treatment for type A aortic dissections requiring repair of the aortic arch.
Sun’s procedure; frozen elephant trunk; aortic arch surgery; aortic dissection; aortic aneurysm
Acute type A aortic dissection (AAAD) remains one of the most lethal conditions requiring surgical repair, and is associated with a high rate of postoperative mortality and morbidity. Despite the satisfactory clinical outcomes achieved with the frozen elephant trunk technique so far, controversies still exist regarding the use of this aggressive approach in patients with AAAD. In this study, we seek to analyze the early outcomes of the Sun’s procedure, which is an approach integrating total arch replacement using a 4-branched graft with implantation of a special stented graft in the descending aorta, and identify the risk factors for postoperative mortality and morbidity of the Sun’s procedure in patients with AAAD.
Clinical data of 398 consecutive AAAD patients undergoing the Sun’s procedure were analyzed. The associations between 20 preoperative and intraoperative variables and early mortality were assessed by univariate and multivariate analysis.
Early mortality occurred in 31 patients (7.8%, 31/398), with leading causes including multi-organ failure in 16 patients (51.6%), permanent neurologic deficit in 6 (19.4%), and low cardiac output syndrome in 4 (12.9%). Permanent neurologic deficit and spinal cord injury occurred, each in 10 patients (2.5%, 10/398). Five significant risk factors for early mortality were identified with multivariate analysis: preexisting cerebrovascular disease [relative risk (RR) 14.76; P<0.001], acute heart failure (RR 18.18; P=0.001), spinal cord malperfusion (RR 60.13; P<0.002), visceral malperfusion (RR 30.25; P<0.001) and cardiopulmonary bypass time >190 minutes (RR 3.62; P=0.007).
The Sun’s procedure has generated a relatively lower mortality rate in 398 patients with AAAD. Patients with preexisting cerebrovascular disease, acute heart failure, spinal cord malperfusion, visceral malperfusion and long cardiopulmonary bypass time are at a higher risk of early mortality.
Aortic dissection; stented graft; surgery; outcome; mortality; complication
WRINKLED1 (AtWRI1) is a key transcription factor in the regulation of plant oil synthesis in seed and non-seed tissues. The structural features of WRI1 important for its function are not well understood. Comparison of WRI1 orthologs across many diverse plant species revealed a conserved 9 bp exon encoding the amino acids “VYL”. Site-directed mutagenesis of amino acids within the ‘VYL’ exon of AtWRI1 failed to restore the full oil content of wri1-1 seeds, providing direct evidence for an essential role of this small exon in AtWRI1 function. Arabidopsis WRI1 is predicted to have three alternative splice forms. To understand expression of these splice forms we performed RNASeq of Arabidopsis developing seeds and queried other EST and RNASeq databases from several tissues and plant species. In all cases, only one splice form was detected and VYL was observed in transcripts of all WRI1 orthologs investigated. We also characterized a phylogenetically distant WRI1 ortholog (EgWRI1) as an example of a non-seed isoform that is highly expressed in the mesocarp tissue of oil palm. The C-terminal region of EgWRI1 is over 90 amino acids shorter than AtWRI1 and has surprisingly low sequence conservation. Nevertheless, the EgWRI1 protein can restore multiple phenotypes of the Arabidopsis wri1-1 loss-of-function mutant, including reduced seed oil, the “wrinkled” seed coat, reduced seed germination, and impaired seedling establishment. Taken together, this study provides an example of combining phylogenetic analysis with mutagenesis, deep-sequencing technology and computational analysis to examine key elements of the structure and function of the WRI1 plant transcription factor.
Hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) regulation is highly dependent on interactions with the marrow microenvironment, of which osteogenic cells play a crucial role. While evidence is accumulating for an important role of intrinsic miR-17 in regulating HSCs and HPCs, whether miR-17 signaling pathways are also necessary in the cell-extrinsic control of hematopoiesis hereto remains poorly understood.
Using the immortalized clone with the characteristics of osteoblasts, FBMOB-hTERT, in vitro expansion, long-term culture initiating cell (LTC-IC) and non-obese diabetic/severe combined immunodeficient disease (NOD/SCID) mice repopulating cell (SRC) assay revealed that the ectopic expression of miR-17 partly promoted the ability of FBMOB-hTERT to support human cord blood (CB) CD34+ cell expansion and maintain their multipotency. It also seemed that osteoblastic miR-17 was prone to cause a specific expansion of the erythroid lineage. Conversely, deficient expression of miR-17 partly inhibited the hematopoietic supporting ability of FBMOB-hTERT. We further identified that HIF-1α is responsible for, at least in part, the promoted hematopoietic supporting ability of FBMOB-hTERT caused by miR-17. HIF-1α expression is markedly enhanced in miR-17 overexpressed FBMOB-hTERT upon interaction with CB CD34+ cells compared to other niche associated factors. More interestingly, the specific erythroid lineage expansion of CB CD34+ cells caused by osteoblastic miR-17 was abrogated by HIF-1α knock down.
Our data demonstrated that CB CD34+ cell expansion can be partly promoted by osteoblastic miR-17, and in particular, ectopic miR-17 can cause a specific expansion of the erythroid lineage through augmenting HIF-1α in osteoblasts.
The ability to search efficiently for a target in a cluttered environment is one of the most remarkable functions of the nervous system. This task is difficult under natural circumstances, as the reliability of sensory information can vary greatly across space and time and is typically a priori unknown to the observer. In contrast, visual-search experiments commonly use stimuli of equal and known reliability. In a target detection task, we randomly assigned high or low reliability to each item on a trial-by-trial basis. An optimal observer would weight the observations by their trial-to-trial reliability and combine them using a specific nonlinear integration rule. We found that humans were near-optimal, regardless of whether distractors were homogeneous or heterogeneous and whether reliability was manipulated through contrast or shape. We present a neural-network implementation of near-optimal visual search based on probabilistic population coding. The network matched human performance.
β-Lactamase residues in milk represent a public health risk. The cylinder plate detection method, which is based on bacterial growth, is laborious and time consuming. In this study, 15 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) were selected against Temoneira (TEM) 1 β-lactamase. A sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) based on an optimum mAb pair was developed and validated for the detection of β-lactamase. The limit of detection and linear dynamic range of the method were 4.17 ng/mL and 5.5–100 ng/mL, respectively. β-Lactamase recovery in pure milk was 96.82–103.13%. The intra- and inter-assay coefficients of variation were 6.21–7.38% and 12.96–13.74%, respectively. Our developed sandwich ELISA can be used as a rapid detection method of β-lactamase in milk.
β-lactamase; monoclonal antibody; sandwich ELISA; milk; detection
We have established a highly sensitive sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) based on two monoclonal antibodies (mAb) to measure the content of the major peanut allergen Ara h 1 in foods. Two mAbs were selected out of 12 murine hybridoma cells secreting Ara h 1-specific antibody. Using mAb 6 as the capture antibody and HRP-labelled mAb 4 as the detection antibody, the limit of detection (LOD) the assay was 0.34 ng/mL. Cross-reaction analysis showed that this method was strongly specific and had no cross-reactions with Ara h 2, pea protein or soy protein. Sample analysis showed that this ELISA was a useful tool to monitor peanut allergens in food products by measuring Ara h 1 content.
peanut allergen; Ara h 1; monoclonal antibody; sandwich ELISA
A monoclonal antibody specifically recognizing dibutyl phthalate (DBP) was prepared based on a hapten (di-n-butyl-4-aminophthalate). After optimizing various parameters such as concentrations of antibody, coating antigen and composition of the assay buffer, an inhibition curve was plotted with the 50% inhibition concentration value (IC50) 33.6 ± 2.5 ng/mL. A low level of cross-reactivity (<5%) was found for other phthalate esters. Recovery tests were conducted using liquor simulant (a mixture of water and ethanol) at two fortification levels (100 ng/mL and 300 ng/mL). The recovery rates ranged from 84.7% to 94.5% with a coefficient of variation between 7.1% and 12.8%. Nine liquor samples of different alcoholic strengths were detected using the proposed measure and confirmatory analysis was performed using liquid chromatography-mass spectroscopy (LC-MS). The detection results showed good consistency between the two measures and all the data above indicated that the proposed ELISA could be applied in DBP screening.
di-n-butyl phthalate; ELISA; liquor; monoclonal antibody
It has been reported that the prevalence of chronic diseases is high among old people and they have poor chronic diseases knowledge. This study was therefore designed to evaluate the awareness rate of chronic diseases knowledge among people aged over 60 years, to explore its related factors and to provide evidence for future health education.
A cross-sectional study was conducted from April to August in 2011. People aged 60 years and above from 3 communities in Jinan were selected by cluster sampling. Nine hundred and twenty five participants were interviewed face-to-face using a structured questionnaire.
The awareness rates of chronic diseases knowledge varied from 29.5% to 90.2%. Four healthy lifestyles including quitting smoking and less drinking, keeping broad-minded, maintaining balanced diet and moderate physical activity were best known (from 86.3% to 90.2%). The least known knowledge were 2 complications of hypertension: nephropathy (29.5%) and retinopathy (37.2%). Participants with the following characteristics or behaviors were more likely to have higher chronic diseases knowledge: younger age, female, Han Chinese, higher level of education, having health insurance, participating in societies, having family history of chronic diseases, frequently gathering with friends/relatives, usually going to provincial hospitals/hospitals affiliated with medical universities, usually going to municipal hospitals and usually going to community health center/station.
Old people in Jinan had incomplete chronic diseases knowledge and the overall awareness rate was not high. The older people’s chronic diseases knowledge should be improved and health education programs should target males, older people with lower educational level, having no health insurance, having no family history of chronic diseases, participating in no societies, and less frequently gathering with friends/relatives. Also, lower level medical facilities should improve their skills of health education.
Chiral nanoscale photonic systems typically follow either tetrahedral or helical geometries that require four or more different constituent nanoparticles. Smaller number of particles and different chiral geometries taking advantage of the self-organization capabilities of nanomaterials will advance understanding of chiral plasmonic effects, facilitate development of their theory, and stimulate practical applications of chiroplasmonics. Here we show that gold nanorods self-assemble into side-by-side orientated pairs and “ladders” in which chiral properties originate from the small dihedral angle between them. Spontaneous twisting of one nanorod versus the other one breaks the centrosymmetric nature of the parallel assemblies. Two possible enantiomeric conformations with positive and negative dihedral angles were obtained with different assembly triggers. The chiral nature of the angled nanorod pairs was confirmed by 4π full space simulations and the first example of single-particle CD spectroscopy. Self-assembled nanorod pairs and “ladders” enable the development of chiral metamaterials, (bio)sensors, and new catalytic processes.
Persistent and heavy rainfall in the upper and middle Huaihe River of China brought about severe floods during the end of June and July 2007. However, there has been no assessment on the association between the floods and infectious diarrhea. This study aimed to quantify the impact of the floods in 2007 on the burden of disease due to infectious diarrhea in northwest of Anhui Province.
A time-stratified case-crossover analysis was firstly conducted to examine the relationship between daily cases of infectious diarrhea and the 2007 floods in Fuyang and Bozhou of Anhui Province. Odds ratios (ORs) of the flood risk were quantified by conditional logistic regression. The years lived with disability (YLDs) of infectious diarrhea attributable to floods were then estimated based on the WHO framework of the calculating potential impact fraction in the Burden of Disease study.
A total of 197 infectious diarrheas were notified during the exposure and control periods in the two study areas. The strongest effect was shown with a 2-day lag in Fuyang and a 5-day lag in Bozhou. Multivariable analysis showed that floods were significantly associated with an increased risk of the number cases of infectious diarrhea (OR = 3.175, 95%CI: 1.126–8.954 in Fuyang; OR = 6.754, 95%CI: 1.954–23.344 in Bozhou). Attributable YLD per 1000 of infectious diarrhea resulting from the floods was 0.0081 in Fuyang and 0.0209 in Bozhou.
Our findings confirm that floods have significantly increased the risks of infectious diarrhea in the study areas. In addition, prolonged moderate flood may cause more burdens of infectious diarrheas than severe flood with a shorter duration. More attention should be paid to particular vulnerable groups, including younger children and elderly, in developing public health preparation and intervention programs. Findings have significant implications for developing strategies to prevent and reduce health impact of floods.
Growing evidence has demonstrated a neuroprotective role of autophagy in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Thus, autophagy has been regarded as a potential therapeutic target, attracting increasing interest in pharmaceutical autophagy modulation by small molecules. We designed a two-cycle screening strategy on the basis of imaging high-throughout screening (HTS) and cellular toxicity assay, and have identified a novel autophagy inducer known as GTM-1. We further showed that GTM-1 exhibits dual activities, such as autophagy induction and antagonism against Aβ-oligomer toxicity. GTM-1 modulates autophagy in an Akt-independent and mTOR-independent manner. In addition, we demonstrated that GTM-1 enhances autophagy clearance and reverses the downregulation of autophagy flux by thapsigargin and asparagine. Furthermore, administration of GTM-1 attenuated Aβ pathology and ameliorated cognitive deficits in AD mice.
This study aims to investigate the clinicopathologic significance of lymphatic vessel invasion (LVI) labeled by D2-40 monoclonal antibody in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC).
Immunohistochemical assay was used to detect the expression of D2-40 and LVI in 107 ESCC patients. Then, the correlation between the clinicopathologic feature and the overall survival time of the patients was analyzed.
The lymph node metastasis rates were 70% and 21% in the LVI-positive and LVI-negative groups, respectively. The nodal metastasis rate was higher in the LVI-positive group than in the LVI-negative group. Multivariate regression analysis showed that LVI was related to nodal metastasis (P<0.001). The median survival time of the patients was 26 and 43 months in the LVI-positive and LVI-negative groups, respectively. Although univariate regression analysis showed significant difference between the two groups (P=0.014), multivariate regression analysis revealed that LVI was not an independent prognostic factor for overall survival in the ESCC patients (P=0.062). Lymphatic node metastasis (P=0.031), clinical stage (P=0.019), and residual tumor (P=0.026) were the independent prognostic factors.
LVI labeled by D2-40 monoclonal antibody is a risk factor predictive of lymph node metastasis in ESCC patients.
Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma; lymphatic vessel invasion; D2-40; lymph node metastasis; prognosis
To identify the compounds absorbed in rat serum after the oral administration of Wu-Jia Sheng-Hua (WJSH) capsule, a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) compound prescription, an ultraperformance liquid chromatography coupled with electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (UPLC/ESI-MS) method, was established. The chromatographic separation of the absorbed compounds and metabolites was achieved with an ACQUITY UPLC BEH C18 column (2.1 mm × 50 mm, 1.7 μm) under a gradient elution. The mobile phase was composed of acetonitrile and water buffered with ammonium acetate (10 mM) and formic acid (0.1%, V/V). Twelve absorbed compounds and four metabolites were found. Seven of the absorbed compounds were identified by ESI-MS. The identification of absorbed compounds might be helpful for the better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the pharmacological effects of WJSH capsule.
Looking for a target in a visual scene becomes more difficult as the number of stimuli increases. In a signal detection theory view, this is due to the cumulative effect of noise in the encoding of the distractors, and potentially on top of that, to an increase of the noise (i.e., a decrease of precision) per stimulus with set size, reflecting divided attention. It has long been argued that human visual search behavior can be accounted for by the first factor alone. While such an account seems to be adequate for search tasks in which all distractors have the same, known feature value (i.e., are maximally predictable), we recently found a clear effect of set size on encoding precision when distractors are drawn from a uniform distribution (i.e., when they are maximally unpredictable). Here we interpolate between these two extreme cases to examine which of both conclusions holds more generally as distractor statistics are varied. In one experiment, we vary the level of distractor heterogeneity; in another we dissociate distractor homogeneity from predictability. In all conditions in both experiments, we found a strong decrease of precision with increasing set size, suggesting that precision being independent of set size is the exception rather than the rule.
visual search; visual attention; capacity limitations; precision; Bayesian inference
A sensitive and specific monoclonal antibody-based sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was established and validated for the detection of staphylococcal enterotoxin A (SEA). After routine fusion and selection, 10 monoclonal antibodies showed high affinity for SEA. An optimal pair for sandwich ELISA was selected by pairwise interaction analysis. After optimization, the limit of detection (LOD) and linear dynamic range of the method were established, and were found to be 0.0282 ng/mL and 0.06–2 ng/mL, respectively. The recovery in pure milk ranged from 82.67% to 111.95% and the intra- and inter-assay coefficients of variation ranged from 3.16% to 6.05% and from 5.16% to 10.79%, respectively. Cross-reactivity with staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB), staphylococcal enterotoxin C (SEC), staphylococcal enterotoxin D (SED), and staphylococcal enterotoxin E (SEE) in this method were insignificant. These results indicate that the sandwich ELISA method developed in our study is effective for routine identification of SEA in food samples.
staphylococcal enterotoxin A (SEA); monoclonal antibody; sandwich ELISA; detection
Quantum dots (QDs) have attracted increasing interest in bioimaging and sensing. Here, we report a biosensor of complex I using ubiquinone-terminated disulphides with different alkyl spacers (QnNS, n = 2, 5 and 10) as surface-capping ligands to functionalise CdSe/ZnS QDs. The enhancement or quenching of the QD bioconjugates fluorescence changes as a function of the redox state of QnNS, since QDs are highly sensitive to the electron-transfer processes. The bioconjugated QnNS-QDs emission could be modulated by complex I in the presence of NADH, which simulates an electron-transfer system part of the mitochondrial respiratory chain, providing an in vitro and intracellular complex I sensor. Epidemiological studies suggest that Parkinson's patients have the impaired activity of complex I in the electron-transfer chain of mitochondria. We have demonstrated that the QnNS-QDs system could aid in early stage Parkinson's disease diagnosis and progression monitoring by following different complex I levels in SH-SY5Y cells.
We assessed HIV prevalence and associated behaviors and risk factors among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Beijing, China. Five hundred MSM were recruited for a biological and behavioral survey using respondent-driven sampling (RDS) in 2009. Serologic specimens were tested for markers of HIV and syphilis infection. A computer-assisted personal interview (CAPI) administered questionnaire gathered information including demographic characteristics, sexual behaviors, HIV testing, and social norms concerning condom use. The adjusted HIV prevalence was 8.0%, syphilis 22.0%. HIV testing and disclosure was low; only 39.3% had HIV tested in the past 12 months, 49.7% knew their own HIV status and 22.8% knew their last male partner's HIV status. HIV infection was associated with syphilis, ever having sex with a woman, not knowing the HIV status of the most recent male partner, and never buying condoms in the past 12 months. Stronger endorsement of positive social norms around condom use strongly and predicted lower prevalence of HIV infection. Compared to surveys of similar design in the recent past, HIV continues to spread rapidly among Beijing's MSM. Our results identify points of intervention that, if addressed in time, may still alter the course of the epidemic including the promotion of HIV testing and partner disclosure, syphilis control and particularly changing social norms around condom use.
Change detection is a classic paradigm that has been used for decades to argue that working memory can hold no more than a fixed number of items (“item-limit models”). Recent findings force us to consider the alternative view that working memory is limited by the precision in stimulus encoding, with mean precision decreasing with increasing set size (“continuous-resource models”). Most previous studies that used the change detection paradigm have ignored effects of limited encoding precision by using highly discriminable stimuli and only large changes. We conducted two change detection experiments (orientation and color) in which change magnitudes were drawn from a wide range, including small changes. In a rigorous comparison of five models, we found no evidence of an item limit. Instead, human change detection performance was best explained by a continuous-resource model in which encoding precision is variable across items and trials even at a given set size. This model accounts for comparison errors in a principled, probabilistic manner. Our findings sharply challenge the theoretical basis for most neural studies of working memory capacity.
Working memory is a fundamental aspect of human cognition. It allows us to remember bits of information over short periods of time and make split-second decisions about what to do next. Working memory is often tested using a change detection task: subjects report whether a change occurred between two subsequent visual images that both contain multiple objects (items). The more items are present in the images, the worse they do. The precise origin of this phenomenon is not agreed on. The classic theory asserts that working memory consists of a small number of slots, each of which can store one item; when there are more items than slots, the extra items are discarded. A modern model postulates that working memory is fundamentally limited in the quality rather than the quantity of memories. In a metaphor: instead of watering only a few plants in our garden, we water all of them, but the more plants we have, the less water each will receive on average. We show that this new model does much better in accounting for human change detection responses. This has consequences for the entire field of working memory research.
Orientation tuning has been a classic model for understanding single neuron computation in the neocortex. However, little is known about how orientation can be read out from the activity of neural populations, in particular in alert animals. Our study is a first step towards that goal. We recorded from up to 20 well-isolated single neurons in the primary visual cortex of alert macaques simultaneously and applied a simple, neurally plausible decoder to read out the population code. We focus on two questions: First, what are the time course and the time scale at which orientation can be read out from the population response? Second, how complex does the decoding mechanism in a downstream neuron have to be in order to reliably discriminate between visual stimuli with different orientations? We show that the neural ensembles in primary visual cortex of awake macaques represent orientation in a way that facilitates a fast and simple read-out mechanism: with an average latency of 30–80 ms, the population code can be read out instantaneously with a short integration time of only tens of milliseconds and neither stimulus contrast nor correlations need to be taken into account to compute the optimal synaptic weight pattern. Our study shows that – similar to the case of single neuron computation – the representation of orientation in the spike patterns of neural populations can serve as an exemplary case for understanding of the computations performed by neural ensembles underlying visual processing during behavior.