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1.  Interactions between Affective and Cognitive Processing Systems in Problematic Gamblers: A Functional Connectivity Study 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49923.
Motivational and cognitive abnormalities are frequently reported in pathological gambling. However, studies simultaneously investigating motivational and cognitive processing in problematic gamblers are lacking, limiting our understanding of the interplay between these systems in problematic gambling. Studies in non-clinical samples indicate that interactions between dorsal “executive” and ventral “affective” processing systems are necessary for adequate responses in various emotive situations.
We conducted a generalized Psycho-Physiological Interaction (gPPI) analysis to assess the influence of affective stimuli on changes in functional connectivity associated with response inhibition in 16 treatment seeking problematic gamblers (PRGs) and 15 healthy controls (HCs) using an affective Go-NoGo fMRI paradigm including neutral, gambling-related, positive and negative pictures as neutral and affective conditions.
Across groups, task performance accuracy during neutral inhibition trials was positively correlated with functional connectivity between the left caudate and the right middle frontal cortex. During inhibition in the gambling condition, only in PRGs accuracy of task performance was positively correlated with functional connectivity within sub-regions of the dorsal executive system. Group interactions showed that during neutral inhibition, HCs exhibited greater functional connectivity between the left caudate and occipital cortex than PRGs. In contrast, during inhibition in the positive condition, PRGs compared to HCs showed greater functional connectivity between the left caudate and occipital cortex. During inhibition trials in the negative condition, a stronger functional connectivity between the left caudate and the right anterior cingulate cortex in PRGs compared to HCs was present. There were no group interactions during inhibition in the gambling condition.
During gamble inhibition PRGs seem to benefit more from functional connectivity within the dorsal executive system than HCs, because task accuracy in this condition in PRGs is positively correlated with functional connectivity, although the groups show similar connectivity patterns during gamble inhibition. Greater functional connectivity between the ventral affective system and the dorsal executive system in PRGs in the affective conditions compared to HCs, suggests facilitation of the dorsal executive system when affective stimuli are present specifically in PRGs.
PMCID: PMC3509135  PMID: 23209619
2.  Is There a Role for Combined EMG-fMRI in Exploring the Pathophysiology of Essential Tremor and Improving Functional Neurosurgery? 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e46234.
Functional MRI combined with electromyography (EMG-fMRI) is a new technique to investigate the functional association of movement to brain activations. Thalamic stereotactic surgery is effective in reducing tremor. However, while some patients have satisfying benefit, others have only partial or temporary relief. This could be due to suboptimal targeting in some cases. By identifying tremor-related areas, EMG-fMRI could provide more insight into the pathophysiology of tremor and be potentially useful in refining surgical targeting.
Aim of the study was to evaluate whether EMG-fMRI could detect blood oxygen level dependent brain activations associated with tremor in patients with Essential Tremor. Second, we explored whether EMG-fMRI could improve the delineation of targets for stereotactic surgery.
Simultaneous EMG-fMRI was performed in six Essential Tremor patients with unilateral thalamotomy. EMG was recorded from the trembling arm (non-operated side) and from the contralateral arm (operated side). Protocols were designed to study brain activations related to voluntary muscle contractions and postural tremor.
Analysis with the EMG regressor was able to show the association of voluntary movements with activity in the contralateral motor cortex and supplementary motor area, and ipsilateral cerebellum. The EMG tremor frequency regressor showed an association between tremor and activity in the ipsilateral cerebellum and contralateral thalamus. The activation spot in the thalamus varied across patients and did not correspond to the thalamic nucleus ventralis intermedius.
EMG-fMRI is potentially useful in detecting brain activations associated with tremor in patients with Essential Tremor. The technique must be further developed before being useful in supporting targeting for stereotactic surgery.
PMCID: PMC3462183  PMID: 23049695
3.  The association between cingulate cortex glutamate concentration and delay discounting is mediated by resting state functional connectivity 
Brain and Behavior  2012;2(5):553-562.
Humans vary in their ability to delay gratification and impulsive decision making is a common feature in various psychiatric disorders. The level of delay discounting is a relatively stable psychological trait, and therefore neural processes implicated in delay discounting are likely to be based on the overall functional organization of the brain (under task-free conditions) in which state-dependent shifts from baseline levels occur. The current study investigated whether delay discounting can be predicted by intrinsic properties of brain functioning. Fourteen healthy male subjects performed a delay discounting task. In addition, resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (¹H MRS) were used to investigate the relationship between individual differences in delay discounting and molecular and regional measures of resting state (baseline) activity of dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC). Results showed that delay discounting was associated with both dACC glutamate concentrations and resting state functional connectivity of the dACC with a midbrain region including ventral tegmental area and substantia nigra. In addition, a neural pathway was established, showing that the effect of glutamate concentrations in the dACC on delay discounting is mediated by functional connectivity of the dACC with the midbrain. The current findings are important to acknowledge because spontaneous intrinsic brain processes have been proposed to be a potential promising biomarker of disease and impulsive decision making is associated with several psychiatric disorders.
PMCID: PMC3489808  PMID: 23139901
Anterior cingulate cortex; delay discounting; glutamate; impulsive decision making; magnetic resonance spectroscopy; resting state fMRI
4.  Increased whole-body auditory startle reflex and autonomic reactivity in children with anxiety disorders 
Young patients with anxiety disorders are thought to have a hypersensitive fear system, including alterations of the early sensorimotor processing of threatening information. However, there is equivocal support in auditory blink response studies for an enlarged auditory startle reflex (ASR) in such patients. We sought to investigate the ASR measured over multiple muscles (whole-body) in children and adolescents with anxiety disorders.
Between August and December 2006, we assessed ASRs (elicited by 8 consecutive tones of 104 dB, interstimulus interval of about 2 min) in 25 patients and 25 matched controls using a case–control design and in 9 nonaffected siblings. We recorded the electromyographic activity of 6 muscles and the sympathetic skin response. We investigated response occurrence (probability %) and response magnitude (area under the curve in μV × ms) of the combined response of 6 muscles and of the single blink response.
In patients (17 girls, mean age 12 years; 13 social phobia, 9 generalized anxiety, 3 other), the combined response probability (p = 0.027) of all muscles, the combined area under the curve of all muscles (p = 0.011) and the sympathetic skin response (p = 0.006) were enlarged compared with matched controls. The response probability (p = 0.48) and area under the curve (p = 0.07) of the blink response were normal in patients compared with controls. The ASR pattern was normal with normal latencies in patients compared with controls. In nonaffected siblings, the sympathetic skin response (p = 0.038), but not the combined response probability of all muscles (p = 0.15), was enlarged compared with controls.
Limitations are the sample size and restricted comparison to the psychophysiological ASR paradigm.
The results point toward a hypersensitive central nervous system (fear system), including early sensorimotor processing alterations and autonomic hyperreactivity. The multiple muscle (whole-body) ASR is suggested to be a better tool to detect ASR abnormalities in patients with anxiety disorders than the blink response alone. Abnormalities in ASR serve as a candidate endophenotype of anxiety disorders.
PMCID: PMC2702449  PMID: 19568483

Results 1-4 (4)