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1.  Network-level reorganisation of functional connectivity following arm amputation 
Neuroimage  2015;114:217-225.
One of the most striking demonstrations of plasticity in the adult human brain follows peripheral injury, such as amputation. In the primary sensorimotor cortex, arm amputation results in massive local remapping of the missing hands' cortical territory. However, little is known about the consequences of sensorimotor deprivation on global brain organisation. Here, we used resting-state fMRI to identify large-scale reorganisation beyond the primary sensorimotor cortex in arm amputees, compared with two-handed controls. Specifically, we characterised changes in functional connectivity between the cortical territory of the missing hand in the primary sensorimotor cortex (‘missing hand cortex’) and two networks of interest: the sensorimotor network, which is typically strongly associated with the hand cortex, and the default mode network (DMN), which is normally dissociated from it. Functional connectivity values between the missing hand cortex and the sensorimotor network were reduced in amputees, and connectivity was weaker in individuals amputated for longer periods. Lower levels of functional coupling between the missing hand cortex and the sensorimotor network were also associated with emerged coupling of this cortex with the DMN. Our results demonstrate that plasticity following arm amputation is not restricted to local remapping occurring within the sensorimotor homunculus of the missing hand but rather produces a cascade of cortical reorganisation at a network-level scale. These findings may provide a new framework for understanding how local deprivation following amputation could elicit complex perceptual experiences of phantom sensations, such as phantom pain.
PMCID: PMC4461307  PMID: 25776216
Neuroimaging; Deprivation; Plasticity; Resting state networks; Somatosensory; Motor
2.  Changes in functional connectivity and GABA levels with long-term motor learning 
Neuroimage  2015;106:15-20.
Learning novel motor skills alters local inhibitory circuits within primary motor cortex (M1) (Floyer-Lea et al., 2006) and changes long-range functional connectivity (Albert et al., 2009). Whether such effects occur with long-term training is less well established. In addition, the relationship between learning-related changes in functional connectivity and local inhibition, and their modulation by practice, has not previously been tested.
Here, we used resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) to assess functional connectivity and MR spectroscopy to quantify GABA in primary motor cortex (M1) before and after a 6 week regime of juggling practice. Participants practiced for either 30 min (high intensity group) or 15 min (low intensity group) per day. We hypothesized that different training regimes would be reflected in distinct changes in brain connectivity and local inhibition, and that correlations would be found between learning-induced changes in GABA and functional connectivity.
Performance improved significantly with practice in both groups and we found no evidence for differences in performance outcomes between the low intensity and high intensity groups. Despite the absence of behavioral differences, we found distinct patterns of brain change in the two groups: the low intensity group showed increases in functional connectivity in the motor network and decreases in GABA, whereas the high intensity group showed decreases in functional connectivity and no significant change in GABA. Changes in functional connectivity correlated with performance outcome. Learning-related changes in functional connectivity correlated with changes in GABA.
The results suggest that different training regimes are associated with distinct patterns of brain change, even when performance outcomes are comparable between practice schedules. Our results further indicate that learning-related changes in resting-state network strength in part reflect GABAergic plastic processes.
•Long-term learning modulated functional connectivity.•Changes in functional connectivity correlated with performance outcome.•Long-term learning decreased GABA levels.•Learning-related changes in functional connectivity correlated with changes in GABA.
PMCID: PMC4405007  PMID: 25463472
Plasticity; Functional connectivity; GABA; Motor learning
3.  Gray matter volume is associated with rate of subsequent skill learning after a long term training intervention 
Neuroimage  2014;96(100):158-166.
The ability to predict learning performance from brain imaging data has implications for selecting individuals for training or rehabilitation interventions. Here, we used structural MRI to test whether baseline variations in gray matter (GM) volume correlated with subsequent performance after a long-term training of a complex whole-body task. 44 naïve participants were scanned before undertaking daily juggling practice for 6 weeks, following either a high intensity or a low intensity training regime. To assess performance across the training period participants' practice sessions were filmed. Greater GM volume in medial occipito-parietal areas at baseline correlated with steeper learning slopes. We also tested whether practice time or performance outcomes modulated the degree of structural brain change detected between the baseline scan and additional scans performed immediately after training and following a further 4 weeks without training. Participants with better performance had higher increases in GM volume during the period following training (i.e., between scans 2 and 3) in dorsal parietal cortex and M1. When contrasting brain changes between the practice intensity groups, we did not find any straightforward effects of practice time though practice modulated the relationship between performance and GM volume change in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These results suggest that practice time and performance modulate the degree of structural brain change evoked by long-term training regimes.
•Inter-individual differences in brain structure correlate with subsequent performance outcome.•Performance outcome plays an important role in positive structural brain change.•Performance outcome and amount of practice modulate structural brain change.
PMCID: PMC4075341  PMID: 24680712
Structural plasticity; Skill learning; MRI
4.  Polarity-specific effects of motor transcranial direct current stimulation on fMRI resting state networks☆ 
Neuroimage  2014;88(100):155-161.
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been used to modify motor performance in healthy and patient populations. However, our understanding of the large-scale neuroplastic changes that support such behavioural effects is limited. Here, we used both seed-based and independent component analyses (ICA) approaches to probe tDCS-induced modifications in resting state activity with the aim of establishing the effects of tDCS applied to the primary motor cortex (M1) on both motor and non-motor networks within the brain. Subjects participated in three separate sessions, during which resting fMRI scans were acquired before and after 10 min of 1 mA anodal, cathodal, or sham tDCS. Cathodal tDCS increased the inter-hemispheric coherence of resting fMRI signal between the left and right supplementary motor area (SMA), and between the left and right hand areas of M1. A similar trend was documented for the premotor cortex (PMC). Increased functional connectivity following cathodal tDCS was apparent within the ICA-generated motor and default mode networks. Additionally, the overall strength of the default mode network was increased. Neither anodal nor sham tDCS produced significant changes in resting state connectivity. This work indicates that cathodal tDCS to M1 affects the motor network at rest. In addition, the effects of cathodal tDCS on the default mode network support the hypothesis that diminished top-down control may contribute to the impaired motor performance induced by cathodal tDCS.
•Resting state BOLD fMRI data was acquired before and after tDCS applied to M1.•Cathodal tDCS increased inter-hemispheric correlations between the M1 hand areas.•Cathodal tDCS increased connectivity in ICA-generated motor and default networks.•Cathodal tDCS increased the overall strength of the default network.
PMCID: PMC3991849  PMID: 24287440
Transcranial direct current stimulation; Resting state connectivity; Functional MRI; Independent component analysis; Motor; Default mode
5.  Predicting behavioural response to TDCS in chronic motor stroke☆ 
Neuroimage  2014;85(Pt 3):924-933.
Transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) of primary motor cortex (M1) can transiently improve paretic hand function in chronic stroke. However, responses are variable so there is incentive to try to improve efficacy and or to predict response in individual patients. Both excitatory (Anodal) stimulation of ipsilesional M1 and inhibitory (Cathodal) stimulation of contralesional M1 can speed simple reaction time. Here we tested whether combining these two effects simultaneously, by using a bilateral M1–M1 electrode montage, would improve efficacy. We tested the physiological efficacy of Bilateral, Anodal or Cathodal TDCS in changing motor evoked potentials (MEPs) in the healthy brain and their behavioural efficacy in changing reaction times with the paretic hand in chronic stroke. In addition, we aimed to identify clinical or neurochemical predictors of patients' behavioural response to TDCS. There were three main findings: 1) unlike Anodal and Cathodal TDCS, Bilateral M1–M1 TDCS (1 mA, 20 min) had no significant effect on MEPs in the healthy brain or on reaction time with the paretic hand in chronic stroke patients; 2) GABA levels in ipsilesional M1 predicted patients' behavioural gains from Anodal TDCS; and 3) although patients were in the chronic phase, time since stroke (and its combination with Fugl–Meyer score) was a positive predictor of behavioural gain from Cathodal TDCS. These findings indicate the superiority of Anodal or Cathodal over Bilateral TDCS in changing motor cortico-spinal excitability in the healthy brain and in speeding reaction time in chronic stroke. The identified clinical and neurochemical markers of behavioural response should help to inform the optimization of TDCS delivery and to predict patient outcome variability in future TDCS intervention studies in chronic motor stroke.
•Ipsilesional M1 GABA levels predict motor gains from Anodal TDCS in chronic stroke.•Time since stroke and Fugl–Meyer score jointly predict response to Cathodal TDCS.•Bilateral motor cortex TDCS did not reliably change motor evoked potentials.•Bilateral motor cortex TDCS did not reliably change manual reaction time.
PMCID: PMC3899017  PMID: 23727528
Motor stroke; Plasticity; TDCS; Brain stimulation; Magnetic resonance spectroscopy; GABA
6.  Human connectomics — What will the future demand? 
Neuroimage  2013;80:541-544.
Significant resources are now being devoted to large-scale international studies attempting to map the connectome — the brain's wiring diagram. This review will focus on the use of human neuroimaging approaches to map the connectome at a macroscopic level. This emerging field of human connectomics brings both opportunities and challenges. Opportunities arise from the ability to apply a powerful toolkit of mathematical and computational approaches to interrogate these rich datasets, many of which are being freely shared with the scientific community. Challenges arise in methodology, interpretability and biological or clinical validity. This review discusses these challenges and opportunities and highlights potential future directions.
•Human connectomics bring both opportunities and challenges.•Biological interpretation remains challenging.•More work needed to demonstrate clinical utility
PMCID: PMC4330548  PMID: 23727322
7.  Diffusion imaging of whole, post-mortem human brains on a clinical MRI scanner 
Neuroimage  2011;57(1-4):167-181.
Diffusion imaging of post mortem brains has great potential both as a reference for brain specimens that undergo sectioning, and as a link between in vivo diffusion studies and “gold standard” histology/dissection. While there is a relatively mature literature on post mortem diffusion imaging of animals, human brains have proven more challenging due to their incompatibility with high-performance scanners. This study presents a method for post mortem diffusion imaging of whole, human brains using a clinical 3-Tesla scanner with a 3D segmented EPI spin-echo sequence. Results in eleven brains at 0.94 × 0.94 × 0.94 mm resolution are presented, and in a single brain at 0.73 × 0.73 × 0.73 mm resolution. Region-of-interest analysis of diffusion tensor parameters indicate that these properties are altered compared to in vivo (reduced diffusivity and anisotropy), with significant dependence on post mortem interval (time from death to fixation). Despite these alterations, diffusion tractography of several major tracts is successfully demonstrated at both resolutions. We also report novel findings of cortical anisotropy and partial volume effects.
Research highlights
► Acquisition and processing protocols for diffusion MRI of post-mortem human brains. ► Effect of post-mortem and scan intervals on diffusion indices. ► Tractography in post-mortem human brains. ► Radial diffusion anisotropy in cortical gray matter.
PMCID: PMC3115068  PMID: 21473920
Diffusion tensor imaging; Tractography; Post mortem; Human; Brain
8.  Age-related changes in grey and white matter structure throughout adulthood 
Neuroimage  2010;51(3-2):943-951.
Normal ageing is associated with gradual brain atrophy. Determining spatial and temporal patterns of change can help shed light on underlying mechanisms. Neuroimaging provides various measures of brain structure that can be used to assess such age-related change but studies to date have typically considered single imaging measures. Although there is consensus on the notion that brain structure deteriorates with age, evidence on the precise time course and spatial distribution of changes is mixed. We assessed grey matter (GM) and white matter (WM) structure in a group of 66 adults aged between 23 and 81. Multimodal imaging measures included voxel-based morphometry (VBM)-style analysis of GM and WM volume and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) metrics of WM microstructure. We found widespread reductions in GM volume from middle age onwards but earlier reductions in GM were detected in frontal cortex. Widespread age-related deterioration in WM microstructure was detected from young adulthood onwards. WM decline was detected earlier and more sensitively using DTI-based measures of microstructure than using markers of WM volume derived from conventional T1-weighted imaging.
PMCID: PMC2896477  PMID: 20211265
9.  Topography of connections between human prefrontal cortex and mediodorsal thalamus studied with diffusion tractography 
Neuroimage  2010;51(2):555-564.
Studies in monkeys show clear anatomical and functional distinctions among networks connecting with subregions within the prefrontal cortex. Three such networks are centered on lateral orbitofrontal cortex, medial frontal and cingulate cortex, and lateral prefrontal cortex and all have been identified with distinct cognitive roles. Although these areas differ in a number of their cortical connections, some of the first anatomical evidence for these networks came from tracer studies demonstrating their distinct patterns of connectivity with the mediodorsal (MD) nucleus of the thalamus. Here, we present evidence for a similar topography of MD thalamus prefrontal connections, using non-invasive imaging and diffusion tractography (DWI–DT) in human and macaque. DWI–DT suggested that there was a high probability of interconnection between medial MD and lateral orbitofrontal cortex, between caudodorsal MD and medial frontal/cingulate cortex, and between lateral MD and lateral prefrontal cortex, in both species. Within the lateral prefrontal cortex a dorsolateral region (the principal sulcus in the macaque and middle frontal gyrus in the human) was found to have a high probability of interconnection with the MD region between the regions with a high probability of interconnection with other parts of the lateral prefrontal cortex and with the lateral orbitofrontal cortex. In addition to suggesting that the thalamic connectivity in the macaque is a good guide to human prefrontal cortex, and therefore that there are likely to be similarities in the cognitive roles played by the prefrontal areas in both species, the present results are also the first to provide insight into the topography of projections of an individual thalamic nucleus in the human brain.
PMCID: PMC2877805  PMID: 20206702
Anatomy; DTI; Human; Macaque; Thalamus

Results 1-9 (9)