Project

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The mechanistic role of brain oscillations in human cognition

Applicant Pagnotta Mattia Federico
Number 195083
Funding scheme Early Postdoc.Mobility
Research institution D'Esposito Lab University of California
Institution of higher education Institution abroad - IACH
Main discipline Neurophysiology and Brain Research
Start/End 01.10.2021 - 31.03.2023
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Neurophysiology and Brain Research
Psychology

Keywords (8)

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS); Electroencephalography (EEG); Neuronal oscillations; Brain connectivity; Attention; Cognition; Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); Dynamics

Lay Summary (Italian)

Lead
1. In sintesiLe oscillazioni neurali sono onnipresenti tra scale spaziali del cervello e studi precedenti suggeriscono che esse svolgono un ruolo chiave nei processi cognitivi. Tuttavia, il ruolo delle oscillazioni nella funzione cerebrale non è ben specificato e un’importante domanda rimane ancora senza risposta: le oscillazioni neurali sono semplicemente correlati di aspetti computazionali della cognizione umana o sono legate in modo causale ad essi?
Lay summary

2. Contenuto e scopo del progetto

Questo progetto ha lo scopo di chiarire il ruolo meccanicistico delle oscillazioni neurali e stabilire i meccanismi attraverso i quali le oscillazioni formano o rompono network nel nostro cervello, sia localmente che su larga-scala. Per raggiungere questi obiettivi, utilizzerò la stimolazione magnetica transcranica (TMS), simultaneamente con registrazioni di neuroimaging. Questo approccio mi consentirà di manipolare dall’esterno le oscillazioni neurali in specifiche regioni corticali e di testare causalmente i loro effetti su specifici network cognitivi.

3. Contesto scientifico e sociale del progetto

I risultati del progetto forniranno nuove rilevanti informazioni sul ruolo che le oscillazioni neurali giocano nel supportare aspetti computazionali e nel modulare connessioni funzionali tra aree cerebrali. Questi risultati hanno il potenziale di influenzare drasticamente il modo in cui investighiamo i network funzionali del cervello umano, per caratterizzare cognizione, percezione e azione. Inoltre, dato che diversi disturbi neurologici sono associati a profili oscillatori anormali (es. Morbo di Parkinson, ictus ed epilessia), la comprensione del ruolo delle oscillazioni per l'attività dei network cerebrali può avere un profondo impatto sul futuro sviluppo di strumenti diagnostici e paradigmi di trattamento, utilizzando tecniche di neurostimolazione.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 17.05.2021

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
1. LeadNeural oscillations are ubiquitous across brain spatial scales, and previous studies support the idea that oscillations play a key role in brain cognitive processes. However, the role of neural oscillations in brain function is underspecified and a major question remains unanswered: are they merely correlates of computational aspects in human cognition or are they causally linked to them?
Lay summary

2. Content and aim of the research project

This project aims to clarify the mechanistic role of neural oscillations and to reveal the mechanisms by which they establish or disrupt local and large-scale networks in our brain. To achieve these objectives, I will employ transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) concurrently with neuroimaging recordings, which will allow me to exogenously manipulate neural oscillations in specific cortical regions and to causally test their effects on cognitive networks.

3. Scientific and social context of the research project

The outcomes of the project are expected to provide relevant novel insights on the role of neural oscillations in supporting local computations and in modulating inter-areal connections. These have the potential to drastically impact the way in which we investigate brain functional networks, to characterize human cognition, perception, and action. Furthermore, given that several neurological disorders are associated with abnormal oscillatory profiles (e.g. Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and epilepsy), understanding the role of oscillations for brain network activity may have a profound impact on the future development of diagnostic tools and treatment paradigms with neuromodulation techniques.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 17.05.2021

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
183714 Dynamic Networks of Perception, Cognition and Action 01.04.2019 SNSF Professorships

Abstract

Several studies support the idea that neuronal oscillations play a key role in cognitive processes, but are these oscillations merely correlates of computational aspects in human cognition or are they causally linked to them? Recent studies were able to directly modulate neuronal oscillations using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and causally tested their role in brain cognitive networks. In particular, the group of Mark D’Esposito (project host) provided causal evidence for distinct roles of beta and gamma oscillations in attentional control. Their study, however, only examined the behavioral effects of exogenously-induced oscillations; it thus remains unclear how exactly these oscillations control the mechanisms of top-down and bottom-up attention in our brain.In this project, my goal is to reveal the mechanistic role of neuronal oscillations in attention and the mechanisms by which these oscillations establish brain cognitive networks. Specifically, I aim to: (1) corroborate the causal evidence for the distinct roles of beta and gamma oscillations in top-down and bottom-up attention; (2) determine the role of control played by fronto-parietal cortical regions in the attention network; (3) reveal the specific oscillatory mechanisms by which exogenously-induced beta and gamma oscillations disrupt attentional control; and (4) demonstrate how the signals from control regions influence neuronal representations in receiving cortical areas.To achieve these four objectives, I will employ functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) in separate experiments. In each experiment, TMS will be used concurrently with neuroimaging recordings, while healthy human participants perform a visual search task, which will allow me to directly modulate neuronal oscillations in specific cortical regions and to causally test their effects on the attention network. I will apply a functional connectivity approach to fMRI data to characterize large-scale network changes. Furthermore, I will employ time-varying connectivity methods and event-related phase-amplitude coupling (PAC) estimation on EEG data, to characterize the effects of exogenously-induced oscillations on inter-areal connections and local cross-frequency interactions, respectively.The first experiment will leverage fMRI spatial resolution to shed light on the large-scale network effects induced by oscillations in fronto-parietal cortical regions, whereas the second experiment will reveal frequency-specificity and dynamics of inter-areal and local interactions across regions in the attention network, using EEG better temporal resolution. Taken together, these findings will provide a comprehensive, causally-tested model of top-down and bottom-up attention, as well as of the mechanisms associated with beta and gamma oscillations and of the role of control played by regions in the fronto-parietal cortex, to support selective information routing and establishing brain cognitive networks. Since oscillatory effects have always been central in electrophysiological research and because abnormal oscillatory profiles have been linked to many neurological disorders, the findings of this project are expected to have profound impact not only on the way in which we investigate brain functional networks, but also on developing novel diagnostic and therapeutic tools.
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