Abstract: Motivated by conflicting evidence in the literature, we re-assessed the role of facial feedback when detecting quantitative or qualitative changes in others’ emotional expressions. Fifty-three healthy adults observed self-paced morph sequences where the emotional facial expression either changed quantitatively (i.e., sad-to-neutral, neutral-to-sad, happy-to-neutral, neutral-to-happy) or qualitatively (i.e. from sad to happy, or from happy to sad). Observers held a pen in their own mouth to induce smiling or frowning during the detection task. When morph sequences started or ended with neutral expressions we replicated a congruency effect: Happiness was perceived longer and sooner while smiling; sadness was perceived longer and sooner while frowning. Interestingly, no such congruency effects occurred for transitions between emotional expressions. These results suggest that facial feedback is especially useful when evaluating the intensity of a facial expression, but less so when we have to recognize which emotion our counterpart is expressing.
Abstract: Individuals with severe neuromuscular impairments face many challenges in communication and manipulation of the environment. Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) show promise in presenting real-world applications that can provide such individuals with the means to interact with the world using only brain waves. Although there has been a growing body of research in recent years, much relates only to technology, and not to technology in use—i.e., real-world assistive technology employed by users. This review examined the literature to highlight studies that implicate the human factors and ergonomics (HFE) of P300-based BCIs. We assessed 21 studies on three topics to speak directly to improving the HFE of these systems: (1) alternative signal evocation methods within the oddball paradigm; (2) environmental interventions to improve user performance and satisfaction within the constraints of current BCI systems; and (3) measures and methods of measuring user acceptance. We found that HFE is central to the performance of P300-based BCI systems, although researchers do not often make explicit this connection. Incorporation of measures of user acceptance and rigorous usability evaluations, increased engagement of disabled users as test participants, and greater realism in testing will help progress the advancement of P300-based BCI systems in assistive applications.
Abstract: GABAergic local circuit neurons are critical for the network activity and functional interaction of the amygdala and hippocampus. Previously, we obtained evidence for a GABAergic contribution to the hippocampal projection into the basolateral amygdala. Using fluorogold retrograde labeling, we now demonstrate that this projection indeed has a prominent GABAergic component comprising 17% of the GABAergic neurons in the ventral hippocampus. A majority of the identified GABAergic projection neurons are located in the stratum oriens of area CA1, but cells are also found in the stratum pyramidale and stratum radiatum. We could detect the expression of different markers of interneuron subpopulations, including parvalbumin and calbindin, somatostatin, neuropeptide Y, and cholecystokinin in such retrogradely labeled GABA neurons. Thus GABAergic projection neurons to the amygdala comprise a neurochemically heterogeneous group of cells from different interneuron populations, well situated to control network activity patterns in the amygdalo-hippocampal system.
Abstract: Dystrophin-glycoprotein complex (DGC) is an important structural unit in skeletal muscle that connects the cytoskeleton (f-actin) of a muscle fiber to the extracellular matrix (ECM). Several muscular dystrophies, such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Becker muscular dystrophy, congenital muscular dystrophies (dystroglycanopathies), and limb-girdle muscular dystrophies (sarcoglycanopathies), are caused by mutations in the different DGC components. Although many early studies indicated DGC plays a crucial mechanical role in maintaining the structural integrity of skeletal muscle, recent studies identified novel roles of DGC. Beyond a mechanical role, these DGC members play important signaling roles and act as a scaffold for various signaling pathways. For example, neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS), which is localized at the muscle membrane by DGC members (dystrophin and syntrophins), plays an important role in the regulation of the blood flow during exercise. DGC also plays important roles at the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) and in the brain. In this review, we will focus on recently identified roles of DGC particularly in exercise and the brain.
Abstract: Stress is a major driving force in alcohol use disorders (AUDs). It influences how much one consumes, craving intensity and whether an abstinent individual will return to harmful alcohol consumption. We are most vulnerable to the effects of stress during early development, and exposure to multiple traumatic early life events dramatically increases the risk for AUDs. However, not everyone exposed to early life stress will develop an AUD. The mechanisms determining whether an individual’s brain adapts and becomes resilient to the effects of stress or succumbs and is unable to cope with stress remain elusive. Emerging evidence suggests that neuroplastic changes in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) following early life stress underlie the development of AUDs. This review discusses the impact of early life stress on NAc structure and function, how these changes affect cholinergic signaling within the mesolimbic reward pathway and the role nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) play in this process. Understanding the neural pathways and mechanism determining stress resilience or susceptibility will improve our ability to identify individuals susceptible to developing AUDs, formulate cognitive interventions to prevent AUDs in susceptible individuals and to elucidate and enhance potential therapeutic targets, such as the nAChRs, for those struggling to overcome an AUD.
Abstract: The mechanism by which the hippocampus facilitates declarative memory formation appears to involve, among other things, restructuring of the actin cytoskeleton within neuronal dendrites. One protein involved in this process is cortactin, which is an important link between extracellular signaling and cytoskeletal reorganization. In this paper, we demonstrate that total hippocampal cortactin, as well as Y421-phosphorylated cortactin are transiently reduced following spatial working memory formation in the radial arm maze (RAM). Because cortactin is a substrate of the cysteine protease calpain, we also assessed the effect of chronic calpain inhibition on RAM performance and cortactin expression. Calpain inhibition impaired spatial working memory and blocked the reduction in hippocampal cortactin levels following RAM training. These findings add to a growing body of research implicating cortactin and calpain in hippocampus-dependent memory formation.