Abstract: Rhythm as the time structure of music is composed of distinct temporal components such as pattern, meter, and tempo. Each feature requires different computational processes: meter involves representing repeating cycles of strong and weak beats; pattern involves representing intervals at each local time point which vary in length across segments and are linked hierarchically; and tempo requires representing frequency rates of underlying pulse structures. We explored whether distinct rhythmic elements engage different neural mechanisms by recording brain activity of adult musicians and non-musicians with positron emission tomography (PET) as they made covert same-different discriminations of (a) pairs of rhythmic, monotonic tone sequences representing changes in pattern, tempo, and meter, and (b) pairs of isochronous melodies. Common to pattern, meter, and tempo tasks were focal activities in right, or bilateral, areas of frontal, cingulate, parietal, prefrontal, temporal, and cerebellar cortices. Meter processing alone activated areas in right prefrontal and inferior frontal cortex associated with more cognitive and abstract representations. Pattern processing alone recruited right cortical areas involved in different kinds of auditory processing. Tempo processing alone engaged mechanisms subserving somatosensory and premotor information (e.g., posterior insula, postcentral gyrus). Melody produced activity different from the rhythm conditions (e.g., right anterior insula and various cerebellar areas). These exploratory findings suggest the outlines of some distinct neural components underlying the components of rhythmic structure.
Abstract: In recent years, musicians have been increasingly recruited to investigate grey and white matter neuroplasticity induced by skill acquisition. The development of Diffusion Tensor Magnetic Resonance Imaging (DT-MRI) has allowed more detailed investigation of white matter connections within the brain, addressing questions about the effect of musical training on connectivity between specific brain regions. Here, current DT-MRI analysis techniques are discussed and the available evidence from DT-MRI studies into differences in white matter architecture between musicians and non-musicians is reviewed. Collectively, the existing literature tends to support the hypothesis that musical training can induce changes in cross-hemispheric connections, with significant differences frequently reported in various regions of the corpus callosum of musicians compared with non-musicians. However, differences found in intra-hemispheric fibres have not always been replicated, while findings regarding the internal capsule and corticospinal tracts appear to be contradictory. There is also recent evidence to suggest that variances in white matter structure in non-musicians may correlate with their ability to learn musical skills, offering an alternative explanation for the structural differences observed between musicians and non-musicians. Considering the inconsistencies in the current literature, possible reasons for conflicting results are offered, along with suggestions for future research in this area.
Abstract: Patients with conversion disorder generally suffer from a severe neurological deficit which cannot be attributed to a structural neurological damage. In two patients with acute conversion paraplegia, investigation with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) showed that the insular cortex, a limbic-related cortex involved in body-representation and subjective emotional experience, was activated not only during attempt to move the paralytic body-parts, but also during mental imagery of their movements. In addition, mental rotation of affected body-parts was found to be disturbed, as compared to unaffected body parts or external objects. fMRI during mental rotation of the paralytic body-part showed an activation of another limbic related region, the anterior cingulate cortex. These data suggest that conversion paraplegia is associated with pathological activity in limbic structures involved in body representation and a deficit in mental processing of the affected body-parts.
Abstract: Williams syndrome (WS), a genetic neurodevelopmental disorder, has been taken as evidence that music and language constitute separate modules. This research focused on the linguistic component of prosody and aimed to assess whether relationships exist between the pitch processing mechanisms for music and prosody in WS. Children with WS and typically developing individuals were presented with a musical pitch and two prosody discrimination tasks. In the musical pitch discrimination task, participants were required to distinguish whether two musical tones were the same or different. The prosody discrimination tasks evaluated participants’ skills for discriminating pairs of prosodic contours based on pitch or pitch, loudness and length, jointly. In WS, musical pitch discrimination was significantly correlated with performance on the prosody task assessing the discrimination of prosodic contours based on pitch only. Furthermore, musical pitch discrimination skills predicted performance on the prosody task based on pitch, and this relationship was not better explained by chronological age, vocabulary or auditory memory. These results suggest that children with WS process pitch in music and prosody through shared mechanisms. We discuss the implications of these results for theories of cognitive modularity. The implications of these results for intervention programs for individuals with WS are also discussed.
Abstract: Propofol is a general anesthetic widely used in surgical procedures, including those in pregnant women. Preclinical studies suggest that propofol may cause neuronal injury to the offspring of primates if it is administered during pregnancy. However, it is unknown whether those neuronal changes would lead to long-term behavioral deficits in the offspring. In this study, propofol (0.4 mg/kg/min, IV, 2 h), saline, or intralipid solution was administered to pregnant rats on gestational day 18. We detected increased levels of cleaved caspase-3 in fetal brain at 6 h after propofol exposure. The neuronal density of the hippocampus of offspring was reduced significantly on postnatal day 10 (P10) and P28. Synaptophysin levels were also significantly reduced on P28. Furthermore, exploratory and learning behaviors of offspring rats (started at P28) were assessed in open-field trial and eight-arm radial maze. The offspring from propofol-treated dams showed significantly less exploratory activity in the open-field test and less spatial learning in the eight-arm radial maze. Thus, this study suggested that propofol exposure during pregnancy in rat increasedcleavedcaspsase-3 levels in fetal brain, deletion of neurons, reduced synaptophysin levels in the hippocampal region, and persistent learning deficits in the offspring.
Abstract: New paradigms are required in Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) systems for the needs and expectations of healthy people. To solve this issue, we explore the emerging field of cooperative BCIs, which involves several users in a single BCI system. Contrary to classical BCIs that are dependent on the unique subject’s will, cooperative BCIs are used for problem solving tasks where several people shall be engaged by sharing a common goal. Similarly as combining trials over time improves performance, combining trials across subjects can significantly improve performance compared with when only a single user is involved. Yet, cooperative BCIs may only be used in particular settings, and new paradigms must be proposed to efficiently use this approach. The possible benefits of using several subjects are addressed, and compared with current single-subject BCI paradigms. To show the advantages of a cooperative BCI, we evaluate the performance of combining decisions across subjects with data from an event-related potentials (ERP) based experiment where each subject observed the same sequence of visual stimuli. Furthermore, we show that it is possible to achieve a mean AUC superior to 0.95 with 10 subjects and 3 electrodes on each subject, or with 4 subjects and 6 electrodes on each subject. Several emerging challenges and possible applications are proposed to highlight how cooperative BCIs could be efficiently used with current technologies and leverage BCI applications.