Editor's Choice Articles

Editor’s Choice articles are based on recommendations by the scientific editors of MDPI journals from around the world. Editors select a small number of articles recently published in the journal that they believe will be particularly interesting to authors, or important in this field. The aim is to provide a snapshot of some of the most exciting work published in the various research areas of the journal.

Order results
Result details
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:

Research

Jump to: Review, Other

Article
Presence of the Endocannabinoid System in the Inferior Pulvinar of the Vervet Monkey
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(6), 770; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11060770 - 10 Jun 2021
Abstract
The expression of the endocannabinoid (eCB) system, including cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1R) and the cannabinoid synthesizing (NAPE-PLD) and degrading (FAAH) enzymes, has been well-characterized in the retina of rodents and monkeys. More recently, the presence of CB1R was localized throughout the dorsal [...] Read more.
The expression of the endocannabinoid (eCB) system, including cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1R) and the cannabinoid synthesizing (NAPE-PLD) and degrading (FAAH) enzymes, has been well-characterized in the retina of rodents and monkeys. More recently, the presence of CB1R was localized throughout the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus of the thalamus of vervet monkeys. Given that the retina projects also to the pulvinar either via a direct projection or via the superior colliculus, it was reasonable to assume that this system would be present therein. The visual pulvinar, namely the inferior pulvinar (PI) region, was delineated with calbindin immunohistochemical staining. Using Western blots and immunofluorescence, we demonstrated that CB1R, NAPE-PLD and FAAH are expressed in the PI of the vervet monkey. Throughout the PI, CB1R was mainly colocalized with VGLUT2-positive axon terminals in the vicinity of calbindin and parvalbumin-positive neurons. NAPE-PLD and FAAH rather colocalized with calbindin over the somatodendritic compartment of PI neurons. Our results suggest that visual information coming from the retina and entering the PI is modulated by the eCB system on its way to the dorsal visual stream. These results provide insights for understanding the role of eCBs in the modulation of visual thalamic inputs and, hence, visual perception. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue A Decade of Brain Sciences)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Procedural Learning through Action Observation: Preliminary Evidence from Virtual Gardening Activity in Intellectual Disability
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(6), 766; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11060766 - 09 Jun 2021
Abstract
Intellectual disability (ID) compromises intellectual and adaptive functioning. People with an ID show difficulty with procedural skills, with loss of autonomy in daily life. From an embodiment perspective, observation of action promotes motor skill learning. Among promising technologies, virtual reality (VR) offers the [...] Read more.
Intellectual disability (ID) compromises intellectual and adaptive functioning. People with an ID show difficulty with procedural skills, with loss of autonomy in daily life. From an embodiment perspective, observation of action promotes motor skill learning. Among promising technologies, virtual reality (VR) offers the possibility of engaging the sensorimotor system, thus, improving cognitive functions and adaptive capacities. Indeed, VR can be used as sensorimotor feedback, which enhances procedural learning. In the present study, fourteen subjects with an ID underwent progressive steps training combined with VR aimed at learning gardening procedures. All participants were trained twice a week for fourteen weeks (total 28 sessions). Participants were first recorded while sowing zucchini, then they were asked to observe a virtual video which showed the correct procedure. Next, they were presented with their previous recordings, and they were asked to pay attention and to comment on the errors made. At the end of the treatment, the results showed that all participants were able to correctly garden in a real environment. Interestingly, action observation facilitated, not only procedural skills, but also specific cognitive abilities. This evidence emphasizes, for the first time, that action observation combined with VR improves procedural learning in ID. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role of the Sensorimotor System in Cognitive Functions)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Post-Acute COVID-19 Symptoms, a Potential Link with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A 6-Month Survey in a Mexican Cohort
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(6), 760; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11060760 - 08 Jun 2021
Cited by 2
Abstract
The aim of this study was to describe the clinical evolution during 6 months of follow-up of adults recovered from COVID-19. We tried to determine how many met the definition of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS). A total of 130 patients (51.0 ± [...] Read more.
The aim of this study was to describe the clinical evolution during 6 months of follow-up of adults recovered from COVID-19. We tried to determine how many met the definition of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS). A total of 130 patients (51.0 ± 14 years, 34.6% female) were enrolled. Symptoms were common, participants reported a median number of 9 (IQR 5–14) symptoms. Fatigue was the most common symptom (61/130; 46.9%). Patients with fatigue were older 53.9 ± 13.5 years compared with 48.5 ± 13.3 years in those without fatigue (p = 0.02) and had a longer length of hospital stay, 17 ± 14 days vs. 13 ± 10 days (p = 0.04). There was no difference in other comorbidities between patients with fatigue and those without it, and no association between COVID-19 severity and fatigue. After multivariate adjustment of all baseline clinical features, only age 40 to 50 years old was positively associated with fatigue, OR 2.5 (95% CI 1.05–6.05) p = 0.03. In our survey, only 17 (13%) patients met the Institute of Medicine’s criteria for “systemic exertion intolerance disease,” the new name of ME/CFS. In conclusion, in some patients, the features of post-acute COVID-19 syndrome overlap with the clinical features of ME/CFS. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Parieto-Occipital Alpha and Low-Beta EEG Power Reflect Sense of Agency
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(6), 743; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11060743 - 03 Jun 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
The sense of agency (SoA) is part of psychophysiological modules related to the self. Disturbed SoA is found in several clinical conditions, hence understanding the neural correlates of the SoA is useful for the diagnosis and determining the proper treatment strategies. Although there [...] Read more.
The sense of agency (SoA) is part of psychophysiological modules related to the self. Disturbed SoA is found in several clinical conditions, hence understanding the neural correlates of the SoA is useful for the diagnosis and determining the proper treatment strategies. Although there are several neuroimaging studies on SoA, it is desirable to translate the knowledge to more accessible and inexpensive EEG-based biomarkers for the sake of applicability. However, SoA has not been widely investigated using EEG. To address this issue, we designed an EEG experiment on healthy adults (n = 15) to determine the sensitivity of EEG on the SoA paradigm using hand movement with parametrically delayed visual feedback. We calculated the power spectral density over the traditional EEG frequency bands for ten delay conditions relative to no delay condition. Independent component analysis and equivalent current dipole modeling were applied to address artifact rejection, volume conduction, and source localization to determine the effect of interest. The results revealed that the alpha and low-beta EEG power increased in the parieto-occipital regions in proportion to the reduced SoA reported by the subjects. We conclude that the parieto-occipital alpha and low-beta EEG power reflect the sense of agency. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Improved Transfer-Learning-Based Facial Recognition Framework to Detect Autistic Children at an Early Stage
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(6), 734; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11060734 - 31 May 2021
Cited by 2
Abstract
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neuro-developmental disorder that affects social skills, language, speech and communication. Early detection of ASD individuals, especially children, could help to devise and strategize right therapeutic plan at right time. Human faces encode important markers that can [...] Read more.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neuro-developmental disorder that affects social skills, language, speech and communication. Early detection of ASD individuals, especially children, could help to devise and strategize right therapeutic plan at right time. Human faces encode important markers that can be used to identify ASD by analyzing facial features, eye contact, and so on. In this work, an improved transfer-learning-based autism face recognition framework is proposed to identify kids with ASD in the early stages more precisely. Therefore, we have collected face images of children with ASD from the Kaggle data repository, and various machine learning and deep learning classifiers and other transfer-learning-based pre-trained models were applied. We observed that our improved MobileNet-V1 model demonstrates the best accuracy of 90.67% and the lowest 9.33% value of both fall-out and miss rate compared to the other classifiers and pre-trained models. Furthermore, this classifier is used to identify different ASD groups investigating only autism image data using k-means clustering technique. Thus, the improved MobileNet-V1 model showed the highest accuracy (92.10%) for k = 2 autism sub-types. We hope this model will be useful for physicians to detect autistic children more explicitly at the early stage. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Does Kinesiophobia Mediate the Relationship between Pain Intensity and Disability in Individuals with Chronic Low-Back Pain and Obesity?
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(6), 684; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11060684 - 22 May 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
Individuals suffering from chronic low-back pain and obesity face severe physical and functional limitations. According to the fear-avoidance model, kinesiophobia might play a crucial role in the relationship between pain intensity and disability. Thus, the purpose of this study was to verify the [...] Read more.
Individuals suffering from chronic low-back pain and obesity face severe physical and functional limitations. According to the fear-avoidance model, kinesiophobia might play a crucial role in the relationship between pain intensity and disability. Thus, the purpose of this study was to verify the role of kinesiophobia as a mediator in the association between pain intensity and disability in individuals with both chronic low-back pain and obesity. A total of 213 individuals with chronic low-back pain and obesity were included in the study. The level of kinesiophobia, pain intensity and disability were all assessed using self-reported questionnaires. We verified through a simple mediation analysis that kinesiophobia partially mediated the association between pain intensity and disability in our sample. According to our findings, we emphasize the crucial role of kinesiophobia as a psychological factor that should be addressed in chronic low-back pain rehabilitative protocols to reduce disability in individuals with obesity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Neuroscience of Pain)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Changes in the Brain Activity and Visual Performance of Patients with Strabismus and Amblyopia after a Compete Cycle of Light Therapy
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(5), 657; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11050657 - 18 May 2021
Abstract
This research assesses the brain activity and visual performance at baseline and after light therapy (LTH), of seventeen patients with strabismus and amblyopia (SA), and eleven healthy controls (HCs) from Querétaro, México. Quantitative electroencephalogram analysis (qEEG) was used to record the brain activity, [...] Read more.
This research assesses the brain activity and visual performance at baseline and after light therapy (LTH), of seventeen patients with strabismus and amblyopia (SA), and eleven healthy controls (HCs) from Querétaro, México. Quantitative electroencephalogram analysis (qEEG) was used to record the brain activity, and clinical metrics such as the visual acuity, angle of deviation, phoria state, stereopsis, and visual fields determined the visual performance. Results showed a constant higher alpha-wave frequency for HCs. Low voltages remained negative for HCs and positive for SA patients across stimulation. After LTH, high voltage increased in SA patients, and decreased in HCs. A second spectral peak, (theta-wave), was exclusively recorded in SA patients, at baseline and after LTH. Positive Spearman correlations for alpha-wave frequency, low and high voltages were only seen in SA patients. Synchronized brain activity was recorded in all SA patients stimulated with filters transmitting light in the blue but not in the red spectrum. Enhancement in the visual performance of SA patients was found, whereas deterioration of the phoria state and a decrease in the amount of stereopsis was seen in HCs. To conclude, only a suffering brain and a visual pathway which needs to be enabled can benefit from LTH. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Olfactory Perception in Relation to the Physicochemical Odor Space
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(5), 563; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11050563 - 28 Apr 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
A growing body of research aims at solving what is often referred to as the stimulus-percept problem in olfactory perception. Although computational efforts have made it possible to predict perceptual impressions from the physicochemical space of odors, studies with large psychophysical datasets from [...] Read more.
A growing body of research aims at solving what is often referred to as the stimulus-percept problem in olfactory perception. Although computational efforts have made it possible to predict perceptual impressions from the physicochemical space of odors, studies with large psychophysical datasets from non-experts remain scarce. Following previous approaches, we developed a physicochemical odor space using 4094 molecular descriptors of 1389 odor molecules. For 20 of these odors, we examined associations with perceived pleasantness, intensity, odor quality and detection threshold, obtained from a dataset of 2000 naïve participants. Our results show significant differences in perceptual ratings, and we were able to replicate previous findings on the association between perceptual ratings and the first dimensions of the physicochemical odor space. However, the present analyses also revealed striking interindividual variations in perceived pleasantness and intensity. Additionally, interactions between pleasantness, intensity, and olfactory and trigeminal qualitative dimensions were found. To conclude, our results support previous findings on the relation between structure and perception on the group level in our sample of non-expert raters. In the challenging task to relate olfactory stimulus and percept, the physicochemical odor space can serve as a reliable and helpful tool to structure the high-dimensional space of olfactory stimuli. Nevertheless, human olfactory perception in the individual is not an analytic process of molecule detection alone, but is part of a holistic integration of multisensory inputs, context and experience. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Human Olfactory Perception)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Cannabis Use among Older Persons with Arthritis, Cancer and Multiple Sclerosis: Are We Comparing Apples and Oranges?
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(5), 532; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11050532 - 23 Apr 2021
Abstract
Although researchers have identified medications that relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS), none are entirely effective and some persons with multiple sclerosis (PwMS) use alternatives. Our study compared cannabis use among PwMS (N = 135) and persons diagnosed with arthritis (N = 582) [...] Read more.
Although researchers have identified medications that relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS), none are entirely effective and some persons with multiple sclerosis (PwMS) use alternatives. Our study compared cannabis use among PwMS (N = 135) and persons diagnosed with arthritis (N = 582) or cancer (N = 622) who were age 60 and older, enrolled in the State of Illinois Medical Cannabis Program, and invited to complete a survey fielded between June and September, 2019. We used logistic regression to identify significant differences in self-reported effects of cannabis on psychological wellbeing, quality of life, and three behavioral outcomes, and we also considered effects of past year opioid use relative to these outcomes. We found that the majority of individuals from all groups used cannabis to address pain and improve quality of sleep. While PwMS reported lower baseline levels across all five outcomes, we found that the reported effects of cannabis were largely comparable across the groups. We also found that cannabis benefitted persons with sleep and digestive issues regardless of condition, whereas persons who used opioids in addition to cannabis were less likely to experience an improvement in any of the outcomes. This comparative evaluation suggests that cannabis’ effects are not specific to MS, arthritis, or cancer as much as they impact processes common among these distinct conditions. We also found evidence that cannabis may be a viable alternative to opioids for those with these conditions and experiencing pain. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Effects of Cannabis on the Elderly)
Article
Enhancing the Effects of Neurofeedback Training: The Motivational Value of the Reinforcers
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(4), 457; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11040457 - 03 Apr 2021
Cited by 3
Abstract
The brain activity that is measured by electroencephalography (EEG) can be modified through operant conditioning, specifically using neurofeedback (NF). NF has been applied to several disorders claiming that a change in the erratic brain activity would be accompanied by a reduction of the [...] Read more.
The brain activity that is measured by electroencephalography (EEG) can be modified through operant conditioning, specifically using neurofeedback (NF). NF has been applied to several disorders claiming that a change in the erratic brain activity would be accompanied by a reduction of the symptoms. However, the expected results are not always achieved. Some authors have suggested that the lack of an adequate response may be due to an incorrect application of the operant conditioning principles. A key factor in operant conditioning is the use of reinforcers and their value in modifying behavior, something that is not always sufficiently taken into account. This work aims to clarify the relevance of the motivational value versus the purely informational value of the reinforcer. In this study, 113 subjects were randomly assigned two different reinforcer conditions: a selected reinforcer—the subjects subjectively selected the reinforcers—or an imposed reinforcer—the reinforcers were assigned by the experimenter—and both groups undertook NF sessions to enhance the sensorimotor rhythm (SMR). In addition, the selected reinforcer group was divided into two subgroups: one receiving real NF and the other one sham NF. There were no significant differences between the groups at baseline in terms of SMR amplitude. After the intervention, only those subjects belonging to the selected reinforcer group and receiving real NF increased their SMR. Our results provide evidence for the importance of the motivational value of the reinforcer in Neurofeedback success. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Collection on Cognitive Neuroscience)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Quantifying the Child–Therapist Interaction in ASD Intervention: An Observational Coding System
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(3), 366; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11030366 - 13 Mar 2021
Cited by 2
Abstract
Background: Observational research plays an important part in developmental research due to its noninvasiveness. However, it has been hardly applied to investigate efficacy of the child–therapist interaction in the context of naturalistic developmental behavioral interventions (NDBI). In particular, the characteristics of child–therapist interplay [...] Read more.
Background: Observational research plays an important part in developmental research due to its noninvasiveness. However, it has been hardly applied to investigate efficacy of the child–therapist interaction in the context of naturalistic developmental behavioral interventions (NDBI). In particular, the characteristics of child–therapist interplay are thought to have a significant impact in NDBIs in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Quantitative approaches may help to identify the key features of interaction during therapy and could be translated as instruments to monitor early interventions. Methods: n = 24 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were monitored from the time of the diagnosis (T0) and after about one year of early intervention (T1). A novel observational coding system was applied to video recorded sessions of intervention to extract quantitative behavioral descriptors. We explored the coding scheme reliability together with its convergent and predictive validity. Further, we applied computational techniques to investigate changes and associations between interaction profiles and developmental outcomes. Results: Significant changes in interaction variables emerged with time, suggesting that a favorable outcome is associated with interactions characterized by increased synchrony, better therapist’s strategies to successfully engage the child and scaffold longer, more complex and engaging interchanges. Interestingly, data models linked interaction profiles, outcome measures and response trajectories. Conclusion: Current research stresses the need for process measures to understand the hows and the whys of ASD early intervention. Combining observational techniques with computational approaches may help in explaining interindividual variability. Further, it could disclose successful features of interaction associated with better response trajectories or to different ASD behavioral phenotypes that could require specific dyadic modalities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Nusinersen Wearing-Off in Adult 5q-Spinal Muscular Atrophy Patients
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(3), 367; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11030367 - 13 Mar 2021
Abstract
The antisense oligonucleotide nusinersen was the first drug treatment available for all types of 5q-spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). The dosing regime has been derived from pivotal clinical trials in infants and children. The efficacy of nusinersen in severely affected adult SMA patients is [...] Read more.
The antisense oligonucleotide nusinersen was the first drug treatment available for all types of 5q-spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). The dosing regime has been derived from pivotal clinical trials in infants and children. The efficacy of nusinersen in severely affected adult SMA patients is still questionable, as no placebo-controlled trials have been conducted. In the present study, we systematically examined wearing-off phenomena during nusinersen maintenance dosing using a patient-centered approach. We found that adult SMA patients perceived wearing-off after nearly half of 51 investigated nusinersen administrations, primarily within the last month prior to the next administration. Symptoms and functions affected were mainly general strength and arm and leg muscle function next to endurance and independence in daily routine. Lack of walking ability and higher body mass index were characteristic phenotypic features in patients with consistent wearing-off effects. We assume that specific SMA phenotypes might benefit from higher dosing, shorter treatment intervals, change of treatment administration or a combination of all. Efforts towards treatment optimization may result in higher efficacy in distinct phenotypes. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Differential Susceptibility to the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Working Memory, Empathy, and Perceived Stress: The Role of Cortisol and Resilience
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(3), 348; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11030348 - 09 Mar 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
There are important individual differences in adaptation and reactivity to stressful challenges. Being subjected to strict social confinement is a distressful psychological experience leading to reduced emotional well-being, but it is not known how it can affect the cognitive and empathic tendencies of [...] Read more.
There are important individual differences in adaptation and reactivity to stressful challenges. Being subjected to strict social confinement is a distressful psychological experience leading to reduced emotional well-being, but it is not known how it can affect the cognitive and empathic tendencies of different individuals. Cortisol, a key glucocorticoid in humans, is a strong modulator of brain function, behavior, and cognition, and the diurnal cortisol rhythm has been postulated to interact with environmental stressors to predict stress adaptation. The present study investigates in 45 young adults (21.09 years old, SD = 6.42) whether pre-pandemic diurnal cortisol indices, overall diurnal cortisol secretion (AUCg) and cortisol awakening response (CAR) can predict individuals’ differential susceptibility to the impact of strict social confinement during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on working memory, empathy, and perceived stress. We observed that, following long-term home confinement, there was an increase in subjects’ perceived stress and cognitive empathy scores, as well as an improvement in visuospatial working memory. Moreover, during confinement, resilient coping moderated the relationship between perceived stress scores and pre-pandemic AUCg and CAR. In addition, in mediation models, we observed a direct effect of AUCg and an indirect effect of both CAR and AUCg, on change in perceived self-efficacy. These effects were parallelly mediated by the increase in working memory span and cognitive empathy. In summary, our findings reveal the role of the diurnal pattern of cortisol in predicting the emotional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting a potential biomarker for the identification of at-risk groups following public health crises. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role of Stress and Glucocorticoids in Learning and Memory)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Self-Reported Nonadherence to Medication Is Not Associated with Health-Related Quality of Life in Parkinson’s Disease
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(2), 273; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11020273 - 22 Feb 2021
Abstract
Nonadherence is a growing issue in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Many factors are known to influence nonadherence, but little is known about the influence of quality of life (QoL). Detailed clinical data were obtained from 164 patients with PD using the [...] Read more.
Nonadherence is a growing issue in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Many factors are known to influence nonadherence, but little is known about the influence of quality of life (QoL). Detailed clinical data were obtained from 164 patients with PD using the Parkinson’s Disease Questionnaire-39 (PDQ-39) and the German Stendal Adherence with Medication Score (SAMS). Descriptive statistics were used to identify reasons for nonadherence, and multivariable linear models were used to study associations between QoL and clinical parameters as well as nonadherence. Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) and multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) were used to study the effect of the SAMS on PDQ domains and other medical covariates. The results showed that 10.4% (n = 17) of patients were fully adherent, 66.4% (n = 109) were moderately nonadherent, and 23.2% (n = 38) were nonadherent. Nonadherence was associated with male gender, lower Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) score, higher non-motor symptoms questionnaire (NMS-Quest) score, greater number of medications per day (an indicator of comorbidity), and higher Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) score. QoL was correlated with male gender, lower MoCA score, higher NMS-Quest score, more comorbidities, and higher BDI score, but was not correlated with nonadherence. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Parkinsonian Syndromes)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
EEG Data Quality: Determinants and Impact in a Multicenter Study of Children, Adolescents, and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(2), 214; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11020214 - 10 Feb 2021
Abstract
Electroencephalography (EEG) represents a widely established method for assessing altered and typically developing brain function. However, systematic studies on EEG data quality, its correlates, and consequences are scarce. To address this research gap, the current study focused on the percentage of artifact-free segments [...] Read more.
Electroencephalography (EEG) represents a widely established method for assessing altered and typically developing brain function. However, systematic studies on EEG data quality, its correlates, and consequences are scarce. To address this research gap, the current study focused on the percentage of artifact-free segments after standard EEG pre-processing as a data quality index. We analyzed participant-related and methodological influences, and validity by replicating landmark EEG effects. Further, effects of data quality on spectral power analyses beyond participant-related characteristics were explored. EEG data from a multicenter ADHD-cohort (age range 6 to 45 years), and a non-ADHD school-age control group were analyzed (ntotal = 305). Resting-state data during eyes open, and eyes closed conditions, and task-related data during a cued Continuous Performance Task (CPT) were collected. After pre-processing, general linear models, and stepwise regression models were fitted to the data. We found that EEG data quality was strongly related to demographic characteristics, but not to methodological factors. We were able to replicate maturational, task, and ADHD effects reported in the EEG literature, establishing a link with EEG-landmark effects. Furthermore, we showed that poor data quality significantly increases spectral power beyond effects of maturation and symptom severity. Taken together, the current results indicate that with a careful design and systematic quality control, informative large-scale multicenter trials characterizing neurophysiological mechanisms in neurodevelopmental disorders across the lifespan are feasible. Nevertheless, results are restricted to the limitations reported. Future work will clarify predictive value. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Advances in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD))
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Creating a Theoretical Framework to Underpin Discourse Assessment and Intervention in Aphasia
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(2), 183; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11020183 - 02 Feb 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
Discourse (a unit of language longer than a single sentence) is fundamental to everyday communication. People with aphasia (a language impairment occurring most frequently after stroke, or other brain damage) have communication difficulties which lead to less complete, less coherent, and less complex [...] Read more.
Discourse (a unit of language longer than a single sentence) is fundamental to everyday communication. People with aphasia (a language impairment occurring most frequently after stroke, or other brain damage) have communication difficulties which lead to less complete, less coherent, and less complex discourse. Although there are multiple reviews of discourse assessment and an emerging evidence base for discourse intervention, there is no unified theoretical framework to underpin this research. Instead, disparate theories are recruited to explain different aspects of discourse impairment, or symptoms are reported without a hypothesis about the cause. What is needed is a theoretical framework that would clarify the specific linguistic skills that create completeness, coherence, and complexity (i.e., richness) in discourse, and illuminate both the processes involved in discourse production and the reasons for breakdown. This paper reports a review and synthesis of the theoretical literature relevant to spoken discourse in aphasia discourse, and we propose a novel theoretical framework which unites these disparate sources. This framework is currently being tested as the foundation for Linguistic Underpinnings of Narrative in Aphasia (LUNA) treatment research. In this paper, we outline the novel framework and exemplify how it might be used to guide clinical practice and research. Future collaborative research is needed to develop this framework into a processing model for spoken discourse. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Action Video Games Enhance Attentional Control and Phonological Decoding in Children with Developmental Dyslexia
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(2), 171; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11020171 - 29 Jan 2021
Cited by 6
Abstract
Reading acquisition is extremely difficult for about 5% of children because they are affected by a heritable neurobiological disorder called developmental dyslexia (DD). Intervention studies can be used to investigate the causal role of neurocognitive deficits in DD. Recently, it has been proposed [...] Read more.
Reading acquisition is extremely difficult for about 5% of children because they are affected by a heritable neurobiological disorder called developmental dyslexia (DD). Intervention studies can be used to investigate the causal role of neurocognitive deficits in DD. Recently, it has been proposed that action video games (AVGs)—enhancing attentional control—could improve perception and working memory as well as reading skills. In a partial crossover intervention study, we investigated the effect of AVG and non-AVG training on attentional control using a conjunction visual search task in children with DD. We also measured the non-alphanumeric rapid automatized naming (RAN), phonological decoding and word reading before and after AVG and non-AVG training. After both video game training sessions no effect was found in non-alphanumeric RAN and in word reading performance. However, after only 12 h of AVG training the attentional control was improved (i.e., the set-size slopes were flatter in visual search) and phonological decoding speed was accelerated. Crucially, attentional control and phonological decoding speed were increased only in DD children whose video game score was highly efficient after the AVG training. We demonstrated that only an efficient AVG training induces a plasticity of the fronto-parietal attentional control linked to a selective phonological decoding improvement in children with DD. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Multiple Neurocognitive Deficits and Dyslexia)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Do Pregnancy-Induced Brain Changes Reverse? The Brain of a Mother Six Years after Parturition
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(2), 168; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11020168 - 28 Jan 2021
Cited by 4
Abstract
Neuroimaging researchers commonly assume that the brain of a mother is comparable to that of a nulliparous woman. However, pregnancy leads to pronounced gray matter volume reductions in the mother’s brain, which have been associated with maternal attachment towards the baby. Beyond two [...] Read more.
Neuroimaging researchers commonly assume that the brain of a mother is comparable to that of a nulliparous woman. However, pregnancy leads to pronounced gray matter volume reductions in the mother’s brain, which have been associated with maternal attachment towards the baby. Beyond two years postpartum, no study has explored whether these brain changes are maintained or instead return to pre-pregnancy levels. The present study tested whether gray matter volume reductions detected in primiparous women are still present six years after parturition. Using data from a unique, prospective neuroimaging study, we compared the gray matter volume of 25 primiparous and 22 nulliparous women across three sessions: before conception (n = 25/22), during the first months of postpartum (n = 25/21), and at six years after parturition (n = 7/5). We found that most of the pregnancy-induced gray matter volume reductions persist six years after parturition (classifying women as having been pregnant or not with 91.67% of total accuracy). We also found that brain changes at six years postpartum are associated with measures of mother-to-infant attachment. These findings open the possibility that pregnancy-induced brain changes are permanent and encourage neuroimaging studies to routinely include pregnancy-related information as a relevant demographic variable. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
The Impact of Electrical Stimulation of the Brain and Spinal Cord on Iron and Calcium-Phosphate Metabolism
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(2), 156; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11020156 - 25 Jan 2021
Abstract
Background: Deep-brain stimulation (DBS) electrically modulates the subcortical brain regions. Under conditions of monopolar cerebral stimulation, electrical current flows between electrode’s contacts and an implantable pulse generator, placed in the subclavicular area. Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) delivers an electrical current to the spinal [...] Read more.
Background: Deep-brain stimulation (DBS) electrically modulates the subcortical brain regions. Under conditions of monopolar cerebral stimulation, electrical current flows between electrode’s contacts and an implantable pulse generator, placed in the subclavicular area. Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) delivers an electrical current to the spinal cord. Epidural electrical stimulation is associated with the leakage of current, which can cause a generalized reaction. The aim of our study was to investigate whether the electrical stimulation of the cerebrum and spinal cord could have generalized effects on biochemical parameters. Materials and methods: A total of 25 patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD, n = 21) and dystonia (n = 4), who underwent DBS implantation, and 12 patients with chronic pain, who had SCS, received electrical stimulation. The blood levels of selected biochemical parameters were measured before and after overnight stimulation. Results: After DBS, the mean ± interquartile range (IQR) values for iron (off 15.6 ± 13.53 µmol/L; on: 7.65 ± 10.8 µmol/L; p < 0.001), transferrin (off: 2.42 ± 0.88 g/L; on: 1.99 ± 0.59 g/L; p < 0.001), transferrin saturation (off: 23.20 ± 14.50%; on: 10.70 ± 11.35%; p = 0.001), phosphate (off: 1.04 ± 0.2 mmol/L; on: 0.83 ± 0.2 mmol/L; p = 0.007), and total calcium (off: 2.39 ± 0.29 mmol/L; on: 2.27 ± 0.19 mmol/L; p = 0.016) were significantly reduced, whereas ferritin (off: 112.00 ± 89.00 ng/mL; on: 150.00 ± 89.00 ng/mL; p = 0.003) and C-reactive protein (off: 0.90 ± 19.39 mg/L; on: 60.35 ± 35.91 mg/L; p = 0.002) were significantly increased. Among patients with SCS, significant differences were observed for ferritin (off: 35 ± 63 ng/mL; on: 56 ± 62 ng/mL; p = 0.013), transferrin (off: 2.70 ± 0.74 g/L; on: 2.49 ± 0.69 g/L; p = 0.048), and C-reactive protein (off: 31.00 ± 36.40 mg/L; on: 36.60 ± 62.030 mg/L; p = 0.018) before and after electrical stimulation. No significant changes in the examined parameters were observed among patients after thalamotomy and pallidotomy. Conclusions: Leaking electric current delivered to the subcortical nuclei of the brain and the dorsal column of the spinal cord exposes the rest of the body to a negative charge. The generalized reaction is associated with an inflammatory response and altered iron and calcium-phosphate metabolism. Alterations in iron metabolism due to electrical stimulation may impact the course of PD. Future research should investigate the influence of electric current and electromagnetic field induced by neurostimulators on human metabolism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Brain and Spinal Cord Electrical Stimulation)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Sex-Based Differences in Plasma Autoantibodies to Central Nervous System Proteins in Gulf War Veterans versus Healthy and Symptomatic Controls
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(2), 148; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11020148 - 23 Jan 2021
Cited by 2
Abstract
Veterans from the 1991 Gulf War (GW) have suffered from Gulf War illness (GWI) for nearly 30 years. This illness encompasses multiple body systems, including the central nervous system (CNS). Diagnosis and treatment of GWI is difficult because there has not been an [...] Read more.
Veterans from the 1991 Gulf War (GW) have suffered from Gulf War illness (GWI) for nearly 30 years. This illness encompasses multiple body systems, including the central nervous system (CNS). Diagnosis and treatment of GWI is difficult because there has not been an objective diagnostic biomarker. Recently, we reported on a newly developed blood biomarker that discriminates GWI from GW healthy controls, and symptomatic controls with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). The present study was designed to compare levels of these biomarkers between men and women with GWI, as well as sex-specific effects in comparison to healthy GW veterans and symptomatic controls (IBS, ME/CFS). The results showed that men and women with GWI differ in 2 of 10 plasma autoantibodies, with men showing significantly elevated levels. Men and women with GWI showed significantly different levels of autoantibodies in 8 of 10 biomarkers to neuronal and glial proteins in plasma relative to controls. In summary, the present study addressed the utility of the use of plasma autoantibodies for CNS proteins to distinguish among both men and women veterans with GWI and other healthy and symptomatic control groups. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Increased Likelihood of Falling in Older Cannabis Users vs. Non-Users
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(2), 134; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11020134 - 21 Jan 2021
Abstract
Cannabis is one of the most common drugs in the United States and is the third most prevalent substance consumed by adults aged 50 years and older. Normal aging is associated with physiological changes that make older adults vulnerable to impaired function and [...] Read more.
Cannabis is one of the most common drugs in the United States and is the third most prevalent substance consumed by adults aged 50 years and older. Normal aging is associated with physiological changes that make older adults vulnerable to impaired function and geriatric conditions (e.g., falls, cognitive impairment). However, the impact of medical cannabis use on fall risk in older adults remains unexplored. The purpose of this study was to investigate if cannabis use in older adults influences fall risk, cognitive function, and motor function. It was hypothesized that older chronic cannabis users would perform worse than non-users on gait, balance, and cognitive tests. Sixteen older adults, split into cannabis Users and age- and sex-matched Non-Users groups (n = 8/group), participated in the study. The results indicate a higher fall risk, worse one leg standing balance performance, and slower gait speed in Users vs. Non-Users. No significant differences in cognitive function were found. Thus, chronic cannabis use was purported to exacerbate the poorer balance control and slower gait velocity associated with normal aging. Future mechanistic (e.g., neuroimaging) investigations of the short- and long-term effects of using a variety of cannabis products (e.g., THC/CBD ratios, routes of administration) on cognitive function, motor function, and fall incidence in older adults are suggested. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Effects of Cannabis on the Elderly)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Intrastriatal Administration of AAV5-miHTT in Non-Human Primates and Rats Is Well Tolerated and Results in miHTT Transgene Expression in Key Areas of Huntington Disease Pathology
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(2), 129; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11020129 - 20 Jan 2021
Cited by 4
Abstract
Huntington disease (HD) is a fatal, neurodegenerative genetic disorder with aggregation of mutant Huntingtin protein (mutHTT) in the brain as a key pathological mechanism. There are currently no disease modifying therapies for HD; however, HTT-lowering therapies hold promise. Recombinant adeno-associated virus serotype [...] Read more.
Huntington disease (HD) is a fatal, neurodegenerative genetic disorder with aggregation of mutant Huntingtin protein (mutHTT) in the brain as a key pathological mechanism. There are currently no disease modifying therapies for HD; however, HTT-lowering therapies hold promise. Recombinant adeno-associated virus serotype 5 expressing a microRNA that targets HTT mRNA (AAV5-miHTT) is in development for the treatment of HD with promising results in rodent and minipig HD models. To support a clinical trial, toxicity studies were performed in non-human primates (NHP, Macaca fascicularis) and Sprague-Dawley rats to evaluate the safety of AAV5-miHTT, the neurosurgical administration procedure, vector delivery and expression of the miHTT transgene during a 6-month observation period. For accurate delivery of AAV5-miHTT to the striatum, real-time magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with convection-enhanced delivery (CED) was used in NHP. Catheters were successfully implanted in 24 NHP, without neurological symptoms, and resulted in tracer signal in the target areas. Widespread vector DNA and miHTT transgene distribution in the brain was found, particularly in areas associated with HD pathology. Intrastriatal administration of AAV5-miHTT was well tolerated with no clinically relevant changes in either species. These studies demonstrate the excellent safety profile of AAV5-miHTT, the reproducibility and tolerability of intrastriatal administration, and the delivery of AAV5-miHTT to the brain, which support the transition of AAV5-miHTT into clinical studies. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Clinical Efficacy and Safety of Silicone Elastomer Sheet during Decompressive Craniectomy: Anti-Adhesive Role in Cranioplasty
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(1), 124; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11010124 - 18 Jan 2021
Abstract
(1) Background: Cranioplasty is a surgery to repair a skull bone defect after decompressive craniectomy (DC). If the process of dissection of the epidural adhesion tissue is not performed properly, it can cause many complications. We reviewed the effect of a silicone elastomer [...] Read more.
(1) Background: Cranioplasty is a surgery to repair a skull bone defect after decompressive craniectomy (DC). If the process of dissection of the epidural adhesion tissue is not performed properly, it can cause many complications. We reviewed the effect of a silicone elastomer sheet designed to prevent adhesion. (2) Methods: We retrospectively reviewed 81 consecutive patients who underwent DC and subsequent cranioplasty at our institution between January 2015 and December 2019. We then divided the patients into two groups, one not using the silicone elastomer sheet (n = 50) and the other using the silicone elastomer sheet (n = 31), and compared the surgical outcomes. (3) Results: We found that the use of the sheet shortened the operation time by 24% and reduced the estimated blood loss (EBL) by 43% compared to the control group. Moreover, the complication rate of epidural fluid collection (EFC) in the group using the sheet was 16.7%, which was lower than that in the control group (41.7%, p < 0.023). Multivariate logistic regression analysis showed the sheet (OR 0.294, 95% CI 0.093–0.934, p = 0.039) to be significantly related to EFC. (4) Conclusions: The technique using the silicone elastomer sheet allows surgeons to easily dissect the surgical plane during cranioplasty, which shortens the operation time, reduces EBL, and minimizes complications of EFC. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neurosurgery and Neuroanatomy)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Ipsi- and Contralateral Oligo- and Polysynaptic Reflexes in Humans Revealed by Low-Frequency Epidural Electrical Stimulation of the Lumbar Spinal Cord
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(1), 112; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11010112 - 16 Jan 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
Epidural electrical stimulation (EES) applied over the human lumbosacral spinal cord provides access to afferent fibers from virtually all lower-extremity nerves. These afferents connect to spinal networks that play a pivotal role in the control of locomotion. Studying EES-evoked responses mediated through these [...] Read more.
Epidural electrical stimulation (EES) applied over the human lumbosacral spinal cord provides access to afferent fibers from virtually all lower-extremity nerves. These afferents connect to spinal networks that play a pivotal role in the control of locomotion. Studying EES-evoked responses mediated through these networks can identify some of their functional components. We here analyzed electromyographic (EMG) responses evoked by low-frequency (2–6 Hz) EES derived from eight individuals with chronic, motor complete spinal cord injury. We identified and separately analyzed three previously undescribed response types: first, crossed reflexes with onset latencies of ~55 ms evoked in the hamstrings; second, oligosynaptic reflexes within 50 ms post-stimulus superimposed on the monosynaptic posterior root-muscle reflexes in the flexor muscle tibialis anterior, but with higher thresholds and no rate-sensitive depression; third, polysynaptic responses with variable EMG shapes within 50–450 ms post-stimulus evoked in the tibialis anterior and triceps surae, some of which demonstrated consistent changes in latencies with graded EES. Our observations suggest the activation of commissural neurons, lumbar propriospinal interneurons, and components of the late flexion reflex circuits through group I and II proprioceptive afferent inputs. These potential neural underpinnings have all been related to spinal locomotion in experimental studies. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Identifying Diurnal Variability of Brain Connectivity Patterns Using Graph Theory
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(1), 111; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11010111 - 16 Jan 2021
Abstract
Significant differences exist in human brain functions affected by time of day and by people’s diurnal preferences (chronotypes) that are rarely considered in brain studies. In the current study, using network neuroscience and resting-state functional MRI (rs-fMRI) data, we examined the effect of [...] Read more.
Significant differences exist in human brain functions affected by time of day and by people’s diurnal preferences (chronotypes) that are rarely considered in brain studies. In the current study, using network neuroscience and resting-state functional MRI (rs-fMRI) data, we examined the effect of both time of day and the individual’s chronotype on whole-brain network organization. In this regard, 62 participants (39 women; mean age: 23.97 ± 3.26 years; half morning- versus half evening-type) were scanned about 1 and 10 h after wake-up time for morning and evening sessions, respectively. We found evidence for a time-of-day effect on connectivity profiles but not for the effect of chronotype. Compared with the morning session, we found relatively higher small-worldness (an index that represents more efficient network organization) in the evening session, which suggests the dominance of sleep inertia over the circadian and homeostatic processes in the first hours after waking. Furthermore, local graph measures were changed, predominantly across the left hemisphere, in areas such as the precentral gyrus, putamen, inferior frontal gyrus (orbital part), inferior temporal gyrus, as well as the bilateral cerebellum. These findings show the variability of the functional neural network architecture during the day and improve our understanding of the role of time of day in resting-state functional networks. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Recent Advances in Human Brain Connectivity)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
The Role of Audiovisual Speech in Fast-Mapping and Novel Word Retention in Monolingual and Bilingual 24-Month-Olds
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(1), 114; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11010114 - 16 Jan 2021
Cited by 2
Abstract
Three experiments examined the role of audiovisual speech on 24-month-old monolingual and bilinguals’ performance in a fast-mapping task. In all three experiments, toddlers were exposed to familiar trials which tested their knowledge of known word–referent pairs, disambiguation trials in which novel word–referent pairs [...] Read more.
Three experiments examined the role of audiovisual speech on 24-month-old monolingual and bilinguals’ performance in a fast-mapping task. In all three experiments, toddlers were exposed to familiar trials which tested their knowledge of known word–referent pairs, disambiguation trials in which novel word–referent pairs were indirectly learned, and retention trials which probed their recognition of the newly-learned word–referent pairs. In Experiment 1 (n = 48), lip movements were present during familiar and disambiguation trials, but not retention trials. In Experiment 2 (n = 48), lip movements were present during all three trial types. In Experiment 3 (bilinguals only, n = 24), a still face with no lip movements was present in all three trial types. While toddlers succeeded in the familiar and disambiguation trials of every experiment, success in the retention trials was only found in Experiment 2. This work suggests that the extra-linguistic support provided by lip movements improved the learning and recognition of the novel words. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impact of Non-Speech Cues on Speech Perception across Development)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Sensory Processing and Aggressive Behavior in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(1), 95; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11010095 - 14 Jan 2021
Cited by 2
Abstract
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be accompanied by aggressive behavior and is associated with sensory processing difficulties. The present study aims to investigate the direct association between sensory processing and aggressive behavior in adults with ASD. A total of 101 Dutch adult participants [...] Read more.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be accompanied by aggressive behavior and is associated with sensory processing difficulties. The present study aims to investigate the direct association between sensory processing and aggressive behavior in adults with ASD. A total of 101 Dutch adult participants with ASD, treated in outpatient or inpatient facilities, completed the Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile (AASP), the Reactive-Proactive Aggression Questionnaire (RPQ), and the Aggression Questionnaire—Short Form (AQ-SF). Results revealed that sensory processing difficulties are associated with more aggressive behavior (f2=0.25), more proactive (f2=0.19) and reactive aggression (f2=0.27), more physical (f2=0.08) and verbal aggression (f2=0.13), and more anger (f2=0.20) and hostility (f2=0.12). Evidence was found for an interaction of the neurological threshold and behavioral response on total aggression and hostility. Participants with higher scores in comparison to the norm group in sensory sensitivity had the highest risk of aggressive behavior. In conclusion, clinical practice may benefit from applying detailed diagnostics on sensory processing difficulties when treating aggressive behavior in adults with ASD. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Comparison of Smoothing Filters’ Influence on Quality of Data Recorded with the Emotiv EPOC Flex Brain–Computer Interface Headset during Audio Stimulation
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(1), 98; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11010098 - 13 Jan 2021
Cited by 2
Abstract
Off-the-shelf, consumer-grade EEG equipment is nowadays becoming the first-choice equipment for many scientists when it comes to recording brain waves for research purposes. On one hand, this is perfectly understandable due to its availability and relatively low cost (especially in comparison to some [...] Read more.
Off-the-shelf, consumer-grade EEG equipment is nowadays becoming the first-choice equipment for many scientists when it comes to recording brain waves for research purposes. On one hand, this is perfectly understandable due to its availability and relatively low cost (especially in comparison to some clinical-level EEG devices), but, on the other hand, quality of the recorded signals is gradually increasing and reaching levels that were offered just a few years ago by much more expensive devices used in medicine for diagnostic purposes. In many cases, a well-designed filter and/or a well-thought signal acquisition method improve the signal quality to the level that it becomes good enough to become subject of further analysis allowing to formulate some valid scientific theories and draw far-fetched conclusions related to human brain operation. In this paper, we propose a smoothing filter based upon the Savitzky–Golay filter for the purpose of EEG signal filtering. Additionally, we provide a summary and comparison of the applied filter to some other approaches to EEG data filtering. All the analyzed signals were acquired from subjects performing visually involving high-concentration tasks with audio stimuli using Emotiv EPOC Flex equipment. Full article
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Rhythmic Chanting and Mystical States across Traditions
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(1), 101; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11010101 - 13 Jan 2021
Cited by 2
Abstract
Chanting is a form of rhythmic, repetitive vocalization practiced in a wide range of cultures. It is used in spiritual practice to strengthen community, heal illness, and overcome psychological and emotional difficulties. In many traditions, chanting is used to induce mystical states, an [...] Read more.
Chanting is a form of rhythmic, repetitive vocalization practiced in a wide range of cultures. It is used in spiritual practice to strengthen community, heal illness, and overcome psychological and emotional difficulties. In many traditions, chanting is used to induce mystical states, an altered state of consciousness characterised by a profound sense of peace. Despite the global prevalence of chanting, its psychological effects are poorly understood. This investigation examined the psychological and contextual factors associated with mystical states during chanting. Data were analyzed from 464 participants across 33 countries who regularly engaged in chanting. Results showed that 60% of participants experienced mystical states during chanting. Absorption, altruism, and religiosity were higher among people who reported mystical states while chanting compared to those who did not report mystical states. There was no difference in mystical experience scores between vocal, silent, group or individual chanting and no difference in the prevalence of mystical states across chanting traditions. However, an analysis of subscales suggested that mystical experiences were especially characterised by positive mood and feelings of ineffability. The research sheds new light on factors that impact upon chanting experiences. A framework for understanding mystical states during chanting is proposed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rhythmic Motor Pattern Generation)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Clinical Outcomes of Interlaminar Percutaneous Endoscopic Decompression for Degenerative Lumbar Spondylolisthesis with Spinal Stenosis
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(1), 83; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11010083 - 10 Jan 2021
Abstract
The use of traditional open decompression alone in degenerative spondylolisthesis can lead to the development of postoperative spinal instability, whereas percutaneous endoscopic decompression can preserve the attachment of intervertebral muscles, facet joint capsules, and ligaments that stabilize the spine. The study’s aim was [...] Read more.
The use of traditional open decompression alone in degenerative spondylolisthesis can lead to the development of postoperative spinal instability, whereas percutaneous endoscopic decompression can preserve the attachment of intervertebral muscles, facet joint capsules, and ligaments that stabilize the spine. The study’s aim was to determine clinical as well as radiologic outcomes associated with interlaminar percutaneous endoscopic decompression in patients with stable degenerative spondylolisthesis. For this study, 28 patients with stable degenerative spondylolisthesis who underwent percutaneous endoscopic decompression were enrolled. The clinical outcomes in terms of the visual analogue scale (VAS) and Oswestry disability index (ODI) were evaluated. Radiologic outcomes were determined by measuring the ratio of disc height and the vertebral slippage percentage using lateral standing radiographs. The average follow-up period was 25.24 months. VAS and ODI were significantly improved at the final follow-up. In terms of ratio of disc height and vertebral slippage percentage found no significant difference between the preoperative and postoperative periods. One patient underwent further caudal epidural steroid injection. One patient underwent fusion because their radicular pain did not improve. Interlaminar percutaneous endoscopic decompression is an effective procedure with favorable outcomes in selected patients with stable degenerative spondylolisthesis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Degenerative Spinal Disease)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Sleep-Related Declarative Memory Consolidation in Children and Adolescents with Developmental Dyslexia
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(1), 73; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11010073 - 08 Jan 2021
Abstract
Sleep has a crucial role in memory processes, and maturational changes in sleep electrophysiology are involved in cognitive development. Albeit both sleep and memory alterations have been observed in Developmental Dyslexia (DD), their relation in this population has been scarcely investigated, particularly concerning [...] Read more.
Sleep has a crucial role in memory processes, and maturational changes in sleep electrophysiology are involved in cognitive development. Albeit both sleep and memory alterations have been observed in Developmental Dyslexia (DD), their relation in this population has been scarcely investigated, particularly concerning topographical aspects. The study aimed to compare sleep topography and associated sleep-related declarative memory consolidation in participants with DD and normal readers (NR). Eleven participants with DD and 18 NR (9–14 years old) underwent a whole-night polysomnography. They were administered a word pair task before and after sleep to assess for declarative memory consolidation. Memory performance and sleep features (macro and microstructural) were compared between the groups, and the intercorrelations between consolidation rate and sleep measures were assessed. DD showed a deeper worsening in memory after sleep compared to NR and reduced slow spindles in occipito-parietal and left fronto-central areas. Our results suggest specific alterations in local sleep EEG (i.e., sleep spindles) and in sleep-dependent memory consolidation processes in DD. We highlight the importance of a topographical approach, which might shed light on potential alteration in regional cortical oscillation dynamics in DD. The latter might represent a target for therapeutic interventions aimed at enhancing cognitive functioning in DD. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Multiple Neurocognitive Deficits and Dyslexia)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Effects of Lifelong Musicianship on White Matter Integrity and Cognitive Brain Reserve
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(1), 67; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11010067 - 06 Jan 2021
Cited by 3
Abstract
There is a significant body of research that has identified specific, high-end cognitive demand activities and lifestyles that may play a role in building cognitive brain reserve, including volume changes in gray matter and white matter, increased structural connectivity, and enhanced categorical perception. [...] Read more.
There is a significant body of research that has identified specific, high-end cognitive demand activities and lifestyles that may play a role in building cognitive brain reserve, including volume changes in gray matter and white matter, increased structural connectivity, and enhanced categorical perception. While normal aging produces trends of decreasing white matter (WM) integrity, research on cognitive brain reserve suggests that complex sensory–motor activities across the life span may slow down or reverse these trends. Previous research has focused on structural and functional changes to the human brain caused by training and experience in both linguistic (especially bilingualism) and musical domains. The current research uses diffusion tensor imaging to examine the integrity of subcortical white matter fiber tracts in lifelong musicians. Our analysis, using Tortoise and ICBM-81, reveals higher fractional anisotropy, an indicator of greater WM integrity, in aging musicians in bilateral superior longitudinal fasciculi and bilateral uncinate fasciculi. Statistical methods used include Fisher’s method and linear regression analysis. Another unique aspect of this study is the accompanying behavioral performance data for each participant. This is one of the first studies to look specifically at musicianship across the life span and its impact on bilateral WM integrity in aging. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue A Decade of Brain Sciences)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Prediction of Acoustic Residual Inhibition of Tinnitus Using a Brain-Inspired Spiking Neural Network Model
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(1), 52; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11010052 - 05 Jan 2021
Cited by 4
Abstract
Auditory Residual Inhibition (ARI) is a temporary suppression of tinnitus that occurs in some people following the presentation of masking sounds. Differences in neural response to ARI stimuli may enable classification of tinnitus and a tailored approach to intervention in the future. In [...] Read more.
Auditory Residual Inhibition (ARI) is a temporary suppression of tinnitus that occurs in some people following the presentation of masking sounds. Differences in neural response to ARI stimuli may enable classification of tinnitus and a tailored approach to intervention in the future. In an exploratory study, we investigated the use of a brain-inspired artificial neural network to examine the effects of ARI on electroencephalographic function, as well as the predictive ability of the model. Ten tinnitus patients underwent two auditory stimulation conditions (constant and amplitude modulated broadband noise) at two time points and were then characterised as responders or non-responders, based on whether they experienced ARI or not. Using a spiking neural network model, we evaluated concurrent neural patterns generated across space and time from features of electroencephalographic data, capturing the neural dynamic changes before and after stimulation. Results indicated that the model may be used to predict the effect of auditory stimulation on tinnitus on an individual basis. This approach may aid in the development of predictive models for treatment selection. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neurorehabilitation of Sensory Disorders)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Individual Differences in Hemodynamic Responses Measured on the Head Due to a Long-Term Stimulation Involving Colored Light Exposure and a Cognitive Task: A SPA-fNIRS Study
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(1), 54; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11010054 - 05 Jan 2021
Cited by 4
Abstract
When brain activity is measured by neuroimaging, the canonical hemodynamic response (increase in oxygenated hemoglobin ([O2Hb]) and decrease in deoxygenated hemoglobin ([HHb]) is not always seen in every subject. The reason for this intersubject-variability of the responses is still not completely [...] Read more.
When brain activity is measured by neuroimaging, the canonical hemodynamic response (increase in oxygenated hemoglobin ([O2Hb]) and decrease in deoxygenated hemoglobin ([HHb]) is not always seen in every subject. The reason for this intersubject-variability of the responses is still not completely understood. This study is performed with 32 healthy subjects, using the systemic physiology augmented functional near-infrared spectroscopy (SPA-fNIRS) approach. We investigate the intersubject variability of hemodynamic and systemic physiological responses, due to a verbal fluency task (VFT) under colored light exposure (CLE; blue and red). Five and seven different hemodynamic response patterns were detected in the subgroup analysis of the blue and red light exposure, respectively. We also found that arterial oxygen saturation and mean arterial pressure were positively correlated with [O2Hb] at the prefrontal cortex during the CLE-VFT independent of the color of light and classification of the subjects. Our study finds that there is substantial intersubject-variability of cerebral hemodynamic responses, which is partially explained by subject-specific systemic physiological changes induced by the CLE-VFT. This means that both subgroup analyses and the additional assessment of systemic physiology are of crucial importance to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the effects of a CLE-VFT on human subjects. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Musical Training and Brain Volume in Older Adults
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(1), 50; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11010050 - 05 Jan 2021
Cited by 3
Abstract
Musical practice, including musical training and musical performance, has been found to benefit cognitive function in older adults. Less is known about the role of musical experiences on brain structure in older adults. The present study examined the role of different types of [...] Read more.
Musical practice, including musical training and musical performance, has been found to benefit cognitive function in older adults. Less is known about the role of musical experiences on brain structure in older adults. The present study examined the role of different types of musical behaviors on brain structure in older adults. We administered the Goldsmiths Musical Sophistication Index, a questionnaire that includes questions about a variety of musical behaviors, including performance on an instrument, musical practice, allocation of time to music, musical listening expertise, and emotional responses to music. We demonstrated that musical training, defined as the extent of musical training, musical practice, and musicianship, was positively and significantly associated with the volume of the inferior frontal cortex and parahippocampus. In addition, musical training was positively associated with volume of the posterior cingulate cortex, insula, and medial orbitofrontal cortex. Together, the present study suggests that musical behaviors relate to a circuit of brain regions involved in executive function, memory, language, and emotion. As gray matter often declines with age, our study has promising implications for the positive role of musical practice on aging brain health. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Get Your Guidance Going: Investigating the Activation of Spatial Priors for Efficient Search in Virtual Reality
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(1), 44; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11010044 - 04 Jan 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
Repeated search studies are a hallmark in the investigation of the interplay between memory and attention. Due to a usually employed averaging, a substantial decrease in response times occurring between the first and second search through the same search environment is rarely discussed. [...] Read more.
Repeated search studies are a hallmark in the investigation of the interplay between memory and attention. Due to a usually employed averaging, a substantial decrease in response times occurring between the first and second search through the same search environment is rarely discussed. This search initiation effect is often the most dramatic decrease in search times in a series of sequential searches. The nature of this initial lack of search efficiency has thus far remained unexplored. We tested the hypothesis that the activation of spatial priors leads to this search efficiency profile. Before searching repeatedly through scenes in VR, participants either (1) previewed the scene, (2) saw an interrupted preview, or (3) started searching immediately. The search initiation effect was present in the latter condition but in neither of the preview conditions. Eye movement metrics revealed that the locus of this effect lies in search guidance instead of search initiation or decision time, and was beyond effects of object learning or incidental memory. Our study suggests that upon visual processing of an environment, a process of activating spatial priors to enable orientation is initiated, which takes a toll on search time at first, but once activated it can be used to guide subsequent searches. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Visual Search in (Virtual) Reality)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Executive Functions and Attention Processes in Adolescents and Young Adults with Intellectual Disability
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(1), 42; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11010042 - 03 Jan 2021
Cited by 2
Abstract
(1) Background: We made a comprehensive evaluation of executive functions (EFs) and attention processes in a group of adolescents and young adults with mild intellectual disability (ID). (2) Methods: 27 adolescents and young adults (14 females and 13 males) with ID, aged between [...] Read more.
(1) Background: We made a comprehensive evaluation of executive functions (EFs) and attention processes in a group of adolescents and young adults with mild intellectual disability (ID). (2) Methods: 27 adolescents and young adults (14 females and 13 males) with ID, aged between 15.1 and 23 years (M = 17.4; SD = 2.04), were compared to a control group free of cognitive problems and individually matched for gender and age. (3) Results: As for EFs, individuals with ID were severely impaired on all subtests of the Behavioral Assessment of Dysexecutive Syndrome (BADS) battery. However, we also found appreciable individual differences, with eight individuals (approximately 30%) scoring within normal limits. On the attention tests, individuals with ID were not generally slower but presented specific deficits only on some attention tests (i.e., Choice Reaction Times, Color Naming and Color–Word Interference, and Shifting of Attention for Verbal and for Visual Targets).The role of a global factor (i.e., cognitive speed) was modest in contributing to the group differences; i.e., when present, group differences were selectively associated with specific task manipulations, not global differences in cognitive speed. (4) Conclusions: The study confirmed large group differences in EFs; deficits in attentional processing were more specific and occurred primarily in tasks taxing the selective dimension of attention, with performance on intensive tasks almost entirely spared. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Effects of Juvenile or Adolescent Working Memory Experience and Inter-Alpha Inhibitor Protein Treatment after Neonatal Hypoxia-Ischemia
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(12), 999; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10120999 - 17 Dec 2020
Abstract
Hypoxic-Ischemic (HI) brain injury in the neonate contributes to life-long cognitive impairment. Early diagnosis and therapeutic interventions are critical but limited. We previously reported in a rat model of HI two interventional approaches that improve cognitive and sensory function: administration of Inter-alpha Inhibitor [...] Read more.
Hypoxic-Ischemic (HI) brain injury in the neonate contributes to life-long cognitive impairment. Early diagnosis and therapeutic interventions are critical but limited. We previously reported in a rat model of HI two interventional approaches that improve cognitive and sensory function: administration of Inter-alpha Inhibitor Proteins (IAIPs) and early experience in an eight-arm radial water maze (RWM) task. Here, we expanded these studies to examine the combined effects of IAIPs and multiple weeks of RWM assessment beginning with juvenile or adolescent rats to evaluate optimal age windows for behavioral interventions. Subjects were divided into treatment groups; HI with vehicle, sham surgery with vehicle, and HI with IAIPs, and received either juvenile (P31 initiation) or adolescent (P52 initiation) RWM testing, followed by adult retesting. Error rates on the RWM decreased across weeks for all conditions. Whereas, HI injury impaired global performance as compared to shams. IAIP-treated HI subjects tested as juveniles made fewer errors as compared to their untreated HI counterparts. The juvenile group made significantly fewer errors on moderate demand trials and showed improved retention as compared to the adolescent group during the first week of adult retesting. Together, results support and extend our previous findings that combining behavioral and anti-inflammatory interventions in the presence of HI improves subsequent learning performance. Results further indicate sensitive periods for behavioral interventions to improve cognitive outcomes. Specifically, early life cognitive experience can improve long-term learning performance even in the presence of HI injury. Results from this study provide insight into typical brain development and the impact of developmentally targeted therapeutics and task-specific experience on subsequent cognitive processing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Prevention and Intervention for Pediatric Brain Injury)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Brain Connectivity Changes after Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment: A Randomized Manual Placebo-Controlled Trial
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(12), 969; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10120969 - 11 Dec 2020
Cited by 6
Abstract
The effects of osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) on functional brain connectivity in healthy adults is missing in the literature. To make up for this lack, we applied advanced network analysis methods to analyze resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data, after OMT [...] Read more.
The effects of osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) on functional brain connectivity in healthy adults is missing in the literature. To make up for this lack, we applied advanced network analysis methods to analyze resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data, after OMT and Placebo treatment (P) in 30 healthy asymptomatic young participants randomized into OMT and placebo groups (OMTg; Pg). fMRI brain activity measures, performed before (T0), immediately after (T1) and three days after (T2) OMT or P were used for inferring treatment effects on brain circuit functional organization. Repeated measures ANOVA and post-hoc analysis demonstrated that Right Precentral Gyrus (F (2, 32) = 5.995, p < 0.005) was more influential over the information flow immediately after the OMT, while decreased betweenness centrality in Left Caudate (F (2, 32) = 6.496, p < 0.005) was observable three days after. Clustering coefficient showed a distinct time-point and group effect. At T1, reduced neighborhood connectivity was observed after OMT in the Left Amygdala (L-Amyg) (F (2, 32) = 7.269, p < 0.005) and Left Middle Temporal Gyrus (F (2, 32) = 6.452, p < 0.005), whereas at T2 the L-Amyg and Vermis-III (F (2, 32) = 6.772, p < 0.005) increased functional interactions. Data demonstrated functional connectivity re-arrangement after OMT. Full article
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Communication
Religious Coping, Hopelessness, and Suicide Ideation in Subjects with First-Episode Major Depression: An Exploratory Study in the Real World Clinical Practice
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(12), 912; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10120912 - 27 Nov 2020
Abstract
Background. This study aimed to evaluate the potential relationships between religious coping, hopelessness, and suicide ideation in adult outpatients with the first episode of major depressive disorder (MDD). Methods. Ninety-four adult outpatients with MDD were assessed through the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D), [...] Read more.
Background. This study aimed to evaluate the potential relationships between religious coping, hopelessness, and suicide ideation in adult outpatients with the first episode of major depressive disorder (MDD). Methods. Ninety-four adult outpatients with MDD were assessed through the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D), the Beck Hopelessness Scale (BHS), and the Scale of Suicide Ideation (SSI). Religious coping was assessed with the Italian version of the Brief RCOPE scale, consisting of seven positive coping items (PosCop) and seven negative coping items (NegCop). Results. The results showed that the Brief RCOPE PosCop scale exhibited a strong inverse correlation with HAM-D, BHS, and SSI, whereas HAM-D and BHS were positively correlated with SSI. Brief RCOPE NegCop scores were positively correlated only with SSI. Regression analysis with SSI as the dependent variable showed that higher Brief RCOPE PosCop scores were associated with lower suicide ideation, whereas higher HAM-D and BHS scores were associated with higher suicide ideation. Conclusion. Positive religious coping may be a protective factor against the development of suicide ideation, perhaps counteracting the severity of depressive symptoms and hopelessness. The evaluation of religious coping should be performed in all subjects with MDD in everyday clinical practice. However, this study was preliminary, and limitations must be considered. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue A Decade of Brain Sciences)
Article
Pupil Dilation during Reward Anticipation Is Correlated to Depressive Symptom Load in Patients with Major Depressive Disorder
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(12), 906; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10120906 - 25 Nov 2020
Cited by 3
Abstract
Depression is a debilitating disorder with high prevalence and socioeconomic cost, but the brain-physiological processes that are altered during depressive states are not well understood. Here, we build on recent findings in macaques that indicate a direct causal relationship between pupil dilation and [...] Read more.
Depression is a debilitating disorder with high prevalence and socioeconomic cost, but the brain-physiological processes that are altered during depressive states are not well understood. Here, we build on recent findings in macaques that indicate a direct causal relationship between pupil dilation and anterior cingulate cortex mediated arousal during anticipation of reward. We translated these findings to human subjects with concomitant pupillometry/fMRI in a sample of unmedicated participants diagnosed with major depression and healthy controls. We could show that the upregulation and maintenance of arousal in anticipation of reward was disrupted in patients in a symptom-load dependent manner. We could further show that the failure to maintain reward anticipatory arousal showed state-marker properties, as it tracked the load and impact of depressive symptoms independent of prior diagnosis status. Further, group differences of anticipatory arousal and continuous correlations with symptom load were not traceable only at the level of pupillometric responses, but were mirrored also at the neural level within salience network hubs. The upregulation and maintenance of arousal during reward anticipation is a novel translational and well-traceable process that could prove a promising gateway to a physiologically informed patient stratification and targeted interventions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue CNS-Arousal—Transdiagnostic Relevance and Therapeutic Implications)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Threatening Facial Expressions Impact Goal-Directed Actions Only if Task-Relevant
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(11), 794; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10110794 - 29 Oct 2020
Cited by 5
Abstract
Facial emotional expressions are a salient source of information for nonverbal social interactions. However, their impact on action planning and execution is highly controversial. In this vein, the effect of the two threatening facial expressions, i.e., angry and fearful faces, is still unclear. [...] Read more.
Facial emotional expressions are a salient source of information for nonverbal social interactions. However, their impact on action planning and execution is highly controversial. In this vein, the effect of the two threatening facial expressions, i.e., angry and fearful faces, is still unclear. Frequently, fear and anger are used interchangeably as negative emotions. However, they convey different social signals. Unlike fear, anger indicates a direct threat toward the observer. To provide new evidence on this issue, we exploited a novel design based on two versions of a Go/No-go task. In the emotional version, healthy participants had to perform the same movement for pictures of fearful, angry, or happy faces and withhold it when neutral expressions were presented. The same pictures were shown in the control version, but participants had to move or suppress the movement, according to the actor’s gender. This experimental design allows us to test task relevance’s impact on emotional stimuli without conflating movement planning with target detection and task switching. We found that the emotional content of faces interferes with actions only when task-relevant, i.e., the effect of emotions is context-dependent. We also showed that angry faces qualitatively had the same effect as fearful faces, i.e., both negative emotions decreased response readiness with respect to happy expressions. However, anger has a much greater impact than fear, as it increases both the rates of mistakes and the time of movement execution. We interpreted these results, suggesting that participants have to exploit more cognitive resources to appraise threatening than positive facial expressions, and angry than fearful faces before acting. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Emotions Guide Decision-Making: Behavioral and Brain Mechanisms)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
BDNF Outperforms TrkB Agonist 7,8,3′-THF in Preserving the Auditory Nerve in Deafened Guinea Pigs
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(11), 787; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10110787 - 28 Oct 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
In deaf subjects using a cochlear implant (CI) for hearing restoration, the auditory nerve is subject to degeneration, which may negatively impact CI effectiveness. This nerve degeneration can be reduced by neurotrophic treatment. Here, we compare the preservative effects of the naturally occurring [...] Read more.
In deaf subjects using a cochlear implant (CI) for hearing restoration, the auditory nerve is subject to degeneration, which may negatively impact CI effectiveness. This nerve degeneration can be reduced by neurotrophic treatment. Here, we compare the preservative effects of the naturally occurring tyrosine receptor kinase B (TrkB) agonist brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and the small-molecule TrkB agonist 7,8,3′-trihydroxyflavone (THF) on the auditory nerve in deafened guinea pigs. THF may be more effective than BDNF throughout the cochlea because of better pharmacokinetic properties. The neurotrophic compounds were delivered by placement of a gelatin sponge on the perforated round window membrane. To complement the histology of spiral ganglion cells (SGCs), electrically evoked compound action potential (eCAP) recordings were performed four weeks after treatment initiation. We analyzed the eCAP inter-phase gap (IPG) effect and measures derived from pulse-train evoked eCAPs, both indicative of SGC healthiness. BDNF but not THF yielded a significantly higher survival of SGCs in the basal cochlear turn than untreated controls. Regarding IPG effect and pulse-train responses, the BDNF-treated animals exhibited more normal responses than both untreated and THF-treated animals. We have thus confirmed the protective effect of BDNF, but we have not confirmed previously reported protective effects of THF with our clinically applicable delivery method. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor in the Auditory System)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Neutrophil-to-Lymphocyte Ratio and Symptomatic Hemorrhagic Transformation in Ischemic Stroke Patients Undergoing Revascularization
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(11), 771; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10110771 - 23 Oct 2020
Cited by 29
Abstract
Objectives: Symptomatic hemorrhagic transformation (sHT) is a life-threatening complication of acute ischemic stroke (AIS). The early identification of the patients at increased risk of sHT can have clinically relevant implications. The aim of this study was to explore the validity and accuracy of [...] Read more.
Objectives: Symptomatic hemorrhagic transformation (sHT) is a life-threatening complication of acute ischemic stroke (AIS). The early identification of the patients at increased risk of sHT can have clinically relevant implications. The aim of this study was to explore the validity and accuracy of the neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (NLR) in predicting sHT in patients with AIS undergoing revascularization. Methods: Consecutive patients hospitalized for AIS who underwent intravenous thrombolysis, mechanical thrombectomy or both were identified. The NLR values were estimated at admission. The study endpoint was the occurrence of sHT within 24 h from stroke treatment. Results: Fifty-one patients with AIS were included, with a median age of 67 (interquartile range, 55–78) years. sHT occurred in 10 (19.6%) patients. Patients who developed sHT had higher NLR at admission. NLR was an independent predictor of sHT and showed good discriminatory power (area under the curve 0.81). In a multivariable analysis, NLR and systolic blood pressure were independently associated with sHT. Conclusions: NLR at admission can accurately predict sHT in patients with AIS undergoing revascularization. Full article
Article
The Impact of Different Sounds on Stress Level in the Context of EEG, Cardiac Measures and Subjective Stress Level: A Pilot Study
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(10), 728; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10100728 - 13 Oct 2020
Cited by 21
Abstract
Everyone experiences stress at certain times in their lives. This feeling can motivate, however, if it persists for a prolonged period, it leads to negative changes in the human body. Stress is characterized, among other things, by increased blood pressure, increased pulse and [...] Read more.
Everyone experiences stress at certain times in their lives. This feeling can motivate, however, if it persists for a prolonged period, it leads to negative changes in the human body. Stress is characterized, among other things, by increased blood pressure, increased pulse and decreased alpha-frequency brainwave activity. An overview of the literature indicates that music therapy can be an effective and inexpensive method of improving these factors. The objective of this study was to analyze the impact of various types of music on stress level in subjects. The conducted experiment involved nine females, aged 22. All participants were healthy and did not have any neurological or psychiatric disorders. The test included four types of audio stimuli: silence (control sample), rap, relaxing music and music triggering an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) phenomenon. The impact of individual sound types was assessed using data obtained from four sources: a fourteen-channel electroencephalograph, a blood pressure monitor, a pulsometer and participant’s subjective stress perception. The conclusions from the conducted study indicate that rap music negatively affects the reduction of stress level compared to the control group (p < 0.05), whereas relaxing music and ASMR calms subjects much faster than silence (p < 0.05). Full article
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Age-Dependent Auditory Processing Deficits after Cochlear Synaptopathy Depend on Auditory Nerve Latency and the Ability of the Brain to Recruit LTP/BDNF
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(10), 710; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10100710 - 06 Oct 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
Age-related decoupling of auditory nerve fibers from hair cells (cochlear synaptopathy) has been linked to temporal processing deficits and impaired speech recognition performance. The link between both is elusive. We have previously demonstrated that cochlear synaptopathy, if centrally compensated through enhanced input/output function [...] Read more.
Age-related decoupling of auditory nerve fibers from hair cells (cochlear synaptopathy) has been linked to temporal processing deficits and impaired speech recognition performance. The link between both is elusive. We have previously demonstrated that cochlear synaptopathy, if centrally compensated through enhanced input/output function (neural gain), can prevent age-dependent temporal discrimination loss. It was also found that central neural gain after acoustic trauma was linked to hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP) and upregulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Using middle-aged and old BDNF-live-exon-visualization (BLEV) reporter mice we analyzed the specific recruitment of LTP and the activity-dependent usage of Bdnf exon-IV and -VI promoters relative to cochlear synaptopathy and central (temporal) processing. For both groups, specimens with higher or lower ability to centrally compensate diminished auditory nerve activity were found. Strikingly, low compensating mouse groups differed from high compensators by prolonged auditory nerve latency. Moreover, low compensators exhibited attenuated responses to amplitude-modulated tones, and a reduction of hippocampal LTP and Bdnf transcript levels in comparison to high compensators. These results suggest that latency of auditory nerve processing, recruitment of hippocampal LTP, and Bdnf transcription, are key factors for age-dependent auditory processing deficits, rather than cochlear synaptopathy or aging per se. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor in the Auditory System)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Free-Weight Resistance Exercise Is More Effective in Enhancing Inhibitory Control than Machine-Based Training: A Randomized, Controlled Trial
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(10), 702; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10100702 - 03 Oct 2020
Cited by 5
Abstract
Resistance exercise has been demonstrated to improve brain function. However, the optimal workout characteristics are a matter of debate. This randomized, controlled trial aimed to elucidate differences between free-weight (REfree) and machine-based (REmach) training with regard to their ability [...] Read more.
Resistance exercise has been demonstrated to improve brain function. However, the optimal workout characteristics are a matter of debate. This randomized, controlled trial aimed to elucidate differences between free-weight (REfree) and machine-based (REmach) training with regard to their ability to acutely enhance cognitive performance (CP). A total of n = 46 healthy individuals (27 ± 4 years, 26 men) performed a 45-min bout of REfree (military press, barbell squat, bench press) or REmach (shoulder press, leg press, chest press). Pre- and post-intervention, CP was examined using the Stroop test, Trail Making Test and Digit Span test. Mann–Whitney U tests did not reveal between-group differences for performance in the Digit Span test, Trail Making test and the color and word conditions of the Stroop test (p > 0.05). However, REfree was superior to REmach in the Stroop color-word condition (+6.3%, p = 0.02, R = 0.35). Additionally, REfree elicited pre-post changes in all parameters except for the Digit Span test and the word condition of the Stroop test while REmach only improved cognitive performance in part A of the Trail Making test. Using free weights seems to be the more effective RE method to acutely improve cognitive function (i.e., inhibitory control). The mechanisms of this finding merit further investigation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Studying Brain Activity in Sports Performance)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Cognitive Training Deep Dive: The Impact of Child, Training Behavior and Environmental Factors within a Controlled Trial of Cogmed for Fragile X Syndrome
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(10), 671; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10100671 - 25 Sep 2020
Abstract
Children with fragile X syndrome (FXS) exhibit deficits in a variety of cognitive processes within the executive function domain. As working memory (WM) is known to support a wide range of cognitive, learning and adaptive functions, WM computer-based training programs have the potential [...] Read more.
Children with fragile X syndrome (FXS) exhibit deficits in a variety of cognitive processes within the executive function domain. As working memory (WM) is known to support a wide range of cognitive, learning and adaptive functions, WM computer-based training programs have the potential to benefit people with FXS and other forms of intellectual and developmental disability (IDD). However, research on the effectiveness of WM training has been mixed. The current study is a follow-up “deep dive” into the data collected during a randomized controlled trial of Cogmed (Stockholm, Sweden) WM training in children with FXS. Analyses characterized the training data, identified training quality metrics, and identified subgroups of participants with similar training patterns. Child, parent, home environment and training quality metrics were explored in relation to the clinical outcomes during the WM training intervention. Baseline cognitive level and training behavior metrics were linked to gains in WM performance-based assessments and also to reductions in inattention and other behaviors related to executive functioning during the intervention. The results also support a recommendation that future cognitive intervention trials with individuals with IDD such as FXS include additional screening of participants to determine not only baseline feasibility, but also capacity for training progress over a short period prior to inclusion and randomization. This practice may also better identify individuals with IDD who are more likely to benefit from cognitive training in clinical and educational settings. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Update on the Treatment of Fragile X Syndrome)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Efficacy of Noninvasive Brain Stimulation (tDCS or TMS) Paired with Language Therapy in the Treatment of Primary Progressive Aphasia: An Exploratory Meta-Analysis
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(9), 597; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10090597 - 28 Aug 2020
Cited by 4
Abstract
Noninvasive brain stimulation techniques, such as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), paired with behavioral language therapy, have demonstrated the capacity to enhance language abilities in primary progressive aphasia (PPA), a debilitating degenerative neurological syndrome that leads to declines [...] Read more.
Noninvasive brain stimulation techniques, such as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), paired with behavioral language therapy, have demonstrated the capacity to enhance language abilities in primary progressive aphasia (PPA), a debilitating degenerative neurological syndrome that leads to declines in communication abilities. The aim of this meta-analysis is to systematically evaluate the efficacy of tDCS and TMS in improving language outcomes in PPA, explore the magnitude of effects between stimulation modalities, and examine potential moderators that may influence treatment effects. Standard mean differences for change in performance from baseline to post-stimulation on language-related tasks were evaluated. Six tDCS studies and two repetitive TMS studies met inclusion criteria and provided 22 effects in the analysis. Random effect models revealed a significant, heterogeneous, and moderate effect size for tDCS and TMS in the enhancement of language outcomes. Findings demonstrate that naming ability significantly improves due to brain stimulation, an effect found to be largely driven by tDCS. Future randomized controlled trials are needed to determine long-term effectiveness of noninvasive brain stimulation techniques on language abilities, further delineate the efficacy of tDCS and TMS, and identify optimal parameters to enable the greatest gains for persons with PPA. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Frontiers in Neurostimulation to Enhance Language Skills)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Grammatical Comprehension in Italian Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(8), 510; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10080510 - 02 Aug 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
Language deficits represent one of the most relevant factors that determine the clinical phenotype of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The main aim of the research was to study the grammatical comprehension of children with ASD. A sample of 70 well-diagnosed children [...] Read more.
Language deficits represent one of the most relevant factors that determine the clinical phenotype of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The main aim of the research was to study the grammatical comprehension of children with ASD. A sample of 70 well-diagnosed children (60 boys and 10 girls; aged 4.9–8 years) were prospectively recruited. The results showed that language comprehension is the most impaired language domain in ASD. These findings have important clinical implications, since the persistence of grammatical receptive deficits may have a negative impact on social, adaptive and learning achievements. As for the grammatical profiles, persistent difficulties were found during the school-age years in morphological and syntactic decoding in children with relatively preserved cognitive and expressive language skills. These data and the lack of a statistically significant correlation between the severity of ASD symptoms and language skills are in line with the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) perspective that considers the socio-communication disorder as a nuclear feature of ASD and the language disorder as a specifier of the diagnosis and not as a secondary symptom anymore. The presence of receptive difficulties in school-age ASD children with relatively preserved non-verbal cognitive abilities provides important hints to establish rehabilitative treatments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Autism Research)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Adolescent Intermittent Ethanol Exposure Effects on Kappa Opioid Receptor Mediated Dopamine Transmission: Sex and Age of Exposure Matter
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(8), 472; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10080472 - 23 Jul 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Underage alcohol drinking increases the risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD). In rodents, adolescent ethanol exposure augments ethanol consumption and anxiety-like behavior while reducing social interaction. However, the underlying mechanisms driving these adaptations are unclear. The dopamine and kappa opioid receptor (KOR) [...] Read more.
Underage alcohol drinking increases the risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD). In rodents, adolescent ethanol exposure augments ethanol consumption and anxiety-like behavior while reducing social interaction. However, the underlying mechanisms driving these adaptations are unclear. The dopamine and kappa opioid receptor (KOR) systems in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) are implicated in affective disorders, including AUD, with studies showing augmented KOR function and reduced dopamine transmission in ethanol-dependent adult animals. Thus, here we examine the impact of adolescent intermittent ethanol (AIE) exposure on dopamine transmission and KOR function in the NAc. Rats were exposed to water or ethanol (4 g/kg, intragastrically) every other day during early (postnatal day (PD) 25–45) or late (PD 45–65) adolescence. While AIE exposure during early adolescence (early-AIE) did not alter dopamine release in male and female rats, AIE exposure during late adolescence (late-AIE) resulted in greater dopamine release in males and lower dopamine release in females. To determine the impact of AIE on KOR function, we measured the effect of KOR activation using U50,488 (0.01–1.00 µM) on dopamine release. Early-AIE exposure potentiated KOR-mediated inhibition of dopamine release in females, while late-AIE exposure attenuated this effect in males. Interestingly, no differences in KOR function were observed in early-AIE exposed males and late-AIE exposed females. Together, these data suggest that AIE exposure impact on neural processes is dependent on sex and exposure timing. These differences likely arise from differential developmental timing in males and females. This is the first study to show changes in KOR function following AIE exposure. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Facial Emotion Recognition in Children and Adolescents with Specific Learning Disorder
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(8), 473; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10080473 - 23 Jul 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
Background: Some recent studies suggest that children and adolescents with different neurodevelopmental disorders perform worse in emotions recognition through facial expressions (ER) compared with typically developing peers. This impairment is also described in children with Specific Learning Disorders (SLD), compromising their scholastic achievement, [...] Read more.
Background: Some recent studies suggest that children and adolescents with different neurodevelopmental disorders perform worse in emotions recognition through facial expressions (ER) compared with typically developing peers. This impairment is also described in children with Specific Learning Disorders (SLD), compromising their scholastic achievement, social functioning, and quality of life. The purpose of our study is to evaluate ER skills in children and adolescents with SLD compared to a control group without learning disorders, and correlate them with intelligence and executive functions. Materials and Methods: Our work is a cross-sectional observational study. Sixty-three children and adolescents aged between 8 and 16 years, diagnosed with SLD, and 32 sex/age-matched controls without learning disorders were recruited. All participants were administered standardized neuropsychological tests, evaluating facial emotion recognition (NEPSY-II), executive functions (EpiTrack Junior), and intelligence profile (WISC-IV). Results: Emotion recognition mean score was significantly lower in the SLD group than in the controls group on the Mann–Whitney U test for unpaired samples (p < 0.001). The SLD group performed significantly lower than the control group in their abilities to identify neutral expressions, happiness, sadness, anger, and fear compared to controls (p < 0.001). ER scores were positively correlated to the executive functions scores. There was no correlation with the Total Intelligence Quotient scores but there is a significant positive correlation with Working Memory Index and Processing Speed Index measured by WISC.IV. Conclusion: Our study showed that children and adolescents with Specific Learning Disorders have facial emotion recognition impairment when compared with a group of peers without learning disorders. ER abilities were independent of their global intelligence but potentially related to executive functions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neurological Diseases in Children)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Individual Differences in Infants’ Temperament Affect Face Processing
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(8), 474; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10080474 - 23 Jul 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Infants show an advantage in processing female and familiar race faces, but the effect sizes are often small, suggesting individual differences in their discrimination abilities. This research assessed whether differences in 6–10-month-olds’ temperament (surgency and orienting) predicted how they scanned individual faces varying [...] Read more.
Infants show an advantage in processing female and familiar race faces, but the effect sizes are often small, suggesting individual differences in their discrimination abilities. This research assessed whether differences in 6–10-month-olds’ temperament (surgency and orienting) predicted how they scanned individual faces varying in race and gender during familiarization and whether and how long it took them to locate the face during a visual search task. This study also examined whether infants viewing faces posing pleasant relative to neutral expressions would facilitate their discrimination of male and unfamiliar race faces. Results showed that infants’ surgency on its own or in conjunction with their orienting regularly interacted with facial characteristics to predict their scanning and location of faces. Furthermore, infants’ scanning patterns (dwell times and internal–external fixation shifts) correlated with their ability and time to locate a familiarized face. Moreover, infants who viewed faces with pleasant expressions showed better discrimination of unfamiliar race and male faces compared with infants who viewed neutral faces. Including temperament in the analyses consistently demonstrated its significance for understanding infant face processing. Findings suggest that positive interactions with other-race individuals and men might reduce processing disadvantages for those face types. Locating familiar adults in a timely manner is a crucial skill for infants to develop and these data elucidate factors influencing this ability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Study of Eye Movements in Infancy)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Astroglia-Derived BDNF and MSK-1 Mediate Experience- and Diet-Dependent Synaptic Plasticity
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(7), 462; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10070462 - 18 Jul 2020
Cited by 5
Abstract
Experience- and diet-dependent regulation of synaptic plasticity can underlie beneficial effects of active lifestyle on the aging brain. Our previous results demonstrate a key role for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and MSK1 kinase in experience-related homeostatic synaptic scaling. Astroglia has been recently shown [...] Read more.
Experience- and diet-dependent regulation of synaptic plasticity can underlie beneficial effects of active lifestyle on the aging brain. Our previous results demonstrate a key role for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and MSK1 kinase in experience-related homeostatic synaptic scaling. Astroglia has been recently shown to release BDNF via a calcium-dependent mechanism. To elucidate a role for astroglia-derived BDNF in homeostatic synaptic plasticity in the aging brain, we explored the experience- and diet-related alterations of synaptic transmission and plasticity in transgenic mice with impairment of the BDNF/MSK1 pathway (MSK1 kinase dead knock-in mice, MSK1 KD) and impairment of glial exocytosis (dnSNARE mice). We found that prolonged tonic activation of astrocytes caused BDNF-dependent increase in the efficacy of excitatory synapses accompanied by enlargement of synaptic boutons. We also observed that exposure to environmental enrichment (EE) and caloric restriction (CR) enhanced the Ca2+ signalling in cortical astrocytes and strongly up-regulated the excitatory and down-regulated inhibitory synaptic currents in old wild-type mice, thus counterbalancing the impact of ageing on astroglial and synaptic signalling. The EE- and CR-induced up-scaling of excitatory synaptic transmission in neocortex was accompanied by the enhancement of long-term synaptic potentiation. Importantly, effects of EE and CR on synaptic transmission and plasticity was significantly reduced in the MSK1 KD and dnSNARE mice. Combined, our results suggest that astroglial release of BDNF is important for the homeostatic regulation of cortical synapses and beneficial effects of EE and CR on synaptic transmission and plasticity in aging brain. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Neuroglia)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Impact of Aquatic Exercise on Respiratory Outcomes and Functional Activities in Children with Neuromuscular Disorders: Findings from an Open-Label and Prospective Preliminary Pilot Study
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(7), 458; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10070458 - 17 Jul 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Neuromuscular disorders (NMD) lead to the progressive loss of motor and respiratory functions and a decline in daily activities and participation. We aimed to evaluate respiratory changes and functional outcomes in children attending an aquatic therapy program. Eleven patients diagnosed with NMD (4–18 [...] Read more.
Neuromuscular disorders (NMD) lead to the progressive loss of motor and respiratory functions and a decline in daily activities and participation. We aimed to evaluate respiratory changes and functional outcomes in children attending an aquatic therapy program. Eleven patients diagnosed with NMD (4–18 years, Vignos scale 1–9) were involved in a 10-week aquatic exercise program. The ventilation variables were: peak cough flow, volumes (forced expiratory volume in one second-FEV1 and inspiratory volume) and respiratory pressures to evaluate strength and oxygen saturation (O2 sat). Functional skills were measured in the aquatic environment (Water Orientation Test Alyn 1) and on dry land, (Pediatric Evaluation of Disability Inventory), together with quality of life (Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory). Our evaluation included several 2 × 6 mixed-model repeated measures analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) with time (baseline, post 1 session, pre-post at five weeks and pre-post at 10 weeks). Important improvements in functional skills were observed in and out of the water and children under the age of 11 displayed a significant difference for inspirational volume (p = 0.002) and O2 sat (p = 0.029). Clinical, statistically insignificant changes were found for peak cough flow and expiratory pressures values after aquatic exercise. These results may support a relationship between aquatic exercise in NMD, respiratory outcomes and functional activities in water and on land. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Developmental Neuroscience)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Perfusion and Metabolic Neuromonitoring during Ventricular Taps in Infants with Post-Hemorrhagic Ventricular Dilatation
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(7), 452; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10070452 - 15 Jul 2020
Cited by 6
Abstract
Post-hemorrhagic ventricular dilatation (PHVD) is characterized by a build-up of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) in the ventricles, which increases intracranial pressure and compresses brain tissue. Clinical interventions (i.e., ventricular taps, VT) work to mitigate these complications through CSF drainage; however, the timing of [...] Read more.
Post-hemorrhagic ventricular dilatation (PHVD) is characterized by a build-up of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) in the ventricles, which increases intracranial pressure and compresses brain tissue. Clinical interventions (i.e., ventricular taps, VT) work to mitigate these complications through CSF drainage; however, the timing of these procedures remains imprecise. This study presents Neonatal NeuroMonitor (NNeMo), a portable optical device that combines broadband near-infrared spectroscopy (B-NIRS) and diffuse correlation spectroscopy (DCS) to provide simultaneous assessments of cerebral blood flow (CBF), tissue saturation (StO2), and the oxidation state of cytochrome c oxidase (oxCCO). In this study, NNeMo was used to monitor cerebral hemodynamics and metabolism in PHVD patients selected for a VT. Across multiple VTs in four patients, no significant changes were found in any of the three parameters: CBF increased by 14.6 ± 37.6% (p = 0.09), StO2 by 1.9 ± 4.9% (p = 0.2), and oxCCO by 0.4 ± 0.6 µM (p = 0.09). However, removing outliers resulted in significant, but small, increases in CBF (6.0 ± 7.7%) and oxCCO (0.1 ± 0.1 µM). The results of this study demonstrate NNeMo’s ability to provide safe, non-invasive measurements of cerebral perfusion and metabolism for neuromonitoring applications in the neonatal intensive care unit. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neurocritical Care and Cerebrovascular Health)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Sex-Specific Effects of Early Life Stress on Brain Mitochondrial Function, Monoamine Levels and Neuroinflammation
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(7), 447; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10070447 - 14 Jul 2020
Cited by 6
Abstract
Sex differences have been reported in the susceptibility to early life stress and its neurobiological correlates in humans and experimental animals. However, most of the current research with animal models of early stress has been performed mainly in males. In the present study, [...] Read more.
Sex differences have been reported in the susceptibility to early life stress and its neurobiological correlates in humans and experimental animals. However, most of the current research with animal models of early stress has been performed mainly in males. In the present study, prolonged maternal separation (MS) paradigm was applied as an animal model to resemble the effects of adverse early experiences in male and female rats. Regional brain mitochondrial function, monoaminergic activity, and neuroinflammation were evaluated as adults. Mitochondrial energy metabolism was greatly decreased in MS females as compared with MS males in the prefrontal cortex, dorsal hippocampus, and the nucleus accumbens shell. In addition, MS males had lower serotonin levels and increased serotonin turnover in the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. However, MS females showed increased dopamine turnover in the prefrontal cortex and increased norepinephrine turnover in the striatum, but decreased dopamine turnover in the hippocampus. Sex differences were also found for pro-inflammatory cytokine levels, with increased levels of TNF-α and IL-6 in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus of MS males, and increased IL-6 levels in the striatum of MS females. These results evidence the complex sex- and brain region-specific long-term consequences of early life stress. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role of Stress and Glucocorticoids in Learning and Memory)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Sustained Isometric Wrist Flexion and Extension Maximal Voluntary Contractions on Corticospinal Excitability to Forearm Muscles during Low-Intensity Hand-Gripping
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(7), 445; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10070445 - 13 Jul 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
The wrist extensors demonstrate an earlier fatigue onset than the wrist flexors. However, it is currently unclear whether fatigue induces unique changes in muscle activity or corticospinal excitability between these muscle groups. The purpose of this study was to examine how sustained isometric [...] Read more.
The wrist extensors demonstrate an earlier fatigue onset than the wrist flexors. However, it is currently unclear whether fatigue induces unique changes in muscle activity or corticospinal excitability between these muscle groups. The purpose of this study was to examine how sustained isometric wrist extension/flexion maximal voluntary contractions (MVCs) influence muscle activity and corticospinal excitability of the forearm. Corticospinal excitability to three wrist flexors and three wrist extensors were measured using motor evoked potentials (MEPs) elicited via transcranial magnetic stimulation. Responses were elicited while participants exerted 10% of their maximal handgrip force, before and after a sustained wrist flexion or extension MVC (performed on separate sessions). Post-fatigue measures were collected up to 10-min post-fatigue. Immediately post-fatigue, extensor muscle activity was significantly greater following the wrist flexion fatigue session, although corticospinal excitability (normalized to muscle activity) was greater on the wrist extension day. Responses were largely unchanged in the wrist flexors. However, for the flexor carpi ulnaris, normalized MEP amplitudes were significantly larger following wrist extension fatigue. These findings demonstrate that sustained isometric flexion/extension MVCs result in a complex reorganization of forearm muscle recruitment strategies during hand-gripping. Based on these findings, previously observed corticospinal behaviour following fatigue may not apply when the fatiguing task and measurement task are different. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Brain Plasticity and Motor Control—Series II)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Communication
Effective Strategies for Managing COVID-19 Emergency Restrictions for Adults with Severe ASD in a Daycare Center in Italy
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(7), 436; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10070436 - 09 Jul 2020
Cited by 9
Abstract
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a serious challenge for the life and mental health of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). COVID-19 sanitary restrictions led to significant changes in the lives of people with ASD, including their routines; similarly, these modifications affected the [...] Read more.
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a serious challenge for the life and mental health of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). COVID-19 sanitary restrictions led to significant changes in the lives of people with ASD, including their routines; similarly, these modifications affected the daily activities of the daycare centers which they attended. The present retrospective study evaluated the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on challenging behaviors in a cohort of people with severe ASD attending a daycare center in Italy at the beginning of the pandemic. During the first two weeks of the pandemic, we did not observe variations in challenging behaviors. This suggests that adaptations used to support these individuals with ASD in adapting to the COVID-19 emergency restrictions were effective for managing their behavior. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Autism Research)
Article
A Novel Clinical Research Modality for Enrolling Diverse Participants Using a Diverse Team
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(7), 434; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10070434 - 08 Jul 2020
Abstract
The advancement of the pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI) knowledge base requires biospecimens and data from large samples. This study seeks to describe a novel clinical research modality to establish best practices for enrolling a diverse pediatric TBI population and quantifying key information [...] Read more.
The advancement of the pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI) knowledge base requires biospecimens and data from large samples. This study seeks to describe a novel clinical research modality to establish best practices for enrolling a diverse pediatric TBI population and quantifying key information on enrollment into biobanks. Screening form responses were standardized and cleaned through Google Sheets. Data were used to analyze total individuals at each enrollment stage. R was utilized for final analysis, including logistic model and proportion statistical tests, to determine further significance and relationships. Issues throughout data cleaning shed light on limitations of the consent modality. The results suggest that through a diverse research team, the recruited sample exceeds traditional measures of representation (e.g., sex, race, ethnicity). Sex demographics of the study are representative of the local population. Screening for candidates is critical to the success of the consent modality. The consent modality may be modified to increase the diversity of the study population and accept bilingual candidates. Researchers must implement best practices, including increasing inclusivity of bilingual populations, utilizing technology, and improving participant follow-up, to improve health disparities for understudied clinical populations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Disparities in Traumatic Brain Injury)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Cortico-Hippocampal Computational Modeling Using Quantum Neural Networks to Simulate Classical Conditioning Paradigms
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(7), 431; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10070431 - 07 Jul 2020
Abstract
Most existing cortico-hippocampal computational models use different artificial neural network topologies. These conventional approaches, which simulate various biological paradigms, can get slow training and inadequate conditioned responses for two reasons: increases in the number of conditioned stimuli and in the complexity of the [...] Read more.
Most existing cortico-hippocampal computational models use different artificial neural network topologies. These conventional approaches, which simulate various biological paradigms, can get slow training and inadequate conditioned responses for two reasons: increases in the number of conditioned stimuli and in the complexity of the simulated biological paradigms in different phases. In this paper, a cortico-hippocampal computational quantum (CHCQ) model is proposed for modeling intact and lesioned systems. The CHCQ model is the first computational model that uses the quantum neural networks for simulating the biological paradigms. The model consists of two entangled quantum neural networks: an adaptive single-layer feedforward quantum neural network and an autoencoder quantum neural network. The CHCQ model adaptively updates all the weights of its quantum neural networks using quantum instar, outstar, and Widrow–Hoff learning algorithms. Our model successfully simulated several biological processes and maintained the output-conditioned responses quickly and efficiently. Moreover, the results were consistent with prior biological studies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Computational Neuroscience and Neuroinformatics)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Function-Based Tractography of the Language Network Correlates with Aphasia in Patients with Language-Eloquent Glioblastoma
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(7), 412; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10070412 - 01 Jul 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
To date, the structural characteristics that distinguish language-involved from non-involved cortical areas are largely unclear. Particularly in patients suffering from language-eloquent brain tumors, reliable mapping of the cortico-subcortical language network is of high clinical importance to prepare and guide safe tumor resection. To [...] Read more.
To date, the structural characteristics that distinguish language-involved from non-involved cortical areas are largely unclear. Particularly in patients suffering from language-eloquent brain tumors, reliable mapping of the cortico-subcortical language network is of high clinical importance to prepare and guide safe tumor resection. To investigate differences in structural characteristics between language-positive and language-negative areas, 20 patients (mean age: 63.2 ± 12.9 years, 16 males) diagnosed with language-eloquent left-hemispheric glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) underwent preoperative language mapping by navigated transcranial magnetic stimulation (nTMS) and nTMS-based diffusion tensor imaging fiber tracking (DTI FT). The number of language-positive and language-negative points as well as the gray matter intensity (GMI), normalized volumes of U-fibers, interhemispheric fibers, and fibers projecting to the cerebellum were assessed and compared between language-positive and language-negative nTMS mappings and set in correlation with aphasia grades. We found significantly lower GMI for language-positive nTMS points (5.7 ± 1.7 versus 7.1 ± 1.6, p = 0.0121). Furthermore, language-positive nTMS points were characterized by an enhanced connectivity profile, i.e., these points showed a significantly higher ratio in volumes for U-fibers (p ≤ 0.0056), interhemispheric fibers (p = 0.0494), and fibers projecting to the cerebellum (p = 0.0094). The number of language-positive nTMS points (R ≥ 0.4854, p ≤ 0.0300) as well as the ratio in volumes for U-fibers (R ≤ −0.4899, p ≤ 0.0283) were significantly associated with aphasia grades, as assessed pre- or postoperatively and during follow-up examinations. In conclusion, this study provides evidence for structural differences on cortical and subcortical levels between language-positive and language-negative areas, as detected by nTMS language mapping. The results may further increase confidence in the technique of nTMS language mapping and nTMS-based tractography in the direct clinical setting. Future studies may confirm our results in larger cohorts and may expand the findings to patients with other tumor entities than GBM. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
The Effect of State Gratitude on Cognitive Flexibility: A Within-Subject Experimental Approach
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(7), 413; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10070413 - 01 Jul 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Considerable research has examined the relationship between positive emotion and cognitive flexibility. Less is known, however, about the causal relationship between discrete positive emotions, specifically gratitude, and cognitive flexibility. Given that different positive emotions may dissimilarly affect cognitive functioning, we sought to examine [...] Read more.
Considerable research has examined the relationship between positive emotion and cognitive flexibility. Less is known, however, about the causal relationship between discrete positive emotions, specifically gratitude, and cognitive flexibility. Given that different positive emotions may dissimilarly affect cognitive functioning, we sought to examine the effect of state gratitude on cognitive flexibility. A pilot study with ninety-five participants was employed to ensure the effectiveness of our gratitude manipulation. One hundred and thirteen participants were recruited for the main study, which utilized a within-subject experimental approach. After the manipulation, participants completed a well-established task-switching paradigm, which was used to measure cognitive flexibility. Contrary to our hypotheses, we did not find any evidence that state gratitude may enhance cognitive flexibility. The current study identified some boundary conditions around the potential benefits of the experience of gratitude. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Collection on Cognitive Neuroscience)
Communication
Markers of Regenerative Processes in Patients with Bipolar Disorder: A Case-control Study
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(7), 408; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10070408 - 30 Jun 2020
Abstract
Progress in medical science has allowed the discovery of many factors affecting the pathogenesis of bipolar disorder, and among the most recent research directions are found regenerative and inflammatory processes. The role of regenerative processes remains particularly poorly explored, but available data encourage [...] Read more.
Progress in medical science has allowed the discovery of many factors affecting the pathogenesis of bipolar disorder, and among the most recent research directions are found regenerative and inflammatory processes. The role of regenerative processes remains particularly poorly explored, but available data encourage further research, which may explain the pathogenesis of bipolar disorder (BD). The aim of this study was to evaluate the mobilization of stem cells into peripheral blood, in patients with bipolar disorder during stable phase, not treated with lithium salts. The study included 30 unrelated individuals with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, with disease duration of at least 10 years, not treated with lithium salts for at least five years prior to the study. The control group consisted of 30 healthy subjects, matched for age, sex, body mass index (BMI), origin, socio-demographic factors and nicotine use. Blood samples underwent cytometric analyses to assess concentrations of: Very Small Embryonic Like (VSEL) CD34+, VSEL AC133+, HSC CD34+, HSC AC133+. There were no significant differences in stem cell levels between patients with BD and healthy controls. However, the level of VSEL cells AC133 + was significantly higher in type I BD patients compared to healthy controls. Our results indicate a disturbance in regenerative processes in patients with bipolar disorder. Full article
Article
Uniportal Full Endoscopic Posterolateral Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion with Endoscopic Disc Drilling Preparation Technique for Symptomatic Foraminal Stenosis Secondary to Severe Collapsed Disc Space: A Clinical and Computer Tomographic Study with Technical Note
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(6), 373; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10060373 - 15 Jun 2020
Cited by 11
Abstract
Background: Severe collapsed disc secondary to degenerative spinal conditions leads to significant foraminal stenosis. We hypothesized that uniportal posterolateral transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion with endoscopic disc drilling technique could be safely applied to the collapsed disc space to improve patients’ pain score, restore [...] Read more.
Background: Severe collapsed disc secondary to degenerative spinal conditions leads to significant foraminal stenosis. We hypothesized that uniportal posterolateral transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion with endoscopic disc drilling technique could be safely applied to the collapsed disc space to improve patients’ pain score, restore disc height, and correct the segmental angular parameters. Methods: We included patients who met the indication criteria for lumbar fusion and underwent uniportal full endoscopic posterolateral transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion with pre-operative Computer Tomography mid disc height of less than or equal to 5 mm and MRI of Grade 3 Foraminal Stenosis. Visual analogue scale and computer tomography pre-operative and post-operative sagittal disc height in the anterior, middle and posterior part of the disc; sagittal focal segmental angle; mid coronal disc height and coronal wedge angles were evaluated. Results: 30 levels of Endo-TLIF were included, with a mean follow up of 12 months. The mean improvement in decreasing pain score was 2.5 ± 1.1, 3.2 ± 0.9 and 4.3 ± 1.0 at 1 week post operation, 3 months post operation and at final follow up, respectively, p < 0.05. There was significant increase in mid sagittal computer tomographic anterior, middle and posterior disc height of 6.99 ± 2.30, 6.28 ± 1.44, 5.12 ± 1.79 mm respectively, p < 0.05. CT mid coronal disc height showed an increase of 7.13 ± 1.90 mm, p < 0.05. There was a significant improvement in the CT coronal wedge angle of 2.35 ± 4.73 and the CT segmental focal sagittal angle of 1.98 ± 4.69, p < 0.05. Conclusion: Application of Uniportal Endoscopic Posterolateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion in patients with severe foraminal stenosis secondary to severe collapsed disc space significantly relieved patients’ pain and restored disc height without early subsidence or exiting nerve root dysesthesia in our cohort of patients. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Degenerative Spinal Disease)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Psychosocial and Behavioral Impact of COVID-19 in Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Online Parent Survey
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(6), 341; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10060341 - 03 Jun 2020
Cited by 96
Abstract
The 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak could result in higher levels of psychological distress, especially among people suffering from pre-existing mental health conditions. Young individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are particularly at risk due to their vulnerability to unpredictable and complex changes. [...] Read more.
The 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak could result in higher levels of psychological distress, especially among people suffering from pre-existing mental health conditions. Young individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are particularly at risk due to their vulnerability to unpredictable and complex changes. This study aimed to investigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on ASD individuals, whether any pre-pandemic sociodemographic or clinical characteristics would predict a negative outcome, and to narratively characterize their needs. Parents and guardians of ASD individuals filled out an online survey consisting of 40 questions investigating socio-demographic and clinical characteristics of their children, impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on their wellbeing and needs to deal with the emergency. Data were available on 527 survey participants. The COVID-19 emergency resulted in a challenging period for 93.9% of families, increased difficulties in managing daily activities, especially free time (78.1%) and structured activities (75.7%), and, respectively, 35.5% and 41.5% of children presenting with more intense and more frequent behavior problems. Behavior problems predating the COVID-19 outbreak predicted a higher risk of more intense (odds ratio (OR) = 2.16, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.42–3.29) and more frequent (OR = 1.67, 95% CI 1.13–2.48) disruptive behavior. Even though ASD children were receiving different types of support, also requiring specialist (19.1%) or emergency (1.5%) interventions in a relatively low proportion of cases, a number of needs emerged, including receiving more healthcare support (47.4%), especially in-home support (29.9%), as well as interventions to tackle a potentially disruptive quarantine (16.8%). The COVID-19 outbreak has undoubtedly resulted in increased difficulties among ASD individuals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Autism Research)
Article
Probiotics Alleviate the Progressive Deterioration of Motor Functions in a Mouse Model of Parkinson’s Disease
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(4), 206; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10040206 - 01 Apr 2020
Cited by 25
Abstract
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is one of the common long-term degenerative disorders that primarily affect motor systems. Gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms are common in individuals with PD and often present before motor symptoms. It has been found that gut dysbiosis to PD pathology is related [...] Read more.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is one of the common long-term degenerative disorders that primarily affect motor systems. Gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms are common in individuals with PD and often present before motor symptoms. It has been found that gut dysbiosis to PD pathology is related to the severity of motor and non-motor symptoms in PD. Probiotics have been reported to have the ability to improve the symptoms related to constipation in PD patients. However, the evidence from preclinical or clinical research to verify the beneficial effects of probiotics for the motor functions in PD is still limited. An experimental PD animal model could be helpful in exploring the potential therapeutic strategy using probiotics. In the current study, we examined whether daily and long-term administration of probiotics has neuroprotective effects on nigrostriatal dopamine neurons and whether it can further alleviate the motor dysfunctions in PD mice. Transgenic MitoPark PD mice were chosen for this study and the effects of daily probiotic treatment on gait, beam balance, motor coordination, and the degeneration levels of dopaminergic neurons were identified. From the results, compared with the sham treatment group, we found that the daily administration of probiotics significantly reduced the motor impairments in gait pattern, balance function, and motor coordination. Immunohistochemically, a tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-positive cell in the substantia nigra was significantly preserved in the probiotic-treated PD mice. These results showed that long-term administration of probiotics has neuroprotective effects on dopamine neurons and further attenuates the deterioration of motor dysfunctions in MitoPark PD mice. Our data further highlighted the promising possibility of the potential use of probiotics, which could be the relevant approach for further application on human PD subjects. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Brain–Microbiome Interactions)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract