Neural Bases of Cognitive Processing

A special issue of Brain Sciences (ISSN 2076-3425). This special issue belongs to the section "Behavioral Neuroscience".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (7 June 2021) | Viewed by 32059

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Guest Editor
Department of Movement, Human and Health Sciences, University of Rome “Foro Italico”, 00135 Rome, Italy
Interests: neural basis of cognition; anticipation; perception; attention; decision-making; action; ERP; fMRI
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

One of the main goals of cognitive neuroscience is to explain how brain functions lead to mental processes by which we are aware, think, feel, act, learn, remember, and anticipate future events.

The main purpose of this Special Issue is to gather studies on the neural bases of cognition, considered to be a set of biological operations and their interactions carried out by the brain to allow the best behavior in any situation. These studies will aim to achieve a more sophisticated level of understanding, showing new experimental techniques for studying functional interactions within the brain and new models for better understanding human behavior.

Both brain recording and stimulation studies are welcome. Proposals should investigate any basic components of cognition, such as awareness, perception, attention, reasoning, language, decision-making, action control, and executive functions, in both healthy people and in brain-damaged patients. Computational studies are also welcome.

As a common feature, the studies in this Issue will rely upon theories in cognitive science coupled with evidence from neurobiology and computational modeling to allow a better understanding of how the brain gives rise to mental experiences.

Prof. Dr. Francesco Di Russo
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • human cognition 
  • brain functions 
  • brain recording 
  • brain stimulation 
  • brain models

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Editorial

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4 pages, 167 KiB  
Editorial
Special Issue: Neural Bases of Cognitive Processing
by Francesco Di Russo and Stefania Lucia
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(10), 1286; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11101286 - 28 Sep 2021
Viewed by 1466
Abstract
The main aim of Cognitive Neuroscience is investigating how brain functions lead to mental processes and behavior [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neural Bases of Cognitive Processing)

Research

Jump to: Editorial

19 pages, 1783 KiB  
Article
Spatiotemporal Dynamics of Covert Versus Overt Processing of Happy, Fearful and Sad Facial Expressions
by Antonio Maffei, Jennifer Goertzen, Fern Jaspers-Fayer, Killian Kleffner, Paola Sessa and Mario Liotti
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(7), 942; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11070942 - 17 Jul 2021
Cited by 18 | Viewed by 3341
Abstract
Behavioral and electrophysiological correlates of the influence of task demands on the processing of happy, sad, and fearful expressions were investigated in a within-subjects study that compared a perceptual distraction condition with task-irrelevant faces (e.g., covert emotion task) to an emotion task-relevant categorization [...] Read more.
Behavioral and electrophysiological correlates of the influence of task demands on the processing of happy, sad, and fearful expressions were investigated in a within-subjects study that compared a perceptual distraction condition with task-irrelevant faces (e.g., covert emotion task) to an emotion task-relevant categorization condition (e.g., overt emotion task). A state-of-the-art non-parametric mass univariate analysis method was used to address the limitations of previous studies. Behaviorally, participants responded faster to overtly categorized happy faces and were slower and less accurate to categorize sad and fearful faces; there were no behavioral differences in the covert task. Event-related potential (ERP) responses to the emotional expressions included the N170 (140–180 ms), which was enhanced by emotion irrespective of task, with happy and sad expressions eliciting greater amplitudes than neutral expressions. EPN (200–400 ms) amplitude was modulated by task, with greater voltages in the overt condition, and by emotion, however, there was no interaction of emotion and task. ERP activity was modulated by emotion as a function of task only at a late processing stage, which included the LPP (500–800 ms), with fearful and sad faces showing greater amplitude enhancements than happy faces. This study reveals that affective content does not necessarily require attention in the early stages of face processing, supporting recent evidence that the core and extended parts of the face processing system act in parallel, rather than serially. The role of voluntary attention starts at an intermediate stage, and fully modulates the response to emotional content in the final stage of processing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neural Bases of Cognitive Processing)
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16 pages, 4296 KiB  
Article
Brain Functional Correlates of Episodic Memory Using an Ecological Free Recall Task
by Francesco Neri, Stefano F. Cappa, Lucia Mencarelli, Davide Momi, Emiliano Santarnecchi and Simone Rossi
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(7), 911; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11070911 - 9 Jul 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3261
Abstract
Episodic Memory (EM) allows us to revive a past event through mental time-travel. The neural correlates of memories recollection have been identified in hippocampal regions and multiple neocortical areas, but few neuroimaging studies have used an ecological task such as a free recall [...] Read more.
Episodic Memory (EM) allows us to revive a past event through mental time-travel. The neural correlates of memories recollection have been identified in hippocampal regions and multiple neocortical areas, but few neuroimaging studies have used an ecological task such as a free recall of a structured story. Using an ecological fMRI-free recall (FR) task, we aimed to investigate the relevant recruitment of the brain networks associated with the story recollection process and its performance. Fourteen healthy participants listened to a brief story and were tested for Immediate-Recall (IR), a task that is widely used in a neuropsychological evaluation. Then, the subjects underwent an fMRI session, where they had to perform a free recall (FR) of the story subvocally. Finally, the participants were tested for Delayed-Recall (DR). IR and DR scores were significantly (r = 0.942; p < 0.001) correlated. FR enhanced the activity of the Language, the Left Executive Control, the Default Mode and the Precuneus brain networks, with the strongest BOLD signal localized in the left Angular Gyrus (AG) (p < 0.05; FWE-corrected). Furthermore, the story recall performance covaried with specific network activation patterns and the recruitment of the left anterior/posterior AG correlated, respectively, with higher/lower performance scores (p > 0.05). FR seems to be a promising task to investigate ecologically the neural correlates of EM. Moreover, the recruitment of the anterior AG might be a marker for an optimal functioning of the recall process. Preliminary outcomes lay the foundation for the investigation of the brain networks in the healthy and pathological elderly population during FR. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neural Bases of Cognitive Processing)
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12 pages, 1236 KiB  
Article
Neural Basis of Anticipatory Multisensory Integration
by Linda Fiorini, Marika Berchicci, Elena Mussini, Valentina Bianco, Stefania Lucia and Francesco Di Russo
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(7), 843; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11070843 - 25 Jun 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2513
Abstract
The brain is able to gather different sensory information to enhance salient event perception, thus yielding a unified perceptual experience of multisensory events. Multisensory integration has been widely studied, and the literature supports the hypothesis that it can occur across various stages of [...] Read more.
The brain is able to gather different sensory information to enhance salient event perception, thus yielding a unified perceptual experience of multisensory events. Multisensory integration has been widely studied, and the literature supports the hypothesis that it can occur across various stages of stimulus processing, including both bottom-up and top-down control. However, evidence on anticipatory multisensory integration occurring in the fore period preceding the presentation of the expected stimulus in passive tasks, is missing. By means of event-related potentials (ERPs), it has been recently proposed that visual and auditory unimodal stimulations are preceded by sensory-specific readiness activities. Accordingly, in the present study, we tested the occurrence of multisensory integration in the endogenous anticipatory phase of sensory processing, combining visual and auditory stimuli during unimodal and multimodal passive ERP paradigms. Results showed that the modality-specific pre-stimulus ERP components (i.e., the auditory positivity -aP- and the visual negativity -vN-) started earlier and were larger in the multimodal stimulation compared with the sum of the ERPs elicited by the unimodal stimulations. The same amplitude effect was also present for the early auditory N1 and visual P1 components. This anticipatory multisensory effect seems to influence stimulus processing, boosting the magnitude of early stimulus processing. This paves the way for new perspectives on the neural basis of multisensory integration. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neural Bases of Cognitive Processing)
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11 pages, 1525 KiB  
Article
Electrophysiological Evidence of Anticipatory Cognitive Control in the Stroop Task
by Valentina Bianco, Marika Berchicci, Elena Mussini, Rinaldo Livio Perri, Federico Quinzi and Francesco Di Russo
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(6), 783; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11060783 - 13 Jun 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3660
Abstract
The Stroop task has been largely used to explore the ability to inhibit the automatic process of reading when reporting the ink color of incongruent color-words. Given the extensive literature regarding the processes involved in task performance, here we aimed at exploring the [...] Read more.
The Stroop task has been largely used to explore the ability to inhibit the automatic process of reading when reporting the ink color of incongruent color-words. Given the extensive literature regarding the processes involved in task performance, here we aimed at exploring the anticipatory brain activities during the Stroop task using the event-related potential (ERP) method. To accomplish this, eighteen participants performed two different blocks where neutral words were intermixed with congruent and incongruent words, respectively. Results revealed consistent pre-stimulus activity over the frontal, premotor and parietal brain areas. The premotor and the parietal activities were also modulated by the Stroop effect, being more enhanced in the incongruent than in the congruent blocks. Present findings add on the current literature pointing at an unexplored locus of anticipatory cognitive control during task preparation, thus offering a new way to investigate top-down preparatory processes of performance control in the Stroop task. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neural Bases of Cognitive Processing)
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13 pages, 1944 KiB  
Article
Deficits in Early Sensory and Cognitive Processing Are Related to Phase and Nonphase EEG Activity in Multiple Sclerosis Patients
by Esteban Sarrias-Arrabal, Sara Eichau, Alejandro Galvao-Carmona, Elvira Domínguez, Guillermo Izquierdo and Manuel Vázquez-Marrufo
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(5), 629; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11050629 - 13 May 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3176
Abstract
Currently, there is scarce knowledge about the relation between spectral bands modulations and the basis of cognitive impairment in multiple sclerosis (MS). In this sense, analyzing the evoked or phase activity can confirm results from traditional event-related potential (ERP) studies. However, studying the [...] Read more.
Currently, there is scarce knowledge about the relation between spectral bands modulations and the basis of cognitive impairment in multiple sclerosis (MS). In this sense, analyzing the evoked or phase activity can confirm results from traditional event-related potential (ERP) studies. However, studying the induced or nonphase activity may be necessary to elucidate hidden compensatory or affected cognitive mechanisms. In this study, 30 remitting-relapsing multiple sclerosis patients and 30 healthy controls (HCs) matched in sociodemographic variables performed a visual oddball task. The main goal was to analyze phase and nonphase alpha and gamma bands by applying temporal spectral evolution (TSE) and its potential relation with cognitive impairment in these patients. The behavioural results showed slower reaction time and poorer accuracy in MS patients compared to controls. In contrast, the time-frequency analysis of electroencephalography (EEG) revealed a delay in latency and lower amplitude in MS patients in evoked and induced alpha compared to controls. With respect to the gamma band, there were no differences between the groups. In summary, MS patients showed deficits in early sensorial (evoked alpha activity) and cognitive processing (induced alpha activity in longer latencies), whereas the induced gamma band supported the hypothesis of its role in translation of attentional focus (induced activity) and did not show strong activity in this paradigm (visual oddball). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neural Bases of Cognitive Processing)
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14 pages, 2544 KiB  
Article
Effects of Noise and Serial Position on Free Recall of Spoken Words and Pupil Dilation during Encoding in Normal-Hearing Adults
by Miseung Koo, Jihui Jeon, Hwayoung Moon, Myungwhan Suh, Junho Lee, Seungha Oh and Mookyun Park
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(2), 277; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11020277 (registering DOI) - 23 Feb 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2473
Abstract
This preliminary study assessed the effects of noise and stimulus presentation order on recall of spoken words and recorded pupil sizes while normal-hearing listeners were trying to encode a series of words for a subsequent recall task. In three listening conditions (stationary noise [...] Read more.
This preliminary study assessed the effects of noise and stimulus presentation order on recall of spoken words and recorded pupil sizes while normal-hearing listeners were trying to encode a series of words for a subsequent recall task. In three listening conditions (stationary noise in Experiment 1; quiet versus four-talker babble in Experiment 2), participants were assigned to remember as many words as possible to recall them in any order after each list of seven sentences. In the two noise conditions, lists of sentences fixed at 65 dB SPL were presented at an easily audible level via a loudspeaker. Reading span (RS) scores were used as a grouping variable, based on a median split. The primacy effect was present apart from the noise interference, and the high-RS group significantly outperformed the low-RS group at free recall measured in the quiet and four-talker babble noise conditions. RS scores were positively correlated with free-recall scores. In both quiet and four-talker babble noise conditions, sentence baselines after correction to the initial stimulus baseline increased significantly with increasing memory load. Larger sentence baselines but smaller peak pupil dilations seemed to be associated with noise interruption. The analysis method of pupil dilation used in this study is likely to provide a more thorough understanding of how listeners respond to a later recall task in comparison with previously used methods. Further studies are needed to confirm the applicability of our method in people with impaired hearing using multiple repetitions to estimate the allocation of relevant cognitive resources. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neural Bases of Cognitive Processing)
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17 pages, 1456 KiB  
Article
Enhanced Neural Empathic Responses in Patients with Spino-Bulbar Muscular Atrophy: An Electrophysiological Study
by Arianna Palmieri, Federica Meconi, Antonino Vallesi, Mariagrazia Capizzi, Emanuele Pick, Sonia Marcato, Johann R. Kleinbub, Gianni Sorarù and Paola Sessa
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(1), 16; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11010016 - 24 Dec 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2535
Abstract
Background: Spino-bulbar muscular atrophy is a rare genetic X-linked disease caused by testosterone insensitivity. An inverse correlation has been described between testosterone levels and empathic responses. The present study explored the profile of neural empathic responding in spino-bulbar muscular atrophy patients. Methods: Eighteen [...] Read more.
Background: Spino-bulbar muscular atrophy is a rare genetic X-linked disease caused by testosterone insensitivity. An inverse correlation has been described between testosterone levels and empathic responses. The present study explored the profile of neural empathic responding in spino-bulbar muscular atrophy patients. Methods: Eighteen patients with spino-bulbar muscular atrophy and eighteen healthy male controls were enrolled in the study. Their event-related potentials were recorded during an “Empathy Task” designed to distinguish neural responses linked with experience-sharing (early response) and mentalizing (late response) components of empathy. The task involved the presentation of contextual information (painful vs. neutral sentences) and facial expressions (painful vs. neutral). An explicit dispositional empathy-related questionnaire was also administered to all participants, who were screened via neuropsychological battery tests that did not reveal potential cognitive deficits. Due to electrophysiological artefacts, data from 12 patients and 17 controls were finally included in the analyses. Results: Although patients and controls did not differ in terms of dispositional, explicit empathic self-ratings, notably conservative event-related potentials analyses (i.e., spatio-temporal permutation cluster analyses) showed a significantly greater experience-sharing neural response in patients compared to healthy controls in the Empathy-task when both contextual information and facial expressions were painful. Conclusion: The present study contributes to the characterization of the psychological profile of patients with spino-bulbar muscular atrophy, highlighting the peculiarities in enhanced neural responses underlying empathic reactions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neural Bases of Cognitive Processing)
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13 pages, 1265 KiB  
Article
Psychometric Properties of NASA-TLX and Index of Cognitive Activity as Measures of Cognitive Workload in Older Adults
by Hannes Devos, Kathleen Gustafson, Pedram Ahmadnezhad, Ke Liao, Jonathan D. Mahnken, William M. Brooks and Jeffrey M. Burns
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(12), 994; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10120994 - 16 Dec 2020
Cited by 33 | Viewed by 5129
Abstract
Cognitive workload is increasingly recognized as an important determinant of performance in cognitive tests and daily life activities. Cognitive workload is a measure of physical and mental effort allocation to a task, which can be determined through self-report or physiological measures. However, the [...] Read more.
Cognitive workload is increasingly recognized as an important determinant of performance in cognitive tests and daily life activities. Cognitive workload is a measure of physical and mental effort allocation to a task, which can be determined through self-report or physiological measures. However, the reliability and validity of these measures have not been established in older adults with a wide range of cognitive ability. The aim of this study was to establish the test–retest reliability of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Task Load Index (NASA-TLX) and Index of Cognitive Activity (ICA), extracted from pupillary size. The convergent validity of these measures against event-related potentials (ERPs) was also investigated. A total of 38 individuals with scores on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment ranging between 17 and 30 completed a working memory test (n-back) with three levels of difficulty at baseline and at a two-week follow-up. The intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) values of the NASA-TLX ranged between 0.71 and 0.81, demonstrating good to excellent reliability. The mean ICA scores showed fair to good reliability, with ICCs ranging between 0.56 and 0.73. The mean ICA and NASA-TLX scores showed significant and moderate correlations (Pearson’s r ranging between 0.30 and 0.33) with the third positive peak of the ERP at the midline channels. We conclude that ICA and NASA-TLX are reliable measures of cognitive workload in older adults. Further research is needed in dissecting the subjective and objective constructs of cognitive workload. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neural Bases of Cognitive Processing)
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13 pages, 5656 KiB  
Article
Predicting the Sensory Consequences of Self-Generated Actions: Pre-Supplementary Motor Area as Supra-Modal Hub in the Sense of Agency Experience
by Silvia Seghezzi and Laura Zapparoli
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(11), 825; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10110825 - 7 Nov 2020
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 2551
Abstract
Sense of agency refers to the feeling that one’s self-generated action caused an external environment event. In a previous study, we suggested that the supplementary motor area (SMA), in its anterior portion (pre-SMA), is a key structure for attributing the sense of agency [...] Read more.
Sense of agency refers to the feeling that one’s self-generated action caused an external environment event. In a previous study, we suggested that the supplementary motor area (SMA), in its anterior portion (pre-SMA), is a key structure for attributing the sense of agency for the visual consequences of self-generated movements. However, real-life actions can lead to outcomes in different sensory modalities, raising the question of whether SMA represents a supra-modal hub for the sense of agency. Here, we compared the agency experience for visual and auditory outcomes by taking advantage of the intentional binding effect (IB). We observed discrete time-windows for the agency manifestation across different sensory modalities: While there was an IB at 200 ms delay between the action and the visual outcome, a time compression was observed when the auditory outcome followed the action by 400 ms. The magnitude of the IB was mirrored by meaningful brain activity in the pre-SMA but only at the specific delay when a sizeable IB was seen. We conclude that attributing consequences of self-generated movements to one’s action is based on similar mechanisms across sensory modalities and that those mechanisms are related to the functioning of the motor system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neural Bases of Cognitive Processing)
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