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Visual object expertise correlates with neural selectivity in the fusiform face area (FFA). Although behavioral studies suggest that visual expertise is associated with increased use of holistic and configural information, little is known about the nature of the supporting neural representations. Using high-resolution 7-T functional magnetic resonance imaging, we recorded the multivoxel activation patterns elicited by whole cars, configurally disrupted cars, and car parts in individuals with a wide range of car expertise. A probabilistic support vector machine classifier was trained to differentiate activation patterns elicited by whole car images from activation patterns elicited by misconfigured car images. The classifier was then used to classify new combined activation patterns that were created by averaging activation patterns elicited by individually presented top and bottom car parts. In line with the idea that the configuration of parts is critical to expert visual perception, car expertise was negatively associated with the probability of a combined activation pattern being classified as a whole car in the right anterior FFA, a region critical to vision for categories of expertise. Thus, just as found for faces in normal observers, the neural representation of cars in right anterior FFA is more holistic for car experts than car novices, consistent with common mechanisms of neural selectivity for faces and other objects of expertise in this area.
The M1 muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (mAChR) subtype has been implicated in the underlying mechanisms of learning and memory and represents an important potential pharmacotherapeutic target for the cognitive impairments observed in neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. Patients with schizophrenia show impairments in top-down processing involving conflict between sensory-driven and goal-oriented processes that can be modeled in preclinical studies using touchscreen-based cognition tasks. The present studies used a touchscreen visual pairwise discrimination task in which mice discriminated between a less salient and a more salient stimulus to assess the influence of the M1 mAChR on top-down processing. M1 mAChR knockout (M1 KO) mice showed a slower rate of learning, evidenced by slower increases in accuracy over 12 consecutive days, and required more days to acquire (achieve 80% accuracy) this discrimination task compared to wild-type mice. In addition, the M1 positive allosteric modulator BQCA enhanced the rate of learning this discrimination in wild-type, but not in M1 KO, mice when BQCA was administered daily prior to testing over 12 consecutive days. Importantly, in discriminations between stimuli of equal salience, M1 KO mice did not show impaired acquisition and BQCA did not affect the rate of learning or acquisition in wild-type mice. These studies are the first to demonstrate performance deficits in M1 KO mice using touchscreen cognitive assessments and enhanced rate of learning and acquisition in wild-type mice through M1 mAChR potentiation when the touchscreen discrimination task involves top-down processing. Taken together, these findings provide further support for M1 potentiation as a potential treatment for the cognitive symptoms associated with schizophrenia.
Video-based eye tracking relies on locating pupil center to measure gaze positions. Although widely used, the technique is known to generate spurious gaze position shifts up to several degrees in visual angle because pupil centration can change without eye movement during pupil constriction or dilation. Since pupil size can fluctuate markedly from moment to moment, reflecting arousal state and cognitive processing during human behavioral and neuroimaging experiments, the pupil size artifact is prevalent and thus weakens the quality of the video-based eye tracking measurements reliant on small fixational eye movements. Moreover, the artifact may lead to erroneous conclusions if the spurious signal is taken as an actual eye movement. Here, we measured pupil size and gaze position from 23 human observers performing a fixation task and examined the relationship between these two measures. Results disclosed that the pupils contracted as fixation was prolonged, at both small (<16s) and large (∼4min) time scales, and these pupil contractions were accompanied by systematic errors in gaze position estimation, in both the ellipse and the centroid methods of pupil tracking. When pupil size was regressed out, the accuracy and reliability of gaze position measurements were substantially improved, enabling differentiation of 0.1° difference in eye position. We confirmed the presence of systematic changes in pupil size, again at both small and large scales, and its tight relationship with gaze position estimates when observers were engaged in a demanding visual discrimination task.
Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Vision is a dynamic process that refines the spatial scale of analysis over time, as evidenced by a progressive improvement in the ability to detect and discriminate finer details. To understand coarse-to-fine discrimination, we studied the dynamics of spatial frequency (SF) response using reverse correlation in the primary visual cortex (V1) of the primate. In a majority of V1 cells studied, preferred SF either increased monotonically with time (group 1) or changed nonmonotonically, with an initial increase followed by a decrease (group 2). Monotonic shift in preferred SF occurred with or without an early suppression at low SFs. Late suppression at high SFs always accompanied nonmonotonic SF dynamics. Bayesian analysis showed that SF discrimination performance and best discriminable SF frequencies changed with time in different ways in the two groups of neurons. In group 1 neurons, SF discrimination performance peaked on both left and right flanks of the SF tuning curve at about the same time. In group 2 neurons, peak discrimination occurred on the right flank (high SFs) later than on the left flank (low SFs). Group 2 neurons were also better discriminators of high SFs. We examined the relationship between the time at which SF discrimination performance peaked on either flank of the SF tuning curve and the corresponding best discriminable SFs in both neuronal groups. This analysis showed that the population best discriminable SF increased with time in V1. These results suggest neural mechanisms for coarse-to-fine discrimination behavior and that this process originates in V1 or earlier.
Copyright © 2014 the American Physiological Society.
Faces are processed holistically, but the locus of holistic processing remains unclear. We created two novel races of faces (Lunaris and Taiyos) to study how experience with face parts influences holistic processing. In Experiment 1, subjects individuated Lunaris wherein the top, bottom, or both face halves contained diagnostic information. Subjects who learned to attend to face parts exhibited no holistic processing. This suggests that individuation only leads to holistic processing when the whole face is attended. In Experiment 2, subjects individuated both Lunaris and Taiyos, with diagnostic information in complementary face halves of the two races. Holistic processing was measured with composites made of either diagnostic or nondiagnostic face parts. Holistic processing was only observed for composites made from diagnostic face parts, demonstrating that holistic processing can occur for diagnostic face parts that were never seen together. These results suggest that holistic processing is an expression of learned attention to diagnostic face parts.
PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved.
Response inhibition in stop signal tasks has been explained as the outcome of a race between GO and STOP processes (e.g., Logan, 1981). Response choice in two-alternative perceptual categorization tasks has been explained as the outcome of an accumulation of evidence for the alternative responses. To begin unifying these two powerful investigation frameworks, we obtained data from humans and macaque monkeys performing a stop signal task with responses guided by perceptual categorization and variable degrees of difficulty, ranging from low to high accuracy. Comparable results across species reinforced the validity of this animal model. Response times and errors increased with categorization difficulty. The probability of failing to inhibit responses on stop signal trials increased with stop signal delay, and the response times for failed stop signal trials were shorter than those for trials with no stop signal. Thus, the Logan race model could be applied to estimate the duration of the stopping process. We found that the duration of the STOP process did not vary across a wide range of discrimination accuracies. This is consistent with the functional, and possibly mechanistic, independence of choice and inhibition mechanisms.
Frontal-dependent task performance is typically modulated by dopamine (DA) according to an inverted-U pattern, whereby intermediate levels of DA signaling optimizes performance. Numerous studies implicate trait differences in DA signaling based on differences in the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene in executive function task performance. However, little work has investigated genetic variations in DA signaling downstream from COMT. One candidate is the DA- and cAMP-regulated phosphoprotein of molecular weight 32 kDa (DARPP-32), which mediates signaling through the D1-type DA receptor, the dominant DA receptor in the frontal cortex. Using an n-back task, we used signal detection theory to measure performance in a healthy adult population (n = 97) genotyped for single nucleotide polymorphisms in the COMT (rs4680) and DARPP-32 (rs907094) genes. Correct target detection (hits) and false alarms were used to calculate d' measures for each working memory load (0-, 2-, and 3-back). At the highest load (3-back) only, we observed a significant COMT × DARPP-32 interaction, such that the DARPP-32 T/T genotype enhanced target detection in COMT(ValVal) individuals, but impaired target detection in COMT(Met) carriers. These findings suggest that enhanced dopaminergic signaling via the DARPP-32 T allele aids target detection in individuals with presumed low frontal DA (COMT(ValVal)) but impairs target detection in those with putatively higher frontal DA levels (COMT(Met) carriers). Moreover, these data support an inverted-U model with intermediate levels of DA signaling optimizing performance on tasks requiring maintenance of mental representations in working memory.
Atypical perceptual processing in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is well documented. In addition, growing evidence supports the hypothesis that an excitatory/inhibitory neurochemical imbalance might underlie ASD. Here we investigated putative behavioral consequences of the excitatory/inhibitory imbalance in the context of visual motion perception. As stimulus size increases, typical observers exhibit marked impairments in perceiving motion of high-contrast stimuli. This result, termed "spatial suppression," is believed to reflect inhibitory motion-processing mechanisms. Motion processing is also affected by gain control, an inhibitory mechanism that underlies saturation of neural responses at high contrast. Motivated by these behavioral correlates of inhibitory function, we investigated motion perception in human children with ASD (n = 20) and typical development (n = 26). At high contrast, both groups exhibited similar impairments in motion perception with increasing stimulus size, revealing no apparent differences in spatial suppression. However, there was a substantial enhancement of motion perception in ASD: children with ASD exhibited a consistent twofold improvement in perceiving motion. Hypothesizing that this enhancement might indicate abnormal weakening of response gain control, we repeated our measurements at low contrast, where the effects of gain control should be negligible. At low contrast, we indeed found no group differences in motion discrimination thresholds. These low-contrast results, however, revealed weaker spatial suppression in ASD, suggesting the possibility that gain control abnormalities in ASD might have masked spatial suppression differences at high contrast. Overall, we report a pattern of motion perception abnormalities in ASD that includes substantial enhancements at high contrast and is consistent with an underlying excitatory/inhibitory imbalance.
Neuropsychological tests are useful for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease (AD), yet for many tests, diagnostic accuracy statistics are unavailable. We present diagnostic accuracy statistics for seven variables from the Neuropsychological Assessment Battery (NAB) that were administered to a large sample of elderly adults (n = 276) participating in a longitudinal research study at a national AD Center. Tests included Driving Scenes, Bill Payment, Daily Living Memory, Screening Visual Discrimination, Screening Design Construction, and Judgment. Clinical diagnosis was made independent of these tests, and for the current study, participants were categorized as AD (n = 65) or non-AD (n = 211). Receiver operating characteristics curve analysis was used to determine each test's sensitivity and specificity at multiple cut points, which were subsequently used to calculate positive and negative predictive values at a variety of base rates. Of the tests analyzed, the Daily Living Memory test provided the greatest accuracy in the identification of AD and the two Screening measures required a significant tradeoff between sensitivity and specificity. Overall, the seven NAB subtests included in the current study are capable of excellent diagnostic accuracy, but appropriate understanding of the context in which the tests are used is crucial for minimizing errors.
The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is implicated in a broad range of behaviors and neuropsychiatric disorders. Anatomical tracing studies in nonhuman primates reveal differences in connectivity across subregions of the OFC, but data on the connectivity of the human OFC remain limited. We applied meta-analytic connectivity modeling in order to examine which brain regions are most frequently coactivated with the medial and lateral portions of the OFC in published functional neuroimaging studies. The analysis revealed a clear divergence in the pattern of connectivity for the medial OFC (mOFC) and lateral OFC (lOFC) regions. The lOFC showed coactivations with a network of prefrontal regions and areas involved in cognitive functions including language and memory. In contrast, the mOFC showed connectivity with default mode, autonomic, and limbic regions. Convergent patterns of coactivations were observed in the amygdala, hippocampus, striatum, and thalamus. A small number of regions showed connectivity specific to the anterior or posterior sectors of the OFC. Task domains involving memory, semantic processing, face processing, and reward were additionally analyzed in order to identify the different patterns of OFC functional connectivity associated with specific cognitive and affective processes. These data provide a framework for understanding the human OFC's position within widespread functional networks.