Cerebral cortical intrinsic connectivity networks share topographically arranged functional connectivity with the cerebellum. However, the contribution of cerebellar nodes to distributed network organization and function remains poorly understood. In humans, we applied theta-burst transcranial magnetic stimulation, guided by subject-specific connectivity, to regions of the cerebellum to evaluate the functional relevance of connections between cerebellar and cerebral cortical nodes in different networks. We demonstrate that changing activity in the human lateral cerebellar Crus I/II modulates the cerebral default mode network, whereas vermal lobule VII stimulation influences the cerebral dorsal attention system. These results provide novel insights into the distributed, but anatomically specific, modulatory impact of cerebellar effects on large-scale neural network function.
There are currently two techniques to manipulate brain function non-invasively: transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). These brain stimulation techniques work to cause long-term change within the brain. We have been combining noninvasive brain stimulation with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the plasticity of brain networks. When fMRI is used as an outcome measure, it is possible to identify the specificity of tDCS-modulated plasticity in a visual rehabilitation protocol. Alternatively, fMRI can be used as a guide for stimulation. Brain stimulation with TMS affects neural networks, and fMRI guidance combined with an understanding of network effects of TMS may improve TMS therapy.
Intrinsic activity in the brain is organized into networks. Although constrained by their anatomical connections, functional correlations between nodes of these networks reorganize dynamically. Dynamic organization implies that couplings between network nodes can be reconfigured to support processing demands. To explore such reconfigurations, we combined repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and functional connectivity MRI (fcMRI) to modulate cortical activity in one node of the default network, and assessed the effect of this upon functional correlations throughout the network. Two different frequencies of rTMS to the same default network node (the left posterior inferior parietal lobule, lpIPL) induced two topographically distinct changes in functional connectivity. High-frequency rTMS to lpIPL decreased functional correlations between cortical default network nodes, but not between these nodes and the hippocampal formation. In contrast, low frequency rTMS to lpIPL did not alter connectivity between cortical default network nodes, but increased functional correlations between lpIPL and the hippocampal formation. These results suggest that the default network is composed of (at least) two subsystems. More broadly, the finding that two rTMS stimulation regimens to the same default network node have distinct effects reveals that this node is embedded within a network that possesses multiple, functionally distinct relationships among its distributed partners.
Brain plasticity can be conceptualized as natures invention to overcome limitations of the genome and adapt to a rapidly changing environment. As such, plasticity is an intrinsic property of the brain across the lifespan. However, mechanisms of plasticity may vary with age. The combination of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) with electroencephalography (EEG) or functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) enables clinicians and researchers to directly study local and network cortical plasticity, in humans in vivo, and characterize their changes across the age-span. Parallel, translational studies in animals can provide mechanistic insights. Here, we argue that, for each individual, the efficiency of neuronal plasticity declines throughout the age-span and may do so more or less prominently depending on variable starting-points and different slopes of change defined by genetic, biological, and environmental factors. Furthermore, aberrant, excessive, insufficient, or mistimed plasticity may represent the proximal pathogenic cause of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders such as autism spectrum disorders or Alzheimers disease.
To standardize a protocol for promoting visual rehabilitative outcomes in post-stroke hemianopia by combining occipital cortical transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) with Vision Restoration Therapy (VRT).
The default mode network is a group of brain regions that are active when an individual is not focused on the outside world and the brain is at "wakeful rest." It is thought the default mode network corresponds to self-referential or "internal mentation". It has been hypothesized that, in humans, activity within the default mode network is correlated with certain pathologies (for instance, hyper-activation has been linked to schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders whilst hypo-activation of the network has been linked to Alzheimers and other neurodegenerative diseases. As such, noninvasive modulation of this network may represent a potential therapeutic intervention for a number of neurological and psychiatric pathologies linked to abnormal network activation. One possible tool to effect this modulation is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: a non-invasive neurostimulatory and neuromodulatory technique that can transiently or lastingly modulate cortical excitability (either increasing or decreasing it) via the application of localized magnetic field pulses. In order to explore the default mode networks propensity towards and tolerance of modulation, we will be combining TMS (to the left inferior parietal lobe) with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Through this article, we will examine the protocol and considerations necessary to successfully combine these two neuroscientific tools.
A long-standing debate in cognitive neuroscience pertains to the innate nature of language development and the underlying factors that determine this faculty. We explored the neural correlates associated with language processing in a unique individual who is early blind, congenitally deaf, and possesses a high level of language function. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we compared the neural networks associated with the tactile reading of words presented in Braille, Print on Palm (POP), and a haptic form of American Sign Language (haptic ASL or hASL). With all three modes of tactile communication, indentifying words was associated with robust activation within occipital cortical regions as well as posterior superior temporal and inferior frontal language areas (lateralized within the left hemisphere). In a normally sighted and hearing interpreter, identifying words through hASL was associated with left-lateralized activation of inferior frontal language areas however robust occipital cortex activation was not observed. Diffusion tensor imaging -based tractography revealed differences consistent with enhanced occipital-temporal connectivity in the deaf-blind subject. Our results demonstrate that in the case of early onset of both visual and auditory deprivation, tactile-based communication is associated with an extensive cortical network implicating occipital as well as posterior superior temporal and frontal associated language areas. The cortical areas activated in this deaf-blind subject are consistent with characteristic cortical regions previously implicated with language. Finally, the resilience of language function within the context of early and combined visual and auditory deprivation may be related to enhanced connectivity between relevant cortical areas.
Patients with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) due to hippocampal sclerosis (HS) often show ictal and interictal propagation of epileptiform EEG activity to the ipsilateral temporal neocortex, the ipsilateral frontal lobe or the contralateral hippocampus, although structural MRI only shows unilateral involvement of the hippocampal formation. We used whole-head diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) to delineate a network that facilitates propagation of interictal epileptiform and seizure activity in this patient group.
Computer based video games are receiving great interest as a means to learn and acquire new skills. As a novel approach to teaching navigation skills in the blind, we have developed Audio-based Environment Simulator (AbES); a virtual reality environment set within the context of a video game metaphor. Despite the fact that participants were naïve to the overall purpose of the software, we found that early blind users were able to acquire relevant information regarding the spatial layout of a previously unfamiliar building using audio based cues alone. This was confirmed by a series of behavioral performance tests designed to assess the transfer of acquired spatial information to a large-scale, real-world indoor navigation task. Furthermore, learning the spatial layout through a goal directed gaming strategy allowed for the mental manipulation of spatial information as evidenced by enhanced navigation performance when compared to an explicit route learning strategy. We conclude that the immersive and highly interactive nature of the software greatly engages the blind user to actively explore the virtual environment. This in turn generates an accurate sense of a large-scale three-dimensional space and facilitates the learning and transfer of navigation skills to the physical world.
Both resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fcMRI) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) are increasingly popular techniques that can be used to non-invasively measure brain connectivity in human subjects. TMS shows additional promise as a method to manipulate brain connectivity. In this review we discuss how these two complimentary tools can be combined to optimally study brain connectivity and manipulate distributed brain networks. Important clinical applications include using resting state fcMRI to guide target selection for TMS and using TMS to modulate pathological network interactions identified with resting state fcMRI. The combination of TMS and resting state fcMRI has the potential to accelerate the translation of both techniques into the clinical realm and promises a new approach to the diagnosis and treatment of neurological and psychiatric diseases that demonstrate network pathology.
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