Five reasons to hire you for our open faculty position

The most important thing to remember is probably that there is not a best person. There are probably at least ten people in any pool that are excellent and would do splendidly. Our applicant pools run from over a hundred to two hundred self-selected people, so this is not too surprising. Also, I have generally viewed nearly all the people we interview as potentially great picks. So how do we decide?


Provoking relationship between pupil diameter and global hemodynamic signal in mice

Imaging techniques such as fMRI seek to estimate neural signals in local brain regions through measurements of hemodynamic activity. However, hemodynamic activity is accompanied by large vascular fluctuations of unclear significance. To characterize these fluctuations and their impact on estimates of neural signals, we used optical imaging in visual cortex of awake mice. We found that hemodynamic activity can be expressed as the sum of two components, one local and one global. The local component reflected presumed neural signals driven by visual stimuli in the appropriate retinotopic region. The global component constituted large fluctuations shared by larger cortical regions, which extend beyond visual cortex. These fluctuations varied from trial to trial, but they did not constitute noise: they correlated with pupil diameter, suggesting that they reflect variations in arousal or alertness. Distinguishing local and global contributions to hemodynamic activity may help understand neurovascular coupling and interpret measurements of hemodynamic responses.

Trade-off between angular and spatial resolutions in in vivo fiber tractography

Tractography is becoming an increasingly popular method to reconstruct white matter connections in vivo. The diffusion MRI data that tractography is based on requires a high angular resolution to resolve crossing fibers whereas high spatial resolution is required to distinguish kissing from crossing fibers. However, scan time increases with increasing spatial and angular resolutions, which can become infeasible in clinical settings. Here we investigated the trade-off between spatial and angular resolutions to determine which of these factors is most worth investing scan time in. We created a unique diffusion MRI dataset with 1.0 mm isotropic resolution and a high angular resolution (100 directions) using an advanced 3D diffusion-weighted multi-slab EPI acquisition. This dataset was reconstructed to create subsets of lower angular (75, 50, and 25 directions) and lower spatial (1.5, 2.0, and 2.5 mm) resolution. Using all subsets, we investigated the effects of angular and spatial resolutions in three fiber bundles—the corticospinal tract, arcuate fasciculus and corpus callosum—by analyzing the volumetric bundle overlap and anatomical correspondence between tracts. Our results indicate that the subsets of 25 and 50 directions provided inferior tract reconstructions compared with the datasets with 75 and 100 directions. Datasets with spatial resolutions of 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0 mm were comparable, while the lowest resolution (2.5 mm) datasets had discernible inferior quality. In conclusion, we found that angular resolution appeared to be more influential than spatial resolution in improving tractography results. Spatial resolutions higher than 2.0 mm only appear to benefit multi-fiber tractography methods if this is not at the cost of decreased angular resolution.


Measurement of oxygen extraction fraction (OEF): A model for use with hypercapnic and hyperoxic calibration

Several techniques have been proposed to estimate relative changes in cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen consumption (CMRO2) by exploiting combined BOLD fMRI and cerebral blood flow data in conjunction with hypercapnic or hyperoxic respiratory challenges. More recently, methods based on respiratory challenges that include both hypercapnia and hyperoxia have been developed to assess absolute CMRO2, an important parameter for understanding brain energetics. In this paper, we empirically optimize a previously presented “original calibration model” relating BOLD and blood flow signals specifically for the estimation of oxygen extraction fraction (OEF) and absolute CMRO2.

To do so, we have created a set of synthetic BOLD signals using a detailed BOLD signal model to reproduce experiments incorporating hypercapnic and hyperoxic respiratory challenges at 3 T. A wide range of physiological conditions was simulated by varying input parameter values (baseline cerebral blood volume (CBV0), baseline cerebral blood flow (CBF0), baseline oxygen extraction fraction (OEF0) and hematocrit (Hct)).

From the optimization of the calibration model for estimation of OEF and practical considerations of hypercapnic and hyperoxic respiratory challenges, a new “simplified calibration model” is established which reduces the complexity of the original calibration model by substituting the standard parameters α and β with a single parameter θ. The optimal value of θ is determined (θ = 0.06) across a range of experimental respiratory challenges. The simplified calibration model gives estimates of OEF0 and absolute CMRO2 closer to the true values used to simulate the experimental data compared to those estimated using the original model incorporating literature values of α and β. Finally, an error propagation analysis demonstrates the susceptibility of the original and simplified calibration models to measurement errors and potential violations in the underlying assumptions of isometabolism. We conclude that using the simplified calibration model results in a reduced bias in OEF0 estimates across a wide range of potential respiratory challenge experimental designs.


A perceived social partner alters the neural processing of speech

Mounting evidence suggests that social interaction changes how communicative behaviors (e.g., spoken language, gaze) are processed, but the precise neural bases by which social-interactive context may alter communication remain unknown. Various perspectives suggest that live interactions are more rewarding, more attention-grabbing, or require increased mentalizing—thinking about the thoughts of others. Dissociating between these possibilities is difficult because most extant neuroimaging paradigms examining social interaction have not directly compared live paradigms to conventional “offline” (or recorded) paradigms. We developed a novel fMRI paradigm to assess whether and how an interactive context changes the processing of speech matched in content and vocal characteristics. Participants listened to short vignettes—which contained no reference to people or mental states—believing that some vignettes were prerecorded and that others were presented over a real-time audio-feed by a live social partner. In actuality, all speech was prerecorded. Simply believing that speech was live increased activation in each participant’s own mentalizing regions, defined using a functional localizer. Contrasting live to recorded speech did not reveal significant differences in attention or reward regions. Further, higher levels of autistic-like traits were associated with altered neural specialization for live interaction. These results suggest that humans engage in ongoing mentalizing about social partners, even when such mentalizing is not explicitly required, illustrating how social context shapes social cognition. Understanding communication in social context has important implications for typical and atypical social processing, especially for disorders like autism where social difficulties are more acute in live interaction.


Distortion products in auditory fMRI research: Measurements and solutions

Nonlinearities in the cochlea can introduce audio frequencies that are not present in the sound signal entering the ear. Known as distortion products (DPs), these added frequencies complicate the interpretation of auditory experiments. Sound production systems also introduce distortion via nonlinearities, a particular concern for fMRI research because the Sensimetrics earphones widely used for sound presentation are less linear than most high-end audio devices (due to design constraints). Here we describe the acoustic and neural effects of cochlear and earphone distortion in the context of fMRI studies of pitch perception, and discuss how their effects can be minimized with appropriate stimuli and masking noise. The amplitude of cochlear and Sensimetrics earphone DPs were measured for a large collection of harmonic stimuli to assess effects of level, frequency, and waveform amplitude. Cochlear DP amplitudes were highly sensitive to the absolute frequency of the DP, and were most prominent at frequencies below 300 Hz. Cochlear DPs could thus be effectively masked by low-frequency noise, as expected. Earphone DP amplitudes, in contrast, were highly sensitive to both stimulus and DP frequency (due to prominent resonances in the earphone's transfer function), and their levels grew more rapidly with increasing stimulus level than did cochlear DP amplitudes. As a result, earphone DP amplitudes often exceeded those of cochlear DPs. Using fMRI, we found that earphone DPs had a substantial effect on the response of pitch-sensitive cortical regions. In contrast, cochlear DPs had a small effect on cortical fMRI responses that did not reach statistical significance, consistent with their lower amplitudes. Based on these findings, we designed a set of pitch stimuli optimized for identifying pitch-responsive brain regions using fMRI. These stimuli robustly drive pitch-responsive brain regions while producing minimal cochlear and earphone distortion, and will hopefully aid fMRI researchers in avoiding distortion confounds.


Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) inhibits cortical dendrites | eLife

Nice rat study on the effects of TMS.

One of the leading approaches to non-invasively treat a variety of brain disorders is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). However, despite its clinical prevalence, very little is known about the action of TMS at the cellular level let alone what effect it might have at the subcellular level (e.g. dendrites). Here, we examine the effect of single-pulse TMS on dendritic activity in layer 5 pyramidal neurons of the somatosensory cortex using an optical fiber imaging approach. We find that TMS causes GABAB-mediated inhibition of sensory-evoked dendritic Ca2+ activity. We conclude that TMS directly activates fibers within the upper cortical layers that leads to the activation of dendrite-targeting inhibitory neurons which in turn suppress dendritic Ca2+ activity. This result implies a specificity of TMS at the dendritic level that could in principle be exploited for investigating these structures non-invasively.

New tissue priors for improved classification of subcortical brain structures on MRI

Despite the constant improvement of algorithms for automated brain tissue classification, the accurate delineation of subcortical structures using magnetic resonance images (MRI) data remains challenging. The main difficulties arise from the low gray-white matter contrast of iron rich areas in T1-weighted (T1w) MRI data and from the lack of adequate priors for basal ganglia and thalamus. The most recent attempts to obtain such priors were based on cohorts with limited size that included subjects in a narrow age range, failing to account for age-related gray-white matter contrast changes. Aiming to improve the anatomical plausibility of automated brain tissue classification from T1w data, we have created new tissue probability maps for subcortical gray matter regions. Supported by atlas-derived spatial information, raters manually labeled subcortical structures in a cohort of healthy subjects using magnetization transfer saturation and R2* MRI maps, which feature optimal gray-white matter contrast in these areas. After assessment of inter-rater variability, the new tissue priors were tested on T1w data within the framework of voxel-based morphometry. The automated detection of gray matter in subcortical areas with our new probability maps was more anatomically plausible compared to the one derived with currently available priors. We provide evidence that the improved delineation compensates age-related bias in the segmentation of iron rich subcortical regions. The new tissue priors, allowing robust detection of basal ganglia and thalamus, have the potential to enhance the sensitivity of voxel-based morphometry in both healthy and diseased brains.


Subtle in-scanner motion biases automated measurement of brain anatomy from in vivo MRI

While the potential for small amounts of motion in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans to bias the results of functional neuroimaging studies is well appreciated, the impact of in-scanner motion on morphological analysis of structural MRI is relatively under-studied. Even among “good quality” structural scans, there may be systematic effects of motion on measures of brain morphometry. In the present study, the subjects' tendency to move during fMRI scans, acquired in the same scanning sessions as their structural scans, yielded a reliable, continuous estimate of in-scanner motion. Using this approach within a sample of 127 children, adolescents, and young adults, significant relationships were found between this measure and estimates of cortical gray matter volume and mean curvature, as well as trend-level relationships with cortical thickness. Specifically, cortical volume and thickness decreased with greater motion, and mean curvature increased. These effects of subtle motion were anatomically heterogeneous, were present across different automated imaging pipelines, showed convergent validity with effects of frank motion assessed in a separate sample of 274 scans, and could be demonstrated in both pediatric and adult populations. Thus, using different motion assays in two large non-overlapping sets of structural MRI scans, convergent evidence showed that in-scanner motion—even at levels which do not manifest in visible motion artifact—can lead to systematic and regionally specific biases in anatomical estimation. These findings have special relevance to structural neuroimaging in developmental and clinical datasets, and inform ongoing efforts to optimize neuroanatomical analysis of existing and future structural MRI datasets in non-sedated humans.

Locus Coeruleus: From Global Projection System to Adaptive Regulation of Behavior

The brainstem nucleus locus coeruleus (LC) is a major source of norepinephrine (NE) projections throughout the CNS. This important property was masked in very early studies by the inability to visualize endogenous monoamines. The development of monoamine histofluorescence methods by Swedish scientists led to a plethora of studies, including a paper published in Brain Research by Loizou in 1969. That paper was highly cited (making it a focal point for the 50th anniversary issue of this journal), and helped to spark a large and continuing set of investigations to further refine our understating of the LC-NE system and its contribution to brain function and behavior. This paper very briefly reviews the ensuing advances in anatomical, physiological and behavioral aspects of the LC-NE system. Although its projections are ubiquitously present throughout the CNS, recent studies find surprising specificity within the organizational and operational domains of LC neurons. These and other findings lead us to expect that future work will unmask additional features of the LC-NE system and its roles in normative and pathological brain and behavioral processes.


Functional Imaging of the Developing Brain at the Bedside Using Diffuse Optical Tomography

While histological studies and conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) investigations have elucidated the trajectory of structural changes in the developing brain, less is known regarding early functional cerebral development. Recent investigations have demonstrated that resting-state functional connectivity MRI (fcMRI) can identify networks of functional cerebral connections in infants. However, technical and logistical challenges frequently limit the ability to perform MRI scans early or repeatedly in neonates, particularly in those at greatest risk for adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes. High-density diffuse optical tomography (HD-DOT), a portable imaging modality, potentially enables early continuous and quantitative monitoring of brain function in infants. We introduce an HD-DOT imaging system that combines advancements in cap design, ergonomics, and data analysis methods to allow bedside mapping of functional brain development in infants. In a cohort of healthy, full-term neonates scanned within the first days of life, HD-DOT results demonstrate strong congruence with those obtained using co-registered, subject-matched fcMRI and reflect patterns of typical brain development. These findings represent a transformative advance in functional neuroimaging in infants, and introduce HD-DOT as a powerful and practical method for quantitative mapping of early functional brain development in normal and high-risk neonates.


Unmasking Language Lateralization in Human Brain Intrinsic Activity

Lateralization of function is a fundamental feature of the human brain as exemplified by the left hemisphere dominance of language. Despite the prominence of lateralization in the lesion, split-brain and task-based fMRI literature, surprisingly little asymmetry has been revealed in the increasingly popular functional imaging studies of spontaneous fluctuations in the fMRI BOLD signal (so-called resting-state fMRI). Here, we show the global signal, an often discarded component of the BOLD signal in resting-state studies, reveals a leftward asymmetry that maps onto regions preferential for semantic processing in left frontal and temporal cortex and the right cerebellum and a rightward asymmetry that maps onto putative attention-related regions in right frontal, temporoparietal, and parietal cortex. Hemispheric asymmetries in the global signal resulted from amplitude modulation of the spontaneous fluctuations. To confirm these findings obtained from normal, healthy, right-handed subjects in the resting-state, we had them perform 2 semantic processing tasks: synonym and numerical magnitude judgment and sentence comprehension. In addition to establishing a new technique for studying lateralization through functional imaging of the resting-state, our findings shed new light on the physiology of the global brain signal.


Voice Recognition in Face-Blind Patients

Right or bilateral anterior temporal damage can impair face recognition, but whether this is an associative variant of prosopagnosia or part of a multimodal disorder of person recognition is an unsettled question, with implications for cognitive and neuroanatomic models of person recognition. We assessed voice perception and short-term recognition of recently heard voices in 10 subjects with impaired face recognition acquired after cerebral lesions. All 4 subjects with apperceptive prosopagnosia due to lesions limited to fusiform cortex had intact voice discrimination and recognition. One subject with bilateral fusiform and anterior temporal lesions had a combined apperceptive prosopagnosia and apperceptive phonagnosia, the first such described case. Deficits indicating a multimodal syndrome of person recognition were found only in 2 subjects with bilateral anterior temporal lesions. All 3 subjects with right anterior temporal lesions had normal voice perception and recognition, 2 of whom performed normally on perceptual discrimination of faces. This confirms that such lesions can cause a modality-specific associative prosopagnosia.


Multiple Brain Markers are Linked to Age-Related Variation in Cognition

Age-related alterations in brain structure and function have been challenging to link to cognition due to potential overlapping influences of multiple neurobiological cascades. We examined multiple brain markers associated with age-related variation in cognition. Clinically normal older humans aged 65–90 from the Harvard Aging Brain Study (N = 186) were characterized on a priori magnetic resonance imaging markers of gray matter thickness and volume, white matter hyperintensities, fractional anisotropy (FA), resting-state functional connectivity, positron emission tomography markers of glucose metabolism and amyloid burden, and cognitive factors of processing speed, executive function, and episodic memory. Partial correlation and mediation analyses estimated age-related variance in cognition shared with individual brain markers and unique to each marker. The largest relationships linked FA and striatum volume to processing speed and executive function, and hippocampal volume to episodic memory. Of the age-related variance in cognition, 70–80% was accounted for by combining all brain markers (but only ∼20% of total variance). Age had significant indirect effects on cognition via brain markers, with significant markers varying across cognitive domains. These results suggest that most age-related variation in cognition is shared among multiple brain markers, but potential specificity between some brain markers and cognitive domains motivates additional study of age-related markers of neural health.


The Role of Corticostriatal Systems in Speech Category Learning

One of the most difficult category learning problems for humans is learning nonnative speech categories. While feedback-based category training can enhance speech learning, the mechanisms underlying these benefits are unclear. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we investigated neural and computational mechanisms underlying feedback-dependent speech category learning in adults. Positive feedback activated a large corticostriatal network including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, inferior parietal lobule, middle temporal gyrus, caudate, putamen, and the ventral striatum. Successful learning was contingent upon the activity of domain-general category learning systems: the fast-learning reflective system, involving the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex that develops and tests explicit rules based on the feedback content, and the slow-learning reflexive system, involving the putamen in which the stimuli are implicitly associated with category responses based on the reward value in feedback. Computational modeling of response strategies revealed significant use of reflective strategies early in training and greater use of reflexive strategies later in training. Reflexive strategy use was associated with increased activation in the putamen. Our results demonstrate a critical role for the reflexive corticostriatal learning system as a function of response strategy and proficiency during speech category learning.

Repost: Being a PI ain’t all unicorns and rainbows…just like most actual jobs

Good advice.

I'll indulge myself about the trainee issue and repeat my constant refrain- If you won a tenure track job, chances are very good that you were a much better than average postdoc and graduate student. Consequently, the trainees that work for you are overwhelmingly likely to suck worse than you did. Get over it and learn how to make do.