News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

COMT Val158Met Genotype is Associated with Reward Learning: A Replication Study and Meta-Analysis

By N. S. Corral-Frías, D. A. Pizzagalli, J. M. Carré, L. J. Michalski, Y. S. Nikolova, R. H. Perlis, J. Fagerness, M. R. Lee, E. Drabant Conley, T. M. Lancaster, S. Haddad, A. Wolf, J. W. Smoller, A. R. Hariri, and R. Bogdan | Genes, Brain, and Behavior | June 1, 2016

Abstract:

Identifying mechanisms through which individual differences in reward learning emerge offers an opportunity to understand both a fundamental form of adaptive responding as well as etiological pathways through which aberrant reward learning may contribute to maladaptive behaviors and psychopathology. One candidate mechanism through which individual differences in reward learning may emerge is variability in dopaminergic reinforcement signaling. A common functional polymorphism within the catechol-O-methyl transferase gene (COMT; rs4680, Val158Met) has been linked to reward learning, where homozygosity for the Met allele (linked to heightened prefrontal dopamine function and decreased dopamine synthesis in the midbrain) has been associated with relatively increased reward learning. Here, we used a probabilistic reward learning task to asses response bias, a behavioral form of reward learning, across three separate samples that were combined for analyses (age: 21.80 ± 3.95; n = 392; 268 female; European-American: n = 208). We replicate prior reports that COMTrs4680 Met allele homozygosity is associated with increased reward learning in European-American participants (β = 0.20, t = 2.75, P < 0.01; ΔR2 = 0.04). Moreover, a meta-analysis of 4 studies, including the current one, confirmed the association between COMT rs4680 genotype and reward learning (95% CI −0.11 to −0.03; z = 3.2; P < 0.01). These results suggest that variability in dopamine signaling associated withCOMT rs4680 influences individual differences in reward which may potentially contribute to psychopathology characterized by reward dysfunction.

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When the Mind Wanders: Distinguishing Stimulus-Dependent from Stimulus-Independent Thoughts During Incidental Encoding in Young and Older Adults

By David Maillet and Daniel L. Schacter | Psychology and Aging | June 2016

Abstract:

In recent years, several studies have indicated that healthy older adults exhibit a reduction in mind-wandering compared with young adults. However, relatively little research has examined the extent to which ongoing thoughts in young and older adults are dependent on environmental stimuli. In the current study, we assessed age-related differences in frequency of stimulus-dependent thoughts (SDTs) and stimulus-independent thoughts (SITs) during a slow-paced incidental encoding task. Based on previous research suggesting that older adults rely on external information to a greater extent than young adults, we hypothesized that ongoing thoughts in older adults may be more stimulus-dependent than in young adults. We found that although older adults reported overall fewer thoughts compared to young adults, they exhibited a reduction in proportion of SITs and an increase in proportion of SDTs. In both age groups, SDTs were more frequently about the past compared with SITs, while SITs were more frequently about the future. Finally, the extent to which both young and older adults reported SDTs, but not SITs, at encoding was positively correlated with how often they reported remembering thoughts at retrieval, and SDT frequency was positively correlated with overall performance on the memory task in older adults. Our results provide evidence that ongoing thoughts in older adults may be more dependent on environmental stimuli than young adults, and that these thoughts may impact performance in recognition tasks.

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Pain in an Era of Armed Conflicts: Prevention and Treatment for Warfighters and Civilian Casualties

By  E. George, I. Elman, L. Becerra, Sheri Berg, and D. Borsook | Progress in Neurobiology | June 2016

Abstract:

Chronic pain is a common squealae of military- and terror-related injuries. While its pathophysiology has not yet been fully elucidated, it may be potentially related to premorbid neuropsychobiological status, as well as to the type of injury and to the neural alterations that it may evoke. Accordingly, optimized approaches for wounded individuals should integrate primary, secondary and tertiary prevention in the form of thorough evaluation of risk factors along with specific interventions to contravene and mitigate the ensuing chronicity. Thus, Premorbid Events phase may encompass assessments of psychological and neurobiological vulnerability factors in conjunction with fostering preparedness and resilience in both military and civilian populations at risk. Injuries per se phase calls for immediate treatment of acute pain in the field by pharmacological agents that spare and even enhance coping and adaptive capabilities. The key objective of the Post Injury Events is to prevent and/or reverse maladaptive peripheral- and central neural system’s processes that mediate transformation of acute to chronic pain and to incorporate timely interventions for concomitant mental health problems including post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction. We suggest that the proposed continuum of care may avert more disability and suffering than the currently employed less integrated strategies. While the requirements of the armed forces present a pressing need for this integrated continuum and a framework in which it can be most readily implemented, this approach may be also instrumental for the care of civilian casualties.

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Reciprocal White Matter Alterations Due to 16p11.2 Chromosomal Deletions Versus Duplications

By Yi Shin Chang, Julia P. Owen, Nicholas J. Pojman, Tony Thieu, Polina Bukshpun, Mari L.J. Wakahiro, Elysa J. Marco, Jeffrey I. Berman, John E. Spiro, Wendy K. Chung, Randy L. Buckner, Timothy P.L. Roberts, Srikantan S. Nagarajan, Elliott H. Sherr, and Pratik Mukherjee | Human Brain Mapping | May 24, 2016

Abstract:

Copy number variants at the 16p11.2 chromosomal locus are associated with several neuropsychiatric disorders, including autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and speech and language disorders. A gene dosage dependence has been suggested, with 16p11.2 deletion carriers demonstrating higher body mass index and head circumference, and 16p11.2 duplication carriers demonstrating lower body mass index and head circumference. Here, we use diffusion tensor imaging to elucidate this reciprocal relationship in white matter organization, showing widespread increases of fractional anisotropy throughout the supratentorial white matter in pediatric deletion carriers and, in contrast, extensive decreases of white matter fractional anisotropy in pediatric and adult duplication carriers. We find associations of these white matter alterations with cognitive and behavioral impairments. We further demonstrate the value of imaging metrics for characterizing the copy number variant phenotype by employing linear discriminant analysis to predict the gene dosage status of the study subjects. These results show an effect of 16p11.2 gene dosage on white matter microstructure, and further suggest that opposite changes in diffusion tensor imaging metrics can lead to similar cognitive and behavioral deficits. Given the large effect sizes found in this study, our results support the view that specific genetic variations are more strongly associated with specific brain alterations than are shared neuropsychiatric diagnoses.

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Multimodal Analysis of Cortical Chemoarchitecture and Macroscale fMRI Resting-State Functional Connectivity

By Martijn P. van den Heuvel, Lianne H. Scholtens, Elise Turk, Dante Mantini, Wim Vanduffel, and Lisa Feldman Barrett | Human Brain Mapping | May 21, 2016

Abstract:

The cerebral cortex is well known to display a large variation in excitatory and inhibitory chemoarchitecture, but the effect of this variation on global scale functional neural communication and synchronization patterns remains less well understood. Here, we provide evidence of the chemoarchitecture of cortical regions to be associated with large-scale region-to-region resting-state functional connectivity. We assessed the excitatory versus inhibitory chemoarchitecture of cortical areas as an ExIn ratio between receptor density mappings of excitatory (AMPA, M1) and inhibitory (GABAA, M2) receptors, computed on the basis of data collated from pioneering studies of autoradiography mappings as present in literature of the human (2 datasets) and macaque (1 dataset) cortex. Cortical variation in ExIn ratio significantly correlated with total level of functional connectivity as derived from resting-state functional connectivity recordings of cortical areas across all three datasets (human I: P = 0.0004; human II: P = 0.0008; macaque: P = 0.0007), suggesting cortical areas with an overall more excitatory character to show higher levels of intrinsic functional connectivity during resting-state. Our findings are indicative of the microscale chemoarchitecture of cortical regions to be related to resting-state fMRI connectivity patterns at the global system’s level of connectome organization.

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