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

Alterations of Lateral Temporal Cortical Gray Matter and Facial Memory as Vulnerability Indicators for Schizophrenia: An MRI Study in Youth at Familial High-Risk for Schizophrenia

By Benjamin K. Brent, Isabelle M. Rosso, Heidi W. Thermenos, Daphne J. Holt, Stephen V. Faraone, Nikos Makris, Ming T. Tsuang, and Larry J. Seidman | Schizophrenia Research | November 24, 2015

Abstract:

Background

Structural alterations of the lateral temporal cortex (LTC) in association with memory impairments have been reported in schizophrenia. This study investigated whether alterations of LTC structure were linked with impaired facial and/or verbal memory in young first-degree relatives of people with schizophrenia and, thus, may be indicators of vulnerability to the illness.

Methods

Subjects included 27 non-psychotic, first-degree relatives of schizophrenia patients, and 48 healthy controls, between the ages of 13 and 28. Participants underwent high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at 1.5 Tesla. The LTC was parcellated into superior temporal gyrus, middle temporal gyrus, inferior temporal gyrus, and temporal pole. Total cerebral and LTC volumes were measured using semi-automated morphometry. The Wechsler Memory Scale — Third Edition and the Children’s Memory Scale — Third Edition assessed facial and verbal memory. General linear models tested for associations among LTC subregion volumes, familial risk and memory.

Results

Compared with controls, relatives had significantly smaller bilateral middle temporal gyri. Moreover, right middle temporal gyral volume showed a significant positive association with delayed facial memory in relatives.

Conclusion

These results support the hypothesis that smaller middle temporal gyri are related to the genetic liability to schizophrenia and may be linked with reduced facial memory in persons at genetic risk for the illness. The findings add to the growing evidence that children at risk for schizophrenia on the basis of positive family history have cortical and subcortical structural brain abnormalities well before psychotic illness occurs.

Read the full article here.

An Architecture for Encoding Sentence Meaning in Left Mid-Superior Temporal Cortex

By Steven M. Frankland and Joshua D. Greene | Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences | August 24, 2015

Abstract:

Human brains flexibly combine the meanings of words to compose structured thoughts. For example, by combining the meanings of “bite,” “dog,” and “man,” we can think about a dog biting a man, or a man biting a dog. Here, in two functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments using multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA), we identify a region of left mid-superior temporal cortex (lmSTC) that flexibly encodes “who did what to whom” in visually presented sentences. We find that lmSTC represents the current values of abstract semantic variables (“Who did it?” and “To whom was it done?”) in distinct subregions. Experiment 1 first identifies a broad region of lmSTC whose activity patterns (i) facilitate decoding of structure-dependent sentence meaning (“Who did what to whom?”) and (ii) predict affect-related amygdala responses that depend on this information (e.g., “the baby kicked the grandfather” vs. “the grandfather kicked the baby”). Experiment 2 then identifies distinct, but neighboring, subregions of lmSTC whose activity patterns carry information about the identity of the current “agent” (“Who did it?”) and the current “patient” (To whom was it done?”). These neighboring subregions lie along the upper bank of the superior temporal sulcus and the lateral bank of the superior temporal gyrus, respectively. At a high level, these regions may function like topographically defined data registers, encoding the fluctuating values of abstract semantic variables. This functional architecture, which in key respects resembles that of a classical computer, may play a critical role in enabling humans to flexibly generate complex thoughts.

Read the full article here.