A still largely unresolved question is to what extent perceptual-cognitive abilities of different populations play a role in their successful decision-making in real life contexts. Individuals often have to process complex dynamic visual scenes and make decisions based on their situational awareness and prior knowledge. We propose that decision-making abilities exhibited by individuals in this context depend in part on their perceptual-cognitive capacities. The 3D-MOT paradigm (known in the market as NeuroTracker) was initially designed to isolate fundamental properties that are present when processing dynamic visual scenes while being void of specific context. The goal was to develop a general tool that could assess individual differences in perceptual-cognitive capacities and to determine whether it is possible to improve these abilities by training and show transfer to relevant skills. The research to date demonstrates that: 1) It is possible to measure individual differences on this ability for a variety of populations; 2) The level of performance such as sports-related decision making corresponds with the learning rate on this task; 3) The initial measures can be predictive of decision-making metrics in sports and for other daily activities such as driving performance; 4) The brain is plastic to this process and training on this system can show transfer on socially relevant performance measures; 5) Training on this task improves relevant brain function such as attention, working memory and executive functions as measured by standard cognitive metrics and brain imaging; 6) The NeuroTracker is sensitive to functional brain changes and recovery from brain damage due to trauma. In this talk, I will explain the principles, review the relevant studies done in different populations with the NeuroTracker approach and discuss potential future avenues for enhancing brain function.
Dynamic Brain Networks and Links to Cognitive Performance
Complex mental processes rely on the flexible integration of information across specialized brain regions. However, relatively little is known about how this mechanism manifests over time. I will discuss recent efforts using time-resolved blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) connectivity to demonstrate that the human brain traverses between functional network states which reflect either segregation into tight-knit communities or integration across otherwise disparate brain regions. The results indicate that the integrated state enables faster and more accurate performance on cognitive tasks. In a separate study, we investigated functional connectivity measured longitudinally from a single individual over several months. The connectivity states exhibited significant alterations in global efficiency which were related to differences in self-reported attention. Taken together, these results suggest links between attention, cognitive performance, and the dynamic reorganization of the network structure of the brain.
Functional MRI in Perspective
Since the inception of fMRI in 1991, the method has advanced, new findings have been revealed, and challenges have been addressed. It’s useful to break fMRI down into its four elemental areas: technology, methodology, signal interpretation, and applications. In this lecture, I will give examples from each to illustrate how fMRI has grown and to highlight its considerable potential. In technology, I will touch on the impact of higher field strength, better pulse sequences, and more sophisticated hardware and the resulting improvements in sensitivity, specificity, and generally the kinds of studies that are now possible. In methodology, I will discuss a few of the most significant processing and activation paradigm advances, including naturalistic paradigms, resting state fMRI, connectivity analysis, multivariate analysis, machine learning approaches, and big data. In signal interpretation, insight has been achieved in understanding the neuronal correlates of the fMRI signal changes as well as fluctuations. Finally, fMRI has exploded with regard to research application, however, it has been unable to make any significant clinical application inroads. I will discuss some of the more exciting applications and discuss potential paths to increased clinical relevance. This talk is aimed to provide perspective on fMRI—to cover a bit of its history and implementation, to instill an appreciation of its limitations, but importantly, to convey a sense of excitement with its possibilities.
Parcellation and Plasticity of Human Cerebral Cortex,
David van Essen
The cerebral cortex is the dominant structure of the mammalian brain, and it plays critical but diverse roles in cognition, perception, learning, emotion, and motor control. It is also a highly plastic structure that can be impacted by injury, disease, or abnormal experience. Recent advances in noninvasive neuroimaging have enabled rapid progress in exploring human brain structure, function, and connectivity. Many such advances come from the Human Connectome Project, a large-scale endeavor to systematically characterize brain circuitry, its variability, and its relation to behavior in a population of 1,100 healthy young adults. This includes exciting progress in the century-old quest to generate accurate maps of cortical areas—the fundamental units of cortical organization that are analogous to the political subdivisions of the earth’s surface. This lecture will review recent progress in parcellating cerebral cortex in individuals as well as group averages. The ability to accurately parcellate the cortex in individual subjects will facilitate the following of cortical changes across the lifespan and to more accurately characterize the effects of experience on brain circuits in health and disease.
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