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Friedman, J., & Korman, M. (2016). Offline Optimization of the Relative Timing of Movements in a Sequence Is Blocked by Retroactive Behavioral Interference. Front. Hum. Neurosci., 10, 623.
Abstract: Acquisition of motor skills often involves the concatenation of single movements into sequences. Along the course of learning, sequential performance becomes progressively faster and smoother, presumably by optimization of both motor planning and motor execution. Following its encoding during training, “how-to” memory undergoes consolidation, reflecting transformations in performance and its neurobiological underpinnings over time. This offline post-training memory process is characterized by two phenomena: reduced sensitivity to interference and the emergence of delayed, typically overnight, gains in performance. Here, using a training protocol that effectively induces motor sequence memory consolidation, we tested temporal and kinematic parameters of performance within (online) and between (offline) sessions, and their sensitivity to retroactive interference. One group learned a given finger-to-thumb opposition sequence (FOS), and showed robust delayed (consolidation) gains in the number of correct sequences performed at 24 h. A second group learned an additional (interference) FOS shortly after the first and did not show delayed gains. Reduction of touch times and inter-movement intervals significantly contributed to the overall offline improvement of performance overnight. However, only the offline inter-movement interval shortening was selectively blocked by the interference experience. Velocity and amplitude, comprising movement time, also significantly changed across the consolidation period but were interference-insensitive. Moreover, they paradoxically canceled out each other. Current results suggest that shifts in the representation of the trained sequence are subserved by multiple processes: from distinct changes in kinematic characteristics of individual finger movements to high-level, temporal reorganization of the movements as a unit. Each of these processes has a distinct time course and a specific susceptibility to retroactive interference. This multiple-component view may bridge the gap in understanding the link between the behavioral changes, which define online and offline learning, and the biological mechanisms that support those changes.
Frenkel-Toledo, S., Liebermann, D. G., Bentin, S., & Soroker, N. (2016). Dysfunction of the Human Mirror Neuron System in Ideomotor Apraxia: Evidence from Mu Suppression. J Cogn Neurosci, .
Abstract: Stroke patients with ideomotor apraxia (IMA) have difficulties controlling voluntary motor actions, as clearly seen when asked to imitate simple gestures performed by the examiner. Despite extensive research, the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying failure to imitate gestures in IMA remain controversial. The aim of the current study was to explore the relationship between imitation failure in IMA and mirror neuron system (MNS) functioning. Mirror neurons were found to play a crucial role in movement imitation and in imitation-based motor learning. Their recruitment during movement observation and execution is signaled in EEG recording by suppression of the lower (8-10 Hz) mu range. We examined the modulation of EEG in this range in stroke patients with left (n = 21) and right (n = 15) hemisphere damage during observation of video clips showing different manual movements. IMA severity was assessed by the DeRenzi's standardized diagnostic test. Results showed that failure to imitate observed manual movements correlated with diminished mu suppression in patients with damage to the right inferior parietal lobule and in patients with damage to the right inferior frontal gyrus pars opercularis-areas where major components of the human MNS are assumed to reside. Voxel-based lesion symptom mapping revealed a significant impact on imitation capacity for the left inferior and superior parietal lobules and the left post central gyrus. Both left and right hemisphere damages were associated with imitation failure typical of IMA, yet a clear demonstration of relationship to the MNS was obtained only in the right hemisphere damage group. Suppression of the 8-10 Hz range was stronger in central compared with occipital sites, pointing to a dominant implication of mu rather than alpha rhythms. However, the suppression correlated with De Renzi's apraxia test scores not only in central but also in occipital sites, suggesting a multifactorial mechanism for IMA, with a possible impact for deranged visual attention (alpha suppression) beyond the effect of MNS damage (mu suppression).
Awasthi, B., Williams, M. A., & Friedman, J. (2016). Examining the role of red background in magnocellular contribution to face perception. PeerJ, 4, e1617.
Abstract: This study examines the role of the magnocellular system in the early stages of face perception, in particular sex categorization. Utilizing the specific property of magnocellular suppression in red light, we investigated visually guided reaching to low and high spatial frequency hybrid faces against red and grey backgrounds. The arm movement curvature measure shows that reduced response of the magnocellular pathway interferes with the low spatial frequency component of face perception. This finding provides behavioral evidence for magnocellular contribution to non-emotional aspect of face perception.