Do robots have to be human-like for us to trust them?
Recently published research assessed human trust when collaborating with eyed and non-eyed robots of the same type.
What do near-death experiences and psychedelic experiences have in common?
Researchers analysed the similarities and differences between a near-death experience and the experience induced by a psychedelic drug.
What interferes the most with our short-term memory?
Researchers performed experiments to explore the effects of changing-state vibrotactile sequences on short-term memory.
Can childhood trauma cause insomnia in adults?
Research has shown that adverse childhood experiences result in more dysfunctional ways of shame coping and increase the severity of insomnia in adulthood.
Near-death experiences among ICU survivors
Research with 126 patients admitted to ICU for at least 7 days reveals that 15% reported having experienced a near-death experience.
Elderly people can improve episodic memory by neurostimulation of the cerebellum
A study demonstrated that neurostimulation of the cerebellum led to improvements in episodic memory performance in healthy elderly individuals.
Does aging change the way we interpret face processing of emotion?
Study shows that aging may hamper the neural processing of facial expressions of emotion.
Hypnosis, meditation, and prayer: which is most helpful for pain management?
Researchers found that a single session of hypnosis and mindfulness meditation, but not prayer, may be useful for managing acute pain.
Does playing with parents at home make it easier for young children to adapt to preschool?
A study showed that children with higher levels of oxytocin adapt better to their preschool environment and that playing with their parents increases those levels.
Can gratitude buffer the negative effects of stress?
Researchers found that gratitude has a unique stress-buffering effect on both reactions to and recovery from acute psychological stress.
Do mood fluctuations impact confidence in decision-making?
Study reveals that in the healthy adult population, fluctuations of mood do not interfere with confidence in decision-making.
Relationship between sleep bruxism, insomnia and anxiety
Researchers concluded that, although sleep bruxism has no direct association with insomnia, anxiety may act as a bridging factor between these complaints.
What do we remember from a movie?
Matteo Frisoni, principal investigator of the research project 384/20 - Schema-based temporal memory in parietal cortex (SCHETEMP), supported by the BIAL Foundation, assessed the degree to which detailed verbal information (i.e., dialogues), as well as semantic and spatiotemporal (i.e., “what”, “where”, and “when”) elements of episodic memories for movies, are forgotten over the course of a week in two groups of young adult (20–30 years old) and middle-aged (40–55 years old) participants. The results indicate that memory decay over a week mainly affects the auditory verbal dimension of complex events, both in terms of memory accuracy and confidence, whereas information about the “what” (objects/characters), “where” (spatial) and “when” (temporal) elements seems to be better preserved. Moreover, young adults are more accurate and confident than middle-aged participants. To know more, please read the paper “Long-term memory for movie details: selective decay for verbal information at one week” published in the journal Memory.
The Proceedings of the 13th Symposium of the BIAL Foundation are now available
The BIAL Foundation has just published the Proceedings of the 13th "Behind and Beyond the Brain" Symposium, a compilation of the speakers' lectures which also includes the abstracts of some of the supported research projects and presented at this meeting in poster sessions and oral communications.
Does the idea of your partner’s death affect your brain activity?
The paper Reminders of Mortality: Investigating the Effects of Different Mortality Saliences on Somatosensory Neural Activity was published in the journal Brain Sciences in the scope of the research project 75/16 - The painful awareness of death: Influence of thoughts of death on behavioural and cerebral activity associated with painful nociceptive stimuli, supported by the BIAL Foundation and led by Elia Valentini. The study aimed to test whether thinking about a romantic partner’s death or on their own death would reveal a change in the perception and brain responses to noxious electrical stimuli. The conclusion of this study reveals greater effects of reminders of mortality directed at one’s romantic partner on pain perception (as opposed to the participant’s own mortality).
How stress during pregnancy may impact children’s sleep?
Desana Kocevska, principal investigator of the research project 381/20 - Pathways from prenatal and postnatal stress to sleep quality across childhood: The role of the amygdala and cortisol, supported by the BIAL Foundation, studied the impact of prenatal psychosocial stress (life events, contextual, parental or interpersonal stressors) on 4.930 children’s sleep at ages 2 months, 1.5, 2, 3 and 6 years. In addition, analyses using polygenic risk scores were performed in a subsample of 2.063 children. Higher total prenatal stress was associated with more sleep problems across all time points between 2 months and 6 years of age. Prenatal stress, and in particular negative life events during the pregnancy interact with genetic liability for insomnia to exacerbate sleep problems at six years of age. To know more about this study read the paper A Longitudinal Study of Stress During Pregnancy, Children’s Sleep and Polygenic Risk for Poor Sleep in the General Pediatric Population published in the journal of Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology.
Do eyes on robots matter?
Artur Pilacinski, principal investigator of the research project 260/22 - TrustyCobots: Human-like or machine-like? Tracking psychophysiological components of trust in human-robot collaboration, supported by the BIAL Foundation, assessed, using both subjective and objective measures (heart rate, pupil size and task completion time), the human trust when collaborating with eyed and non-eyed robots of the same type. Although humans seem to report marginally higher trust in eyed robots, they showed larger pupil size and faster task completion when interacting with robots without eyes, suggesting a more comfortable cooperation with them. This indicates that humans might not need human-like machines to trust and work with them. Instead, they seem to collaborate better with machine-like, eyeless machines. To know more about this study, read the paper The robot eyes don't have it. The presence of eyes on collaborative robots yields marginally higher user trust but lower performance published in the journal Heliyon.
The contribution of nucleus accumbens in anxiety
In the scope of the research project 175/20 - The role of nucleus accumbens in the perception of natural rewards, led by Carina Cunha and supported by the BIAL Foundation, it was published the paper Involvement of nucleus accumbens D2–medium spiny neurons projecting to the ventral pallidum in anxiety-like behaviour in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience. In this study, the contribution of a specific population of dopaminergic neurons in a central nucleus for emotional behaviors is highlighted, now in the context of anxiety.
Connectivity between premotor and motor cortex impacts inter-areal communication
The paper Changing connectivity between premotor and motor cortex changes inter-areal communication in the human brain was published in the journal Progress in Neurobiology in the scope of the research project 44/16 - Inducing and measuring plasticity in response control mechanisms in the human brain, supported by the BIAL Foundation and led by Alejandra Sel de Felipe. It has been suggested that the efficacy or strength of connections between neuronal groups influences the communication strength between brain regions. The research team tested this possibility in the human brain by using manipulations that have been established to either increase or decrease connectivity strength in a human cortico-cortical pathway, the route connecting ventral premotor cortex (PMv) and primary motor cortex (M1) and demonstrated that changing short-term synaptic efficacy of the PMv-M1 pathway changes interregional brain communication between the premotor and the primary motor control regions. Moreover, increasing PMv-M1 coupling strength leads to increased beta and alpha coherence, while decreasing PMv-M1 coupling strength results in decreased theta coherence.
Are near-death experiences (NDEs) and psychedelic experiences alike?
Pascal Michael and colleagues aimed to analyse the similarities and differences between an NDE while in a coma and the experience induced by an endogenous psychedelic drug (5-Methoxy-DMT). There was a very high level of comparability between the original NDE and psychedelic experience in general, emerging common themes, such as, space-time transcendence, ego dissolution, cosmic love. However, there were also a few unique themes (life review, meeting deceased loved one, and threshold of no-return) that emerged in the NDE and were not present in the psychedelic experience. Despite the convergences observed in several domains, according to the participant’s subjective appraisal both experiences are almost completely different. To know more about this study, read the paper This is your brain on death: a comparative analysis of a near-death experience and subsequent 5-Methoxy-DMT experience published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, in the scope of the research project 359/18 - DMT and Epileptiform activity as an integrative model of the Near-Death Experience: A phenomenological, psychometric and psychophysiological study, supported by the BIAL Foundation.
Is motor-response execution part of the decisional process?
Michele Scaltritti, principal investigator of the research project 79/20 - Redefining the boundaries between cognition and action through the psychophysiological investigation of binary decisions, supported by the BIAL Foundation, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance the article Redefining the Decisional Components of Motor Responses: Evidence From Lexical and Object Decision Tasks. The research team aimed to evaluate whether motor-response execution is or is not part of the decisional process. They have exploited the electromyographic (EMG) signal to partition the reaction time (RT) into a premotor time (PMT), capturing the time from stimulus onset until the onset of the EMG activity, and a motor time (MT), reflecting the time from the onset of the EMG burst until the button press, to assess whether decision processes terminate before response initiation or, instead, whether they are still at play during motor-response execution. The results supported the latter perspective, that is, motor-response execution is not segregated from ongoing decisional dynamics.
How spatial information modulates Pavlovian learning?
The paper Threat learning in space: How stimulus-outcome spatial compatibility modulates conditioned skin conductance response was published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology, in the scope of research project 47/20 - Fear in action: How Pavlovian fear learning shapes goal-directed motor responses led by Francesca Starita. Participants completed a Pavlovian threat conditioning task in which visual conditioned stimuli - CSs (images of four different white geometrical shapes) appeared on the same (compatible) or opposite (incompatible) hemispace as the unconditioned stimuli (US) delivery (aversive shock to one hand), while their skin conductance response (SCR) was being measured, serving as an index of learning. No information was provided regarding which stimulus would be associated with the shock, and participants had to learn the CSs-US relationship from experience. Results showed that, before learning which CSs predicted the shock, compatible CSs elicited greater mean SCR than incompatible ones. In contrast, during threat acquisition, when participants learned that incompatible as well as compatible CSs predicted shock delivery, SCR increased to CSs+ as compared to CSs-, indicating that the conditioned response was successfully acquired regardless of CS compatibility. Additionally, at the beginning of extinction, the conditioned response was greater to incompatible than compatible CSs, but it was extinguished for both incompatible and compatible CSs by the end of extinction. These results suggest that stimulus-outcome spatial compatibility influences the acquisition, extinction and recovery (following reinstatement) of Pavlovian threat conditioning.
Can motor performance be predicted?
In the scope of the research project 347/18 - Driving synaptic plasticity in motor-to-visual neural pathways to enhance action prediction, supported by the BIAL Foundation, Alessio Avenanti published the paper Neurophysiological Markers of Premotor–Motor Network Plasticity Predict Motor Performance in Young and Older Adults in the journal Biomedicines. The study aimed to assess if plasticity in premotor–motor circuits predicts hand motor abilities in young and elderly humans. Changes in motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) during a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) protocol were assessed as an index of ventral premotor cortex (PMv) and primary motor cortex (M1) network plasticity. Results showed lower motor performance and decreased PMv-M1 network plasticity in elderly adults. Moreover, findings suggest that physiological indices of PMv-M1 plasticity predict hand dexterity and speed across young and older healthy humans.
Luís Portela was awarded the Medal of Honor by Vila Nova de Gaia
The chairman of the BIAL Foundation, Luís Portela, was awarded the Medal of Honor from Vila Nova de Gaia on June 20. The attribution act was carried out in a ceremony as part of the Municipality Day celebration.
The quest of physiological markers for the experience of pain
Researcher: Elia Valentini - Department of Psychology & Centre for Brain Science, University of Essex Summary: The aim of this project is to improve measurement of the human experience of pain by investigating a combination of psychophysical and physiological responses during mild noxious stimulation. More specifically, we want to investigate how sensitive and specific to pain the brain oscillatory responses are. We use EEG as the main technique, but we are keen to collaborate with neuroscientists using fMRI, autonomic measures and brain stimulation as well as with computational neuroscientists. A clinical collaborator would also be very much welcome.
EEG investigation of hypnosis and decision-making
Researcher: Rinaldo Livio Perri - University Niccolò Cusano Rome, Italy Summary: I work in the field of hypnosis and cognitive neuroscience. In particular, I adopt the event-related potentials (ERPs) to investigate the effect of the hypnotic suggestions on sensory processing and cognitive performance. I am an expert in decision-making and proactive brain processes before the stimulus administration (e.g., the perceptual, prefrontal and premotor readiness during the expectancy stage). I could help colleagues to properly analyze the ERP signal in the pre-stimulus stage of processing. Also, I would be happy to share my EEG data for re-analyzing them in the frequency domain (e.g., wavelet or coherence analysis in the hypnosis research). Feel free to contact me for any question! More information on my papers: https://scholar.google.it/citations?user=-8e_V64AAAAJ&hl=it Possible collaborations: neuroscientist with experience in the EEG frequency analysis Email: email@example.com
Transparent Psi Project - looking for collaborators
Summary: We are running a fully transparent, expert consensus-base multilab replication of Bem’s (2011) experiment 1. The project features state of the art methods to maximize transparency and study integrity. The study involves a computerized experiment taking about 20 minutes per session. Group testing is possible in a computer lab, no specialized equipment needed. Labs are expected to recruit at least 100 participants. Participants will be exposed to images with explicit erotic/sexual content in the experiment. No financial compensation is required for the participants. Data collection is expected to take place in the 2020 fall semester. Every material is provided for ethics/IRB submissions and data collection in English (translation of materials might be necessary by the collaborators). The study is pre-registered and the manuscript is accepted in principle for publication in the journal Royal Society Open Science. All collaborators who meet the minimum sample size criterion will get authorship on this paper reporting the results of the replication study. More information in the preprint: https://psyarxiv.com/uwk7y/ Indicate interest in the collaboration via the following form: https://tinyurl.com/tpp-labs With any question contact the lead investigator: Dr. Zoltan Kekecs, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cognitive control and learning
Researcher: Ignacio Obeso, Ph.D. / CINAC - HM Puerta del Sur Summary: The aim of our projects is to understand the behavioral and neural mechanisms used to learn how humans establish adaptive behaviour in changing contexts. More specifically, we want to decipher how stopping abilities are initially learned and later executed under automatic control. We use task-related fMRI, brain stimulation and clinical models to test our predictions in laboratory settings as well as online home-based paradigms. Possible collaborations: computational scientist Email contact: email@example.com https://iobesomartin.wixsite.com/cognitivecontrol
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