BraIn Plasticity & behavior changes

RESEARCH TEAM @ UNIVERSITY OF TURIN

Brain plasticity

Research objectives

Projects

Publications

We are experts in the field of brain plasticity, studying learning processes and stimulus response via neuroimaging techniques such as EEG, TMS and fMRI.

The electroencephalogram (EEG) is used to provide us information about the plasticity of the patient or participant's brain with instrumental data, allowing us to monitor its variability over time, following the training. For example, we will record the brain activity of the participant during the administration of stimuli presented in sequence, in order to investigate their event-related response (ERP). The paradigm we use exploits the properties of our nervous system, which is able to become accustomed more or less suddenly to the presentation of the same auditory stimulus, and then respond vehemently to a new, different and more informative one. This process, as confirmed by numerous studies in the literature and published by us, highlights the participants' implicit learning, highlighting the plasticity of their nervous system in encoding the different stimulus sequences. In the paradigm we use (Roving), participants are presented with sequences of stimuli that repeat themselves (Standard sequences) interspersed with different stimuli (Deviant sequences). As previously stated, our nervous system is able to diversify between the two types of stimuli (Deviant and Standard) and the ERP traces elicited by the different stimulation provide objective evidence of this. In particular, the ERP response to deviant auditory stimuli shows a more pronounced negativity in the more or less early components of the response to the stimulus (N1, N200, N270, N400) compared to the response to standard stimuli. The analysis of the EEG traces allows us, through the subtraction of the average response to standard stimuli from the average response to deviant stimuli, to calculate a reliable index of how plastic our nervous system is in acquiring new information and therefore in learning, the Mismatch Negativity (MMN). The MMN is therefore a wave, elicited by the response to deviant stimuli and characterised by a negative peak around 200 and 400ms, which informs us of how sensitive we are to the acquisition of new stimuli, and therefore to learning. To further confirm the sensitivity of the MMN in assessing the participant's implicit learning, we will estimate, by means of an algorithm that takes into account several factors, including the position and type of stimulus, the patients' mnemonic decay and the particular sequence, a value for each stimulus presented, representing the amount of information contained in it. A sequence of stimuli that are repeated in the same way, for example, will decrease in time the value of informativeness, while a new and surprising stimulus will be even more informative. In this way we will be able to correlate the neural response of the patient to a particular stimulus, by means of the corresponding Bayesian surprise value previously calculated. It will thus be possible to see if, where the Mismatch negativity has greater amplitude, for example on peaks N2 and N4, the EEG tracing of the participant correlates more with the indices of Bayesian surprise, highlighting the adherence of the neural activity of the patient with the process of acquisition of more or less informative stimuli. In this regard, our research group has just published an article in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin that investigates and confirms the validity of these indices on healthy participants, underlining the priority of studying these markers on patients.

Another biomarker that we will use for the evaluation and testing of brain plasticity in patients is the P300, a wave that is elicited following the inhibition of motor response to a stimulus during Go/No-Go paradigms. When the patient's performance in motor inhibition tasks is excellent, the amplitude of the P300 increases; when it is weak, the wave has less amplitude. In this way, an objective measurement of one of the executive functions of interest and the brain health of the patient will be provided. Again, our research group has recently published in the journal Scientific Reports, providing further evidence of the validity of this index in assessing motor inhibition.

We also study brain response and functional connectivity using fMRI, highlighting the activity of target areas. With these sophisticated neuroimaging techniques we study brain plasticity in healthy participants and patients under different conditions. The aim is to try to improve plasticity in healthy adults and patients through cognitive training, through neuroaesthetics or video games and to be able to measure the results instrumentally and validly.

Brain plasticity and:

- neuroaesthetic (sounds, music or images)

- videogames

- neurocognitive rehabilitation

- shared attention

- attention modulation

Sarasso, P., Ronga, I., Neppi-Modona, M., & Sacco, K. (2021). The role of musical aesthetic emotions in social adaptation to the Covid-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 445. 


Sarasso, P., Neppi-Modona, M., Sacco, K., & Ronga, I. (2020). “Stopping for knowledge”: The sense of beauty in the perception-action cycle. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 


Sarasso, P., Ronga, I., Kobau, P., Bosso, T., Artusio, I., Ricci, R., & Neppi-Modona, M. (2020). Beauty in mind: Aesthetic appreciation correlates with perceptual facilitation and attentional amplification. Neuropsychologia, 136, 107282. 


Sarasso, P., Ronga, I., Pistis, A., Forte, E., Garbarini, F., Ricci, R., & Neppi-Modona, M. (2019). Aesthetic appreciation of musical intervals enhances behavioural and neurophysiological indexes of attentional engagement and motor inhibition. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-14. 
 

Ronga, I., Garbarini, F., Neppi-Modona, M., Fossataro, C., Pyasik, M., Bruno, V., Sarasso, P., Barra, G., Frigerio, M., Chiotti, V.G., Pia, L. (2019). See me, feel me’: Prismatic adaptation of an alien limb ameliorates spatial neglect in a patient affected by pathological embodiment. Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 9, p. 1-10, ISSN: 1664-1078, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02726

 

Sarasso, P., Ninghetto, M., Salatino, A., Ronga, I., Bongiardina, A., Iarrobino, I., Neppi-Modona, M., Ricci R. (2019). Everything is (still) illuminated: dual right cathodal-left anodal tDCS of PPC prevents fatigue on a visual detection task. Brain Stimulation: Basic, Translational, and Clinical Research in Neuromodulation. doi: 10.1016/j.brs.2018.09.017

 

Ronga, I., Sarasso, P., Fossataro, C., Salatino, A., Garbarini, F., Ricci, R., Neppi-Modona, M. (2018). Everything is Illuminated: Prismatic Adaptation Lowers Visual Detection Threshold in Normal Subjects. Journal of Experimental Psychology – Human perception and performance. doi: 10.1037/xhp0000559.

 

Ronga, I., Franza, M., Sarasso, P., Neppi-Modona, M (2017). Oculomotor Prismatic Training is effective in ameliorating spatial neglect: a pilot study. Experimental Brain Research. doi:10.1007/s00221-017-4923-6.

 

Ronga I., Sarasso P., Raineri F., Duhamel J.R., Becchio C., Neppi-Modona M. (2017). Leftward oculomotor prismatic training induces a rightward bias in normal subjects. Experimental Brain Research. doi: 10.1007/s00221-017-4934-3.

 

Ricci R., Salatino A., Garbarini F., Ronga I., Genero R., Berti A., Neppi-Modona M. (2016). Effects of attentional and cognitive variables on unilateral spatial neglect. Neuropsychologia 92:158-166.