Thought pebbles in another week in neuroscience … 

pebbles_in_water-1400x1050

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just when I start thinking I am getting the gist of the general principles of brain organisation, a colleague will throw  a curve ball.

Over the last week I learned from Katie Warnaby (Oxford, FMRIB) that activity in the anterior insula correlates with the waxing and waning of awareness during anaesthesia. Is it possible that this is a key brain area gating our conscious percepts and that we have missed this all along? Well, the anterior insula is one of those promiscuous areas, showing up in all sorts of experiments. Oh yes, and very well connected too, with links to the old limbic regions as well as to the usual frontal control culprits.

If that weren’t enough of a disturbance to my usual way of thinking about distributed brain functions, yesterday Ole Paulsen (Cambridge, PDN) told me that with optogenetics they’ve shown that only the hippocampus in the left hemisphere of mice shows LTP. What!? Exactly. It’s publishedand I’d missed it. Now that leaves human hippocampal asymmetries (at least those recognised so far) in the dust! Do I believe it? Well, as Ole’s postdoc Susanna Barrett Mierau said: “I believe anything that is published by Ole.

Who knows what will be coming up next week. Can’t wait!

Kia Nobre

1st December 2015

Journal Club: Hippocampal-prefrontal theta mediating anxiety in rodents?

18th June 2015

sophie

We discussed the paper entitled “Single units in the medial prefrontal cortex with anxiety-related firing patterns are preferentially influenced by ventral hippocampal activity” by Adhikari, Topiwala, and Gordon [Neuron, 2011]. We chose to read this paper because we are interested in the role of oscillatory brain activity in psychological disorders, as well as in the consequences of anxiety for learning, memory, and attention.

The paper discussed the role of single units in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in rodents in representing anxiety-related task features. Results showed that there were subsamples of units that displayed preferential firing for either the safe or aversive features of the elevated plus maze. Moreover, those units that showed the most robust representation of the anxiety features were also those that were most phase-locked to- and temporally followed theta input from the ventral hippocampus (vHPC). Thus, mPFC single units use input from the vHPC to form representations of anxiety features of the maze; thus, the unidirectional projection from the vHPC to the mPFC is implicated in anxiety in rodents. However, an unexpected finding was that those units reflecting anxiety features were highly present in non anxious rodents, while representations in anxious mice were at chance level; one would expect that anxious rodents would possess these units to a greater extent, given that they could adaptively be used to guide avoidant behaviour.

We enjoyed reading this paper and puzzled over how it can inform us about the coding of anxiety in humans. It is always tricky to label rodents based on a psychological trait, such as anxiety. We also wondered about how these anxiety-related functions co-exist in the same circuitry with spatial encoding in working memory, as reported by the same laboratory (Spellman et al 2015 Nature 522: 309-314, doi: 10.1038/nature14445). Interesting…

Journal Club: Closed-Loop Training of Attention with Real-Time Brain Imaging

 11th June 2015

We chose to read the recent paper by Nick Turk-Browne’s lab (deBettencourt et al. 2015;http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v18/n3/full/nn.3940.html) because we are interested in attention, variability in performance over trials, methods for training attention, neurofeedback, and multivariate pattern analysis.In this experiment, 16 participants performed a selective sustained attention task in three separate sessions. In all cases participants viewed a composite image made up of a superimposed face and scene, and had to monitor one stimulus category to detect frequent (90% present) targets (e.g. male faces).Subjects completed 3 sessions on different days: 2 behavioral sessions (day 1 & 3) served to measure the effect of training and a session during fMRI scanning (day 2) which included both blocks similar to the behavioural sessions (‘stable’ blocks) and blocks of neuro-feedback based training.There were 4 stable blocks per run (6-9 runs per subject) that were used to train a logistic regression classifier to discriminate between faces and scenes. As the main experimental manipulation, during training blocks the pattern classification was done nearly immediately (1 scan delay), and the amount of evidence for the attended category was used to provide feedback during the next scan in the form of changing the strength of the face versus scene information in the composite stimulus.Interestingly, the authors choose to use the feedback as a means to amplify the consequences of attention waxing and waning during performance, further impoverishing information about the relevant stimulus when poor classifier output signaled lapses and augmenting relevant stimulus information when good classifier output signaled focused engagement.This training was shown to have significant consequences. Participants performed better in the post vs pre-scan behavioral session. Classifier performance also improved (first vs last run) in several areas, including ventral temporal cortex and basal ganglia, suggesting multivariate patterns of brain activity became more separable through training. Finally, a network of frontoparietal areas was suggested to contribute most to the overall classification and to drive the training effects.We greatly enjoyed discussing this paper. We agree that training basic attention functions can have important and widespread consequences for maintaining and promoting cognitive health in a variety of populations. We found the approach to be innovative and the methods rigorous. We especially liked the use of Neurosynth (http://neurosynth.org/) to create database-driven regions of interest, and the practice of running experiments in a double-blind way, with standardized instructions to participants.In going through the details, we wondered about the challenges associated with accurate pattern classification based on limited data at the individual-participant level. We would have liked to see time courses from individual participants (and not only group averages, as shown). We also wondered about whether there would be ‘threshold’ effects (doing well on the task could get you stuck with easy stimuli in a self-perpetuating loop). And, to be pedantic, we felt that some claims about causality, derived only from correlations, overstepped the evidence.Overall, this was great fun to discuss, and it even gave us some new ideas for how to approach some of these tricky training studies.

– See more at: http://www.brainandcognition.org/2015/06/16/closed-loop-training-of-attention-with-real-time-brain-imaging/#sthash.14bcXr4p.dpuf

Reflections on SFN 2014

SFN2014

This week I join over thirty thousand colleagues at the unmissable annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in DC. I proudly don my 25-year member badge, which my friends all politely ignore. I still remember my first meeting, 1987 in New Orleans, very clearly. SFN just blows you away the first time. It was a giant meeting. We were eleven thousand then. Many of my heroes (and heroines) suddenly materialized into human beings. I even got to speak to some of them, and to present my work directly to them in the Grand Bazaar atmosphere of the poster sessions. Back then we had no idea what these eminent scientists looked like or what personalities they had. They were not on the web or on the other side of an email.

Well, SFN today still blows me away. Neuroscience is a continual explosion of discoveries about our most precious organ and its baffling mental counterpart – through inspiring ingenuity of experimentation, technical developments, as well as dogged tenacity and defiance of the impossible. We are a young academic field. (If you’re interested, an interactive history of SFN’s first 25 years is now on the web: ). Some of our most sacred building blocks go back only a few decades. Today, Floyd Bloom reminded us, during his beautiful Kavli history-of-neuroscience lecture, that the most eminent group of neurophamacologists back in the 70s could not agree that glutamate and GABA were neurotransmitters. But what we have achieved is remarkable.

Pondering on my own 25 years in the field, the changes and advances are staggering. We can study activity inside the human brain non-invasively. The dynamical properties of the brain area embraced. The brain went from being reactive to proactive and predictive. (OK, it was always proactive and predictive, but rarely studied that way.) Oscillations went from being weird to ignorable to centre stage. When I step outside my immediate cognitive-neuroscience field, things seem even more bizarre. We can rainbow colour neurons (here’s a great on this), look through transparent brains (Nature You Tube ), visualize spikes across populations of neurons without sticking electrodes in them, optically stimulate just that cell you’re interested in, use viruses to chart monosynaptic connections… Wow.

I often wonder how ‘neuroscience’ works so well as a field. We are so heterogeneous. We span all levels of organization from molecule to circuits to mind to society. We bring together so many disciplines, and continue to welcome new ones in. Latest immigrants include engineers, tech developers, informaticians… We populate the globe. We wear sneakers and stilettos and ties and baggy trousers and mini skirts, and our badges of course! But somehow we are cohesive. We form a tightly knit community. We value mentoring and the future generations. It was moving to hear the giants Roger Nicoll and Dick Tsien both stating that their greatest legacy was their students and postdoctoral fellows. We are open minded, and face our inevitable human shortcomings, as Mahzarin Banaji’s Kopf neuroethics lecture reminded us.

In this yearly city, you are never far away from an old friend or from making a new one. Old connections, new connections, sparking and interacting – SFN is the social metaphor for the brain itself.

Kia Nobre, D.C., 18th November 2014

KIA’S BLOG DEBUT

9TH November 2014

I’ve been putting off starting a regular blog. For years. I’ve set deadlines and generated excuses. I’m all out. There are still the obvious reasons for trepidation – nobody will care, what if I say something stupid, or too obvious, what if I provoke people with my strange views … ? Well, I guess these are exactly the signs I should jump. Here we go.

Warming Encounters with Meaningful Lives

blog debut

This past week I chanced to hear about some amazing people in their own words. A drive to a meeting brought me the of – a woman with values and verve who is changing the medical research landscape in the UK and beyond as Chief Medical Officer. Another drive, home this time, introduced me to – a woman who transformed her frustration with her disability into sublime art of movement. I clicked on the TV for some double-tasking distraction and caught a glimpse of the life of  Burnell – an improbably female physics graduate student with the skills and open mind to discover pulsars, the tenacity to convince others they were real, and the grace to explain why she did not feel slighted for her Nobel Prize ending in other hands.

I wondered whether I felt belittled by so much talent and accomplishment. Nope. It warms my soul (whatever that may be) to know there are people like them in the world. It brings sense and hope to our precarious planet.

posted by Kia

MY CAMEO AT THE KAVLI AWARDS CEREMONY

kavli 2kavli

 

 

 

 

I enjoyed being part of the Kavli Awards ceremony at the World Science Festival in NY last May. The atmosphere was electrifying, and made you wonder how come some people don’t want to be a scientist studying the ‘largest, the smallest, or most complex’ facets of our Universe. I was heart-warmed by the 2014 selection of recipients. The perfect trio: Brenda Milner, John O’Keefe, and Marcus Raichle. The reminiscences on Kavli’s life and personality were inspiring — Eric Kandel in his usual awesome form.

What a nice surprise to find my ‘weird’ quote following Kandel’s comments on the special feature of the Kavli prize, in the summary write-up:

Here’s the snippet:

“… One of the signature features of the Kavli prize, according to panelist and Nobel Prize-winning Columbia University neuropsychologist Eric Kandel, is that it makes connections between the three honored disciplines. Advances in nanoscience can engender leaps in astrophysics and neuroscience, and so forth. University of Oxford neuroscientist Kia Nobre (appearing on Sunday at the World Science Festival panel “”) agrees that recognizing the interdisciplinary nature of research is essential.

‘It’s great to see the relationships between neuroscience and other fields,’ Nobre said. ‘We tend to have these very folky stories about the brain, but I think it’s going to turn out to be just as weird as quantum mechanics.’”

posted by Kia

3RD JULY 2013

CHANGING PERSPECTIVES IN NERJA

Don’t you treasure those moments when you learn something new? When the way your standard way of thinking about things shifts? I was recently privileged to some perspective-changing talks at a small meeting in Nerja (southern Spain). Three highlights, if I may:

(1) Scaling up brain mapping. Karl Zilles blew everyone away with his futuristic-made-contemporary view of brain mapping – spatial resolution that invites you into the cytoarchitecture, connectivity, and pharmacology of the human brain. If you’ve already been blown away by the , rest assured that there is plenty more to come!

nerja

(2) Ditching the textbook on memory? Did I misunderstand it all along, or did the textbooks teach me that HM had an anterograde form of amnesia and preserved old episodic memories? According to Sue Corkin, who worked with HM over decades, HM had almost no real episodic memories. For sure, he recalled facts about his youth, but could not conjure those vivid sensory details that are the hallmark of episodic memory. Only two episodic recollections have been noted so far: one is noted in a classic paper (Penfield & Milner, 1958); the other involved a plane ride, and surfaced in an interview with one of Corkin’s students. The following is worth reading.

(3) The return of the heretical grandmothers? How the heck can we explain the enduring power of those very long memories (e.g., tunes like “On a dark desert highway…”) using our orthodox view that experience is constantly modifying synaptic weights over large-scale networks that represent memories in a massively distributed way? Simon Thorpe ‘reminds’ us of this challenge, and proposes a quasi heretical but actually-pretty-sensible account. Spike-timing-dependent plasticity, he claian tunecells to pick up highly specific patterns of stimulation that repeat and make them otherwise unresponsive to other inputs. In other words: plasticity makes grandmother cells. And if that weren’t enough, he also proposes that most of our neurons then lie low, silently waiting for just that old memory to spark it off – neuronal dark matter. I for one am delighted that someone is still thinking out of the box! Here’s some .

 

18TH FEBRUARY 2013

CONTENT-SPECIFIC SYNCHRONIZATION IN THE FRONTO-PARIETAL NETWORK FOR WORKING MEMORY

In a recent issue of Science,  report task and content-specific synchronized activity in frontal and parietal brain areas in a working memory task.  Although task-specific synchronization has been found in frontal and parietal areas during attention tasks, the authors are the first to report synchronization between these areas that contributes to working memory tasks.

Using multi-electrode recordings in monkeys, they tested how interactions between the fronto-parietal network might contribute to visual working memory. They found that synchronization in PFC-PPC electrode pairs (measured by the coherence selectivity index; CSI) varied with the stimulus held in memory. There was location- and content-specific synchronization at ~20Hz during the delay period of the task in a large number of frontal and parietal areas. In other words, synchronization of the frontal and parietal areas (measured by CSI) differed depending on which location (3 possible locations) and which stimulus (3 stimulus identities) the monkey held in memory. This indicates that information about the stimulus content (location and identity) held in mind is communicated across these brain regions.

However, these analyses do not show which areas are the source, or ‘senders’, and ‘receivers’ of this information. In two causality analyses (Wiener-Granger and SFC) of the neuronal activity, the authors found that both frontal and parietal areas are senders as well as receivers, but a significantly larger proportion of parietal sites were found to be senders. They conclude by suggesting that fronto-parietal synchronization in working memory is governed by influences arising in the PPC.

In summary, Salazar and colleagues were able to find content-specific fronto-parietal synchronization in a working memory task, and that the parietal cortex appears to play a role in generating this synchronization between two brain areas.

It will be interesting for future studies to explore synchronization in the fronto-parietal network in working memory with more than one sample stimulus (or distracters) to hold in memory, and how higher loads of working memory affect the synchronization between these areas.

22ND JANUARY 2013

PARIETAL CORTEX AND SPATIAL ATTENTION: THE BATTLE BETWEEN IMAGING AND LESION DATA

I just enjoyed a refreshing read of Vandenberghe’s and colleagues’ view of the contributions of different parietal areas to visual spatial attention. They battle with that perennially difficult problem of squaring imaging and lesion data, but they bring sharp weapons of methodological rigour and lucidity of thought. ‘Neglect’, they remind us, is not (or at least not just) a deficit of spatial attention. Deficits in spatial attention, but also in other spatial representational functions, interact with many other non-spatial factors in the many guises of the neglect syndrome. Reassuringly, when careful experiments are conducted on patients with focal lesions excluding white matter lesions, damage to the brain areas implicated in spatial shifts and prioritisation of attention by imaging cause corresponding deficits. Focal damage to distinct functional areas in the superior parietal lobule and along the intraparietal sulcus can lead to deficits in shifting spatial attention and prioritising spatial locations respectively, even without any damage to inferior parietal regions. Finally, one gets a settled feeling that things are back in order again, at least until the next empirical shake-up!The question that comes to mind is: What deficits occur after similarly focal cortical lesions to areas within the temporal parietal junction?

Vandenberghe R, Molenberghs P, Gillebert CR.

Neuropsychologia. 2012 May;50(6):1092-103.

– See more at: http://www.brainandcognition.org/#sthash.AzeDrA26.dpuf

Reflections on SfN2014

arriving SfN2014

arriving SfN2014

This week I join over thirty thousand colleagues at the unmissable annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in DC. I proudly don my 25-year member badge, which my friends all politely ignore. I still remember my first meeting, 1987 in New Orleans, very clearly. SFN just blows you away the first time. It was a giant meeting. We were eleven thousand then. Many of my heroes (and heroines) suddenly materialized into human beings. I even got to speak to some of them, and to present my work directly to them in the Grand Bazaar atmosphere of the poster sessions. Back then we had no idea what these eminent scientists looked like or what personalities they had. They were not on the web or on the other side of an email.

Well, SFN today still blows me away. Neuroscience is a continual explosion of discoveries about our most precious organ and its baffling mental counterpart – through inspiring ingenuity of experimentation, technical developments, as well as dogged tenacity and defiance of the impossible. We are a young academic field. (If you’re interested, an interactive history of SFN’s first 25 years is now on the web: http://www.sfn.org/about/history-of-sfn). Some of our most sacred building blocks go back only a few decades. Today, Floyd Bloom reminded us, during his beautiful Kavli history-of-neuroscience lecture, that the most eminent group of neurophamacologists back in the 70s could not agree that glutamate and GABA were neurotransmitters. But what we have achieved is remarkable.

Pondering on my own 25 years in the field, the changes and advances are staggering. We can study activity inside the human brain non-invasively. The dynamical properties of the brain area embraced. The brain went from being reactive to proactive and predictive. (OK, it was always proactive and predictive, but rarely studied that way.) Oscillations went from being weird to ignorable to centre stage. When I step outside my immediate cognitive-neuroscience field, things seem even more bizarre. We can rainbow colour neurons (here’s a great video on this), look through transparent brains (Nature You Tube video), visualize spikes across populations of neurons without sticking electrodes in them, optically stimulate just that cell you’re interested in, use viruses to chart monosynaptic connections… Wow.

I often wonder how ‘neuroscience’ works so well as a field. We are so heterogeneous. We span all levels of organization from molecule to circuits to mind to society. We bring together so many disciplines, and continue to welcome new ones in. Latest immigrants include engineers, tech developers, informaticians… We populate the globe. We wear sneakers and stilettos and ties and baggy trousers and mini skirts, and our badges of course! But somehow we are cohesive. We form a tightly knit community. We value mentoring and the future generations. It was moving to hear the giants Roger Nicoll and Dick Tsien both stating that their greatest legacy was their students and postdoctoral fellows. We are open minded, and face our inevitable human shortcomings, as Mahzarin Banaji’s Kopf neuroethics lecture reminded us.

In this yearly city, you are never far away from an old friend or from making a new one. Old connections, new connections, sparking and interacting – SFN is the social metaphor for the brain itself.

Kia Nobre, D.C., 18th November 2014

Kia’s Blog Debut

9th of November 2014

I’ve been putting off starting a regular blog. For years. I’ve set deadlines and generated excuses. I’m all out. There are still the obvious reasons for trepidation – nobody will care, what if I say something stupid, or too obvious, what if I provoke people with my strange views … ? Well, I guess these are exactly the signs I should jump. Here we go.

Warming Encounters with Meaningful Lives

inspirers

This past week I chanced to hear about some amazing people in their own words. A drive to a meeting brought me the Life Scientific of Dame Sally Davies – a woman with values and verve who is changing the medical research landscape in the UK and beyond as Chief Medical Officer. Another drive, home this time, introduced me to Claire Cunningham – a woman who transformed her frustration with her disability into sublime art of movement. I clicked on the TV for some double-tasking distraction and caught a glimpse of the life of Jocelyn Bell Burnell – an improbably female physics graduate student with the skills and open mind to discover pulsars, the tenacity to convince others they were real, and the grace to explain why she did not feel slighted for her Nobel Prize ending in other hands.

I wondered whether I felt belittled by so much talent and accomplishment. Nope. It warms my soul (whatever that may be) to know there are people like them in the world. It brings sense and hope to our precarious planet.

posted by Kia

My cameo at the Kavli Awards Ceremony

nrn2900-i1neuro-three

 

 

 

 

 

 

I enjoyed being part of the Kavli Awards ceremony at the World Science Festival in NY last May. The atmosphere was electrifying, and made you wonder how come some people don’t want to be a scientist studying the ‘largest, the smallest, or most complex’ facets of our Universe. I was heart-warmed by the 2014 selection of recipients. The perfect trio: Brenda Milner, John O’Keefe, and Marcus Raichle. The reminiscences on Kavli’s life and personality were inspiring — Eric Kandel in his usual awesome form.

What a nice surprise to find my ‘weird’ quote following Kandel’s comments on the special feature of the Kavli prize, in the summary write-up:

http://www.worldsciencefestival.com/2014/05/2014-kavli-prizes-honor-cosmic-inflation-memory-studies-microscopy-innovation/

Here’s the snippet:

“… One of the signature features of the Kavli prize, according to panelist and Nobel Prize-winning Columbia University neuropsychologist Eric Kandel, is that it makes connections between the three honored disciplines. Advances in nanoscience can engender leaps in astrophysics and neuroscience, and so forth. University of Oxford neuroscientist Kia Nobre (appearing on Sunday at the World Science Festival panel “The Deceptive Watchman: Mind, Brain And Time”) agrees that recognizing the interdisciplinary nature of research is essential.

‘It’s great to see the relationships between neuroscience and other fields,’ Nobre said. ‘We tend to have these very folky stories about the brain, but I think it’s going to turn out to be just as weird as quantum mechanics.'”

posted by Kia

 

Changing perspectives in Nerja

Don’t you treasure those moments when you learn something new? When the way your standard way of thinking about things shifts? I was recently privileged to some perspective-changing talks at a small meeting in Nerja (southern Spain). Three highlights, if I may:

rsz_1rsz_kiablog1

(1) Scaling up brain mapping. Karl Zilles blew everyone away with his futuristic-made-contemporary view of brain mapping – spatial resolution that invites you into the cytoarchitecture, connectivity, and pharmacology of the human brain. If you’ve already been blown away by the BigBrain enterprise, rest assured that there is plenty more to come!

kiablog2

(2) Ditching the textbook on memory? Did I misunderstand it all along, or did the textbooks teach me that HM had an anterograde form of amnesia and preserved old episodic memories? According to Sue Corkin, who worked with HM over decades, HM had almost no real episodic memories. For sure, he recalled facts about his youth, but could not conjure those vivid sensory details that are the hallmark of episodic memory. Only two episodic recollections have been noted so far: one is noted in a classic paper (Penfield & Milner, 1958); the other involved a plane ride, and surfaced in an interview with one of Corkin’s students. The following interview with Sue Corkin is worth reading.

kiablog3

(3) The return of the heretical grandmothers? How the heck can we explain the enduring power of those very long memories (e.g., tunes like “On a dark desert highway…”) using our orthodox view that experience is constantly modifying synaptic weights over large-scale networks that represent memories in a massively distributed way? Simon Thorpe ‘reminds’ us of this challenge, and proposes a quasi heretical but actually-pretty-sensible account. Spike-timing-dependent plasticity, he claian tunecells to pick up highly specific patterns of stimulation that repeat and make them otherwise unresponsive to other inputs. In other words: plasticity makes grandmother cells. And if that weren’t enough, he also proposes that most of our neurons then lie low, silently waiting for just that old memory to spark it off – neuronal dark matter. I for one am delighted that someone is still thinking out of the box! Here’s some official text.

Written by Kia Nobre

Content-specific Synchronization in the Fronto-Parietal Network for Working Memory

In a recent issue of Science, Salazar et al. report task and content-specific synchronized activity in frontal and parietal brain areas in a working memory task.  Although task-specific synchronization has been found in frontal and parietal areas during attention tasks, the authors are the first to report synchronization between these areas that contributes to working memory tasks.
Using multi-electrode recordings in monkeys, they tested how interactions between the fronto-parietal network might contribute to visual working memory. They found that synchronization in PFC-PPC electrode pairs (measured by the coherence selectivity index; CSI) varied with the stimulus held in memory. There was location- and content-specific synchronization at ~20Hz during the delay period of the task in a large number of frontal and parietal areas. In other words, synchronization of the frontal and parietal areas (measured by CSI) differed depending on which location (3 possible locations) and which stimulus (3 stimulus identities) the monkey held in memory. This indicates that information about the stimulus content (location and identity) held in mind is communicated across these brain regions.
However, these analyses do not show which areas are the source, or ‘senders’, and ‘receivers’ of this information. In two causality analyses (Wiener-Granger and SFC) of the neuronal activity, the authors found that both frontal and parietal areas are senders as well as receivers, but a significantly larger proportion of parietal sites were found to be senders. They conclude by suggesting that fronto-parietal synchronization in working memory is governed by influences arising in the PPC.
In summary, Salazar and colleagues were able to find content-specific fronto-parietal synchronization in a working memory task, and that the parietal cortex appears to play a role in generating this synchronization between two brain areas.
It will be interesting for future studies to explore synchronization in the fronto-parietal network in working memory with more than one sample stimulus (or distracters) to hold in memory, and how higher loads of working memory affect the synchronization between these areas.
Written by Robert Mok

Parietal Cortex and Spatial Attention: the battle between imaging and lesion data

I just enjoyed a refreshing read of Vandenberghe’s and colleagues’ view of the contributions of different parietal areas to visual spatial attention. They battle with that perennially difficult problem of squaring imaging and lesion data, but they bring sharp weapons of methodological rigour and lucidity of thought. ‘Neglect’, they remind us, is not (or at least not just) a deficit of spatial attention. Deficits in spatial attention, but also in other spatial representational functions, interact with many other non-spatial factors in the many guises of the neglect syndrome. Reassuringly, when careful experiments are conducted on patients with focal lesions excluding white matter lesions, damage to the brain areas implicated in spatial shifts and prioritisation of attention by imaging cause corresponding deficits. Focal damage to distinct functional areas in the superior parietal lobule and along the intraparietal sulcus can lead to deficits in shifting spatial attention and prioritising spatial locations respectively, even without any damage to inferior parietal regions. Finally, one gets a settled feeling that things are back in order again, at least until the next empirical shake-up!The question that comes to mind is: What deficits occur after similarly focal cortical lesions to areas within the temporal parietal junction?

Vandenberghe R, Molenberghs P, Gillebert CR.

Spatial attention deficits in humans: the critical role of superior compared to inferior parietal lesions.

Neuropsychologia. 2012 May;50(6):1092-103.