Cognitive and Affective Neuroimaging

Section Head: Prof. Patrik Vuilleumier (UNIGE)

CIBM’s Cognitive and Affective Neuroimaging section is hosted at the Brain and Behaviour Laboratory (BBL) at the University of Geneva.

Our section applies various neuroimaging techniques, particularly functional resonance magnetic imaging (fMRI), to investigate the brain mechanisms underlying cognition and emotion processes in humans, as well as their impairment in neurological and psychiatric diseases. Our major research objectives focus on understanding the role and communication of different visual areas in the cognition of objects and faces, how we identify sounds and voices, and how we perceive and respond to emotions and social signals, such as facial expressions or eye gaze. We study the neural circuits by which emotions can influence perception, memory, and behaviors, for example in response to fear or reward. We are particularly interested by the role of the amygdala in emotion and social processes, through its capacity to modulate the activity of other large-scale networks in the brain. Our work also investigates the impact of brain lesions on cognitive functions (after stroke or other brain diseases), such as deficits in attention and space representations in hemineglect syndrome, with the aim to understand how different brain areas interact to produce normal conscious awareness of sensory space. By using functional neuroimaging in patients, we have established that cognitive and affective symptoms may reflect abnormal (enhanced or reduced) neural responses of anatomically intact brain networks due to altered communication or regulation operating across different areas within these networks. Building on these results, we also explore and evaluate new therapeutic approaches to improve clinical disorders affecting cognition and emotion, including neurofeedback techniques that allow people to regulate their own brain activity based on real-time neuroimaging with fMRI and EEG.



Countervail cOgnitive, sensorimotor and cerebral decline in Patients with Mild cognitive imPairmEnt (COPE project)

Description: This multisite randomized controlled trial aims to determine if 2 specifically developed innovative non-medical experimental interventions over 6 months, i.e. intensive musical practice and psychomotor interventions, may have an important societal impact, via the reduction or stabilization of cognitive, sensorimotor and cerebral decline, in MCI patients compared to a passive healthy control group.

The training regimens take place twice a week for 45 minutes over 6 months in small groups, provided by professionals, and patients should exercise daily at home.

Data collection takes place at baseline (before the interventions), 3, and 6 months after training onset, using a comprehensive psychometric test battery on cognitive and sensorimotor capacities, subjective well-being, daily living activities, and a functional and structural MRI battery (MP2RAGE, DTI, resting-state fMRI and an fMRI working memory task). Patients come from HUG and CHUV, MRI takes place at BBL and LREN respectively (Brain and Behaviour Laboratory and Laboratoire de Recherche En Neuroimagerie).

We hypothesize that intensive musical practice and psychomotor interventions in MCI patients in small groups over 6 months will improve general cognitive functioning compared to the passive control group. Both interventions will be compared as well, and behavioral changes will be related to brain plasticity.

Investigators: Clara James (UNIGE/HES-SO), Damien Marie (UNIGE/HES-SO)

Collaborators: Gilles Allali (CHUV/UNIL), Andrea Brioschi Guevara (CHUV/UNIL), Giovanni Frisoni (HUG/UNIGE), Matthias Kliegel (UNIGE), Chantal Junker-Tschopp (HES-SO)

Understanding the Neural Substrates of Neurofeedback Modulations of Visual Attention: Multimodal Brain Imaging and Application to Hemispatial Neglect Syndrome

Description: Attention mechanisms in the brain function by modulating the activity of sensory systems (e.g., visual areas of the occipital cortex) through “top-down” control signals generated in specific networks in the frontal and parietal cortex. These signals synchronize neural activity to increase or suppress sensory inputs. Notably, neuronal oscillations in the 8-12 Hz frequency band (alpha rhythm) are attenuated to facilitate sensory processing and amplified to inhibit sensory processing, but other rhythms are also modulated by attention (theta, beta, or gamma rhythms). These attentional mechanisms can be damaged by focal brain lesions (e.g., stroke) affecting attentional networks and their connections with sensory areas, causing severe deficits in patients’ ability to orient attention in space (hemineglect syndrome).

However, the exact functional relationships of the alpha rhythm with attention, the role of other frequencies, and their disruption by lesions in the neglect syndrome remain unclear. In this project, we will simultaneously record EEG and functional fMRI in healthy volunteers during visual attentional neurofeedback (NFB) tasks, asking them to regulate either alpha activity in EEG or occipital activity in fMRI. This will allow us to (1) better determine the correspondence between different EEG frequencies and concomitant changes in fMRI occipital activity, and (2) identify characteristic “biomarkers” in the EEG that reflect efficient regulation of occipital areas by attention. These data will then be used to develop new approaches for training visual attention in patients with neglect syndrome.

Investigators: Riccardo Galli (UNIGE), Soraya Brosset (UNIGE), Lucas Peek (UNIGE), Patrik Vuilleumier (UNIGE)

Collaborators: Frédéric Grouiller (UNIGE), Dimitri Van de Ville (EPFL-UNIGE)

Quantitative functional brain mapping imaging using Arterial Spin Labelling pre- and peri-operatively

Description: Blood Oxygenation Level Dependent (BOLD) is an indirect measure of neuronal activity and its specificity can be biased by the presence of draining veins and importantly by altered neurovascular coupling.

The aim of this project is to evaluate the potential of functional Arterial Spin Labelling (fASL) as an alternative to BOLD for the mapping of brain eloquent cortex, which is particularly crucial in patients with impaired neuro-vascular coupling.

Functional localizations of BOLD and fASL are compared to Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) in a group of healthy subjects and then pre-operatively in patients affected by brain tumors or epilepsy.

Investigators: Giannina Rita Iannotti (HUG), Frédéric Grouiller (UNIGE), Karl-Olof Lövblad (HUG), Karl Schaller (HUG)

Collaborators: Isaure Nadin (HUG), Vladimira Ivanova (HUG), Shahan Momjian (HUG), Quentin Tourdot (Université de Montpellier, France)

Teaching children suffering from ADHD to self-regulate their attention through virtual reality and EEG-neurofeedback

Description: The aim of this project is to develop more economical and effective strategies for EEG-Neurofeedback therapy using playful and attractive exercises combined to artificial intelligence algorithms that adapt in real time to the performance and attention level of children.

EEG-Neurofeedback is performed into a virtual classroom environment inside an immersive virtual reality cave. This innovative approach should fasten the EEG-Neurofeedback training through its highly attractive aspect for the child and allow to obtain rapid beneficial effects with a reduced number of sessions.

The effect of the 8 neurofeedback sessions will be evaluated by pre- and post-intervention neuropsychological assessments and using simultaneous EEG-fMRI to estimate the effect on functional brain connectivity.

Investigators: Frédéric Grouiller (UNIGE), Carole Guedj (UNIGE), Lou Planchamp (UNIGE), Madison Stringer (UNIGE).

Collaborators: Russia Ha-Vinh Leuchter (HUG), Emmanuel Badier (UNIGE), Rémi Tyrand (UNIGE)

Real-time multimodal imaging of functional brain networks using simultaneous EEG and fMRI acquisitions

Description: Neurofeedback is a technique to learn how to regulate brain function by providing real-time feedback on one’s own brain activity using electroencephalography (EEG) or functional MRI. This promising technique has already been successfully applied in different fields of clinical neuroscience and more particularly for the rehabilitation of patients with neurological or psychiatric deficits. However, only half of the patients are able to effectively regulate their brain activity with this technique.

The goal of this project is to develop a bimodal neurofeedback using EEG and functional MRI simultaneously in order to improve the effectiveness of neurofeedback therapy by taking advantage of these two complementary modalities. The first part of this project is dedicated to the development of new algorithms to process in real-time the EEG acquired simultaneously with the functional MRI. The second part will be dedicated to the proof of concept and applications of this bimodal neurofeedback technique in the context of emotional and attentional regulations.

Investigators: Frédéric Grouiller (UNIGE), Rémi Tyrand (UNIGE)

Dynamic brain networks mediating componential representations of emotions

Description: We aim to investigate representations of the components that make up an emotion, as proposed in an appraisal theory, the Component Process Model. To this aim, we developed a video game which allowed us to manipulate appraisals systematically and elicit emotions in participants. The video game is played while behavioural, physiological (eg. electromyography, electrodermal activity, eye tracking …) and fMRI data is collected. The hypothesis is that we would observe different emotion states, defined by these measures, according to the participants’ appraisals. Furthermore, we will also develop methods allowing us to study task-based dynamic brain networks, which would shine a light on brain activity on a smaller time scale.

Investigators: Mi Xue Tan (UNIGE), Joana Leitão (UNIGE), Patrik Vuilleumier (UNIGE), Dimitri Van De Ville (EPFL-UNIGE)