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Functional neurological disorders (FNDs), also known as conversion disorder, are unexplained neurological symptoms unrelated to a neurological cause. The disorder is common, yet poorly understood. The symptoms are experienced as involuntary but have similarities to voluntary processes. Here we studied intention awareness in FND.
A total of 26 FND patients and 25 healthy volunteers participated in this functional magnetic resonance study using Libet's clock.
FND is characterized by delayed awareness of the intention to move relative to the movement itself. The reporting of intention was more precise, suggesting that these findings are reliable and unrelated to non-specific attentional deficits. That these findings were more prominent with aberrant positive functional movement symptoms rather than negative symptoms may be relevant to impairments in timing for an inhibitory veto process. Attention towards intention relative to movement was associated with lower right inferior parietal cortex activity in FND, a region early in the processing of intention. During rest, aberrant functional connectivity was observed with the right inferior parietal cortex and other motor intention regions.
The results converge with observations of low inferior parietal activity comparing involuntary with voluntary movement in FND, emphasizing core deficiencies in intention. Heightened precision of this impaired intention is consistent with Bayesian theories of impaired top-down priors that might influence the sense of involuntariness. A primary impairment in voluntary motor intention at an early processing stage might explain clinical observations of slowed effortful voluntary movement, heightened self-directed attention and underlie functional movements. These findings further suggest novel therapeutic targets.
The efficient organization and communication of brain networks underlie cognitive processing and their disruption can lead to pathological behaviours. Few studies have focused on whole-brain networks in obesity and binge eating disorder (BED). Here we used multi-echo resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rsfMRI) along with a data-driven graph theory approach to assess brain network characteristics in obesity and BED.
Multi-echo rsfMRI scans were collected from 40 obese subjects (including 20 BED patients) and 40 healthy controls and denoised using multi-echo independent component analysis (ME-ICA). We constructed a whole-brain functional connectivity matrix with normalized correlation coefficients between regional mean blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) signals from 90 brain regions in the Automated Anatomical Labeling atlas. We computed global and regional network properties in the binarized connectivity matrices with an edge density of 5%–25%. We also verified our findings using a separate parcellation, the Harvard–Oxford atlas parcellated into 470 regions.
Obese subjects exhibited significantly reduced global and local network efficiency as well as decreased modularity compared with healthy controls, showing disruption in small-world and modular network structures. In regional metrics, the putamen, pallidum and thalamus exhibited significantly decreased nodal degree and efficiency in obese subjects. Obese subjects also showed decreased connectivity of cortico-striatal/cortico-thalamic networks associated with putaminal and cortical motor regions. These findings were significant with ME-ICA with limited group differences observed with conventional denoising or single-echo analysis.
Using this data-driven analysis of multi-echo rsfMRI data, we found disruption in global network properties and motor cortico-striatal networks in obesity consistent with habit formation theories. Our findings highlight the role of network properties in pathological food misuse as possible biomarkers and therapeutic targets.
There is evidence of executive function impairment in obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) that potentially contributes to symptom development and maintenance. Nevertheless, the precise nature of these executive impairments and their neural basis remains to be defined.
We compared stopping and shifting, two key executive functions previously implicated in OCD, in the same task using functional magnetic resonance imaging, in patients with virtually no co-morbidities and age-, verbal IQ- and gender-matched healthy volunteers. The combined task allowed direct comparison of neural activity in stopping and shifting independent of patient sample characteristics and state variables such as arousal, learning, or current symptom expression.
Both OCD patients and controls exhibited right inferior frontal cortex activation during stopping, and left inferior parietal cortex activation during shifting. However, widespread under-activation across frontal-parietal areas was found in OCD patients compared to controls for shifting but not stopping. Conservative, whole-brain analyses also indicated marked divergent abnormal activation in OCD in the caudate and thalamus for these two cognitive functions, with stopping-related over-activation contrasting with shift-related under-activation.
OCD is associated with selective components of executive function, which engage similar common elements of cortico-striatal regions in different abnormal ways. The results implicate altered neural activation of subcortical origin in executive function abnormalities in OCD that are dependent on the precise cognitive and contextual requirements, informing current theories of symptom expression.
Evidence suggests some overlap between the pathological use of food and drugs, yet how impulsivity compares across these different clinical disorders remains unclear. Substance use disorders are commonly characterized by elevated impulsivity, and impulsivity subtypes may show commonalities and differences in various conditions. We hypothesized that obese subjects with binge-eating disorder (BED) and abstinent alcohol-dependent cohorts would have relatively more impulsive profiles compared to obese subjects without BED. We also predicted decision impulsivity impairment in obesity with and without BED.
Thirty obese subjects with BED, 30 without BED and 30 abstinent alcohol-dependent subjects and age- and gender-matched controls were tested on delay discounting (preference for a smaller immediate reward over a larger delayed reward), reflection impulsivity (rapid decision making prior to evidence accumulation) and motor response inhibition (action cancellation of a prepotent response).
All three groups had greater delay discounting relative to healthy volunteers. Both obese subjects without BED and alcohol-dependent subjects had impaired motor response inhibition. Only obese subjects without BED had impaired integration of available information to optimize outcomes over later trials with a cost condition.
Delay discounting appears to be a common core impairment across disorders of food and drug intake. Unexpectedly, obese subjects without BED showed greater impulsivity than obese subjects with BED. We highlight the dissociability and heterogeneity of impulsivity subtypes and add to the understanding of neurocognitive profiles across disorders involving food and drugs. Our results have therapeutic implications suggesting that disorder-specific patterns of impulsivity could be targeted.
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