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Hedonia and eudaimonia:
Brain systems for thriving and surviving
Dr Morten L. Kringelbach
For Aristotle, the goal of human life was to live well, to flourish, and to ultimately have a good life. These goals can be conceptualised as “eudaimonia”, a concept distinct from “hedonia” (pleasure). Many people would argue that the arts play a large role in their well-being and eudaimonia. Music in particular is a culturally ubiquitous phenomenon which brings joy and social bonding to listeners. Research has given insights into how the ‘sweet anticipation’ of music and other art forms can lead to pleasure, but a full understanding of their role in eudaimonia is still missing. What is clear is that anticipation and prediction are important for extracting meaning from our environment. In fleeting moments this may translate into both pleasure and pain, which over longer timescales can give rise to flourishing and suffering, providing meaning and purpose to life. I will discuss some of the evidence from neuroimaging and whole-brain modelling for the role of sex, drugs and music in helping orchestrating eudaimonia, and propose future strategies for exploring the deep remaining questions
There's an Elephant in the Room: What it takes to Imagine Something
Dr Alfredo Spagna @SpagnaPhD
29 April 2021
The dominant model of visual mental imagery stipulates that memories from the medial temporal lobe acquire sensory features in early visual areas. Yet, there is an elephant in the room. Well, actually, if we look carefully, there are multiple elephants in this room. The neuropsychological, neuroimaging (both PET and FMRI), and stimulation literature from the past thirty years has consistently refuted this model, and showed that high-level visual areas in the ventral pathways seem to be critical for mental imagery. I will share a brief overview of the imagery literature, starting with Penfield - 1938, and moving onto Levine and Farah - 1985 - then touching upon the early fMRI study of Mark D’Esposito - 1999 - and sequent neuroimaging evidence, and ending with a striking lesion study of an architect who lost the ability to imagine - Thorudottir et al., 2020. A common thread will arise: a node in the inferior temporal gyrus - i.e., the Fusiform Imagery Node - stands out as a key area for mental imagery. To conclude, a new model of mental imagery is delineated, one that attempts to fully reconcile the literature on visual mental imagery in humans and in nonhuman animals.
The organisation of the cerebral cortex has been proposed to be an important prerequisite for human cognition. We looked at how the genetic and environmental factors shape large-scale brain organisation in healthy adults. In the first study we evaluated the genetic basis of large-scale cortical organisation of thickness covariance using twin-models (Human Connectome Project) as well as cross-species comparisons (PRIME-DE). We found two organisational axes reflecting functional and evolutionary patterning. In a second study we assess the functional organisation and plasticity of the social brain. Whereas attention was associated with external, focused, functional processes, we found that theory of mind related to internal, ongoing, cognitive processes. Conversely, affective skills related to both processing modes. Next we studied longitudinal changes following 3-months of training (i) mindfulness-based attention and interoception, (ii) socio-affective skills, and (iii) socio-cognitive skills respectively (ReSource study). Contrasting the effect of each training module, we found diverging patterns of functional network reorganisation. Together, these studies establish the genetic basis and functional plasticity of natural axes in the cerebral cortex and so provide important insights into the organisation of human cognition.
The thalamus integrates the macro systems of the brain to facilitate complex adaptive brain dynamics
Dr James M Shine @jmacshine
25 February 2021
The thalamus is well-placed to arbitrate the interactions between distributed neural assemblies in the cerebral cortex. Different classes of thalamocortical connections are hypothesized to promote either feed-forward or feedback processing modes in the cerebral cortex. This activity can be conceptualized as emerging dynamically from an evolving attractor landscape, with the relative engagement of distinctly distributed circuits providing differing constraints over the manner in which brain state trajectories change over time. In addition, inputs to the distinct thalamic populations from the cerebellum and basal ganglia, respectively, are proposed to differentially shape the attractor landscape, and hence, the temporal evolution of cortical assemblies. The coordinated engagement of these neural macrosystems is then shown to share key characteristics with prominent models of cognition, attention and conscious awareness. In this way, the crucial role of the thalamus in mediating the distributed, multi-scale network organization of the central nervous system can be related to higher brain function.
Development of subject-specific representations of neuroanatomy via a domain-specific language
Dr. Antonia Machlouzarides-Shalit
15 December 2020
Watch Antonia Machlouzarides-Shalit become a PhD whilst she defends her thesis before a panel of judges. In the field of brain mapping, she identified the need for a tool that is grounded in the detailed knowledge of individual variability of sulci. As such, she developed a new brain mapping tool called NeuroLang, which utilises the spatial geometry of the brain. By bridging classical neuroanatomy with computational brain mapping, she identifies and labels subject-specific sets of sulci, examines individual and group-level morphologies, and establishes a data-driven approach to quantifying sulcal stability.
Atlasing white matter connections in the living human brain
Dr. Katrine Rojkova
4 December 2020
Watch Katrine Rojkova become a PhD whilst she defends her thesis before a panel of judges. Presenting on the mapping of white matter connections, Rojkova's atlas will strengthen the capacity of clinicians to further understand the mechanisms involved in brain recovery and plasticity, and assist in the diagnosis of disconnection or abnormality within specific tracts of individual patients with various brain disease.
Structural Connectivity of the Cerebral Cortex
Co-hosted by: Dr Hiromasa Takemura (Japan),
Dr Stephanie Forkel & Dr Michel Thiebaut de Schotten (France)
12-13 November 2020
CNSeminars joined forces with the journal, Brain Structure and Function (BSAF), and the Springer Neuroscience Network to host the first BSAF 'Structural Connectivity of the Cerebral Cortex' Special Issue symposium. Co-hosted by Dr Hiromasa Takamura, Dr Stephanie Forkel and Dr Michel Thiebaut de Schotten, this 2-day event featured 10 different experts who presented various topics related to structural connectivity followed by a brief Q&A.
The 5th Dementia - a documentary
22 October 2020
Serene Meshel-Dillman delivers a documentary on The 5th Dementia, a diverse band featuring former professionals who now struggle to remember anything at all due to illnesses: Alzheimer's, Dementia, Parkinson's. When the music starts, these men and women, leading lives with almost no social interaction, dive right into songs from their generation without a single page of sheet music. Memories otherwise entirely unreachable are unlocked. Through uniquely personal stories, from inspiring daily triumphs to the sobering toll of slow mental decline, viewers of The 5th Dementia Documentary will see an emotional, revealing look at this inexplicable phenomena. See the film's trailer and watch the Q&A with the filmmaker on the CNSeminars YouTube Channel.
The use & misuse of in silico lesion-deficit mapping
Parashkev Nachev, University College London
1 October 2020
Once thought to require nothing more sophisticated than mass-univariate statistics, lesion-deficit mapping is increasingly recognized to be amongst the most complex problems in neuroscience. Its distinctive strength, inference to neural necessity, is paradoxically the source of its greatest vulnerability: dependence on the parameterisation of the lesioned brain as a whole, at least whereas nearly everywhere- the lesions are large in proportion to the mapped substrate. Such dependence violates the foundational assumptions of mass-univariate analysis, voiding its conclusions of all force. First demonstrated by combining simulated functional ground truths with real lesion data, it is a vulnerability some have tried to rectify through the same in silico approach, retaining the mass-univariate framework it has revealed to be critically deficient. Dr Nachev discusses what simulations can and cannot licitly do here, and sketches out a path to evaluating the high-dimensional multivariate models that lesion-deficit mapping will always require, whether we like it or not.
My Love Affair with the Brain: The Life and Science of Dr Marian Diamond
Gary Weimberg & Catherine Ryan
27 August 2020
How can you not fall in love with a woman who carries around a preserved human brain inside a giant flowery hat box? Meet Dr Marian Diamond, a renowned academic and research scientist, and prepare to be smitten. Catherine Ryan and Gary Weimberg’s film follows this remarkable woman over a 5-year period and introduces the viewer to both her many scientific accomplishments and the warm, funny, and thoroughly charming woman herself, who describes her 60-year career researching the human brain as “pure joy.” See the film's trailer and watch the Q&A with the filmmakers on the CNSeminars YouTube Channel.
Study guides - From 5th grade to Nobel prize winner: https://lunaproductions.com/study-guide-brain/
This House believes that Russia has contributed the most to Asphasiology
For: Dr Olga Dragoy, Moscow, Russia
Against: Dr Leo Bonilha, South Carolina, USA
24 July 2020
Hear two asphasiology experts, Dr Olga Dragoy and Dr Leo Bonilha, debate on whether Russia has contributed the most to this field of research. See which expert you believe won the debate.