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Closed Loop NeuroStimulation of Attention

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CLONESA (Closed Loop NeuroStimulation of Attention)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2020-09-01 do 2022-08-31

Have you ever found yourself lost in thought, unable to focus on the task at hand? This common experience is known as mind-wandering, and it can negatively impact cognitive control and performance, leading to issues in various domains such as education and driving. Mind-wandering can also have far-reaching effects on mental health, particularly in conditions like depression and Alzheimer's disease.

The aim of this project was to understand the nature of mind-wandering as a cognitive state and its underlying neural mechanisms. By exploring the complex processes involved in mind-wandering, the research sought to develop strategies for reducing maladaptive forms of mind-wandering and increasing beneficial ones. The proposal also aimed to examine the potential for non-invasive brain stimulation to regulate the neurocognitive markers of executive control during mind-wandering and improve cognitive control.

The proposal is important for society as it could lead to significant advancements in the field of cognitive and clinical neuroscience. By identifying markers for mind-wandering, we could develop interventions to reduce maladaptive forms and increase beneficial ones. Moreover, the findings could inform the use of neurostimulation in managing conditions such as depression and Alzheimer's disease. The overall objectives were to investigate the neurocognitive markers of executive control during mind-wandering and explore the potential for non-invasive brain stimulation to regulate these markers for improving cognitive control.
During the project, we focused on identifying robust neurocognitive markers of intentional and unintentional mind-wandering. To achieve this, we used a method that successfully identifies degrees of consciousness to test the individual and collective discriminative ability of 54 predefined markers belonging to four conceptual families: ERP, spectral, information theory, and connectivity measures. These markers were extracted from scalp EEG recordings before multidimensional reports of ongoing thought from participants performing a sustained attention task (SART).

Univariate and multivariate pattern analyses were conducted over all 54 markers across two contrasts comparing on- and off-task, as well as intentional and unintentional mind-wandering. The results showed that on-task, intentional, and unintentional mind-wandering exhibit distinct electrophysiological signatures in the low frequency range. The increased features of the theta frequency range were found to be most discriminative between on-task and off-task states, while features within the alpha band were characteristic of intentional when compared to unintentional mind-wandering.

Concurrently, the team obtained ethics approval to conduct a study on 200 participants divided across two experimental paradigms with two neurostimulation protocols, transcranial alternative control stimulation (tACS) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Based on the previously identified neurocognitive markers, stimulation is performed at either alpha (centered at 10Hz) or theta frequency (centered around 6Hz) counterbalanced across two visits. Preliminary behavioral results were presented at the 5th International Brain Stimulation conference.
The work performed so far on the project has made progress beyond the state of the art in mind-wandering research by using a combination of multivariate and univariate analyses to identify neurocognitive markers of intentional and unintentional mind-wandering. The use of scalp EEG recordings in conjunction with multidimensional reports of ongoing thought has allowed for a more in-depth understanding of the electrophysiological signatures associated with different types of mind-wandering. The results have shown that on-task, intentional, and unintentional mind-wandering exhibit distinct signatures in the low frequency range, with increased features of the theta frequency range being most discriminative between on-task and off-task states, and features within the alpha band being characteristic of intentional when compared to unintentional mind-wandering.

The ongoing study using tACS and TMS over the mPFC to modulate underlying neurocognitive processes has the potential to improve attention in both health and disease. This could have significant impacts on society, including improved productivity and cognitive performance in individuals and a decrease in the burden of attention-related disorders. The results of this study have the potential to contribute to the development of new treatments for attention-related disorders, which could have a positive socio-economic impact by reducing healthcare costs and improving the quality of life for individuals affected by these disorders. Additionally, the findings of this study could also have wider societal implications, such as improving our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of attention and the role of the mPFC in mind-wandering, which could lead to further advancements in the field. Overall, the prospective results include the completion of the study using tACS and TMS to modulate neurocognitive processes associated with intentional and unintentional mind-wandering.

The project team expects to gain insights into the underlying neural mechanisms of attention and the role of the mPFC in mind-wandering, which could be used to develop new interventions for attention-related disorders. The potential impacts of this project on society are significant, including improved productivity and cognitive performance in individuals and a reduction in the burden of attention-related disorders. The project's findings could also have broader societal implications, leading to further advancements in the field of cognitive and clinical neuroscience. The team plans to disseminate the project's results through peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations, ensuring that the findings are accessible to the scientific community and the broader public.
Closed-loop neurostimulation of executive functions