Authors: Laura Renshaw-Vuillier, Liz May, Maddy Greville-Harris, Rhiannon Surman, Rachel Moseley
Authors: Peter Hills, Gizem Arabaci, Jodie Fagg, Louise Canter, Catherine Thompson, Rachel Moseley.
Authors: Luigi Grisoni, Rachel Moseley, Shiva Motlagh, Dimitra Kandia, Neslihan Sener, Friedemann Pulvermüller, Stefan Roepke, Bettina Mohr
Authors: Josephina Hillus, Rachel Moseley, Stefan Roepke, Bettina Mohr
Authors: Friedemann Pulvermüller, Rachel Moseley, Natalia Egorova, Zubaida Shebani, Véronique Boulenger
Authors: Francesca Carota, Rachel Moseley, Friedemann Pulvermüller
Eating disorders are extremely dangerous mental illnesses. It is vital that people receive support and treatment as quickly as possible in order to have the best chance of recovery. In light of this, we were extremely worried about the impact of the pandemic on people with eating disorders. This study looked at just how the pandemic affected people with eating disorders and how they had found the experience of receiving online therapy, if they did receive it.
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a method which can disrupt the functioning of certain parts of the brain by delivering a magnetic pulse to that area. This method is often used to try understand the function of certain brain areas - by disrupting them and observing what happens. In this study, we found that disrupting the function of the parietal lobe affects a person's ability to flexibly shift their attention. Together, a network of frontal brain areas and parietal areas is crucial for controlling attention. Disrupting this network can affect how well people are able to notice hazards while driving.
The mismatch negativity response is a pattern of brain activity which signifies pre-conscious recognition that something has changed or is different. The nature of the change can be quite sophisticated: for instance, if you play people a list of words which all sound different but have similar meanings or belong to the same category of objects (e.g. “apple”, “melon”, “kiwi”, “cherry”, “lemon”), you will see a stronger brain response for a word that doesn’t fit in that category (e.g. “trumpet”). The brain habituates to these types of word that share strong similarities in their meaning, despite the fact that they sound different, and then will automatically detect a word with a different meaning, even if you yourself do not notice it.
This study looked at how autistic and non-autistic people process words and sounds related to action (e.g. the sound of a clap, and the word “clap”). We found that autistic people did not show this habituation response to action-related sounds and words. For action-related stimuli, they also did not seem to show anticipatory brain activity which would suggest the brain had established the pattern of what stimuli were being presented and was predicting what would come next. Words for actions and sounds related to actions seem to be understood by drawing on brain systems that control action. Typically, brain activity in motor areas seems to simulate the meaning of the stimuli being processed (for instance, if you heard the word “clap” or heard the sound of a clap, there would be activity in the part of the brain which would be active if you were clapping). These motor areas function differently in autistic people and it seems they may use different routes to access the meaning of words and sounds.
In order for us to understand words and to recognise sounds, it seems that the brain simulates what those words and sounds represent. For instance, the word “clap”, and the sound of someone clapping, will activate parts of the brain needed for you to clap, even though you’re not clapping at the time. It is suggested that this kind of ‘simulation’ of words and sounds helps us very rapidly understand them. It follows from this that if a person has problems with movement or the motor areas of the brain function differently, they may have difficulty understanding words and sounds that require this part of the brain, or they may need to find alternative and likely slower cognitive ways of understanding them. This study found that autistic adults were poorer at processing action words than words with other meanings, and they also showed movement problems.
This paper reflects a compilation of studies about the role of the brain’s motor systems in higher cognitive processes, such as language, communication, memory and attention. Historically, scientists have not been interested in motor or sensory parts of the brain, which were perceived as less interesting architecture for receiving input and performing the orders determined by the brain. However, nowadays scientists realise that everything we know, all the information the brain receives, is filtered through our senses, and our actions are our only way of communing and interacting with the world and other living and non-living things. The ways we can move constrain the operations our brain can perform in relation to language, memory and attention. Our ability and range of movement affects our social development and our interactions as infants, children and adults. If your brain systems for sensory and motor processing are different from the start, it stands to reason that your cognitive and social processes will develop differently, too.
“Affordances” are action opportunities that are associated with a manipulable object. A ball, for instance, affords kicking and throwing; a cup affords lifting to your mouth; a hammer affords picking up. It seems that when you see any of these kind of manipulable objects, the action plans of things you can do with them become active in the brain’s motor system. This study found that this was also the case for words describing objects which you can manipulate or interact with in some way. Words describing food evoke brain activity in the parts of the motor cortex involved in mouth movements; words describing tools evoked brain activity in the part of the brain involved in hand movements. It seems that when we read or hear words, the brain automatically simulates the brain activity which is associated with experiencing or sensing that concept in the real world, or with performing actions with that manipulable object.
I have been so fortunate as to work with some amazing scientists, and have at times been more of a player within someone else's team. The papers below are ones where I have played more of a minor role. Although I have not recorded explanations for these, you can read a very brief summary of each one and download the PDF by clicking each title.
Please note that because my role in these has been more minor, I have had much less (if any) influence over formatting and language used.