1. Neuromodulation of large-scale neural networks, direct brain treatment: Advances in our understanding of the neural networks underlying cognition posit that gamma band response (GBR) is a necessary component for intact cognitive function. Evidence indicates that GBR is impaired across disorders of cognition, including Alzheimer’s spectrum disorders, SCZ and traumatic brain injury. Therefore, we hypothesized that improving GBR may have positive effects on cognition in patients with cognitive deficits, including working memory (WM). We tested this novel hypothesis in SCZ using EEG-neurofeedback targeting GBR. EEG-NFB is a closed-loop self-regulation treatment where brain function is presented as a visual metaphor which the individual can modulate. This initial study aimed to develop neurofeedback treatment for individuals with SCZ. Our results indicated that EEG-NFB can be implemented in patients with SCZ with changes in behavioral performance, and brain markers of cognition.
This project was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Mental Health (PI: Singh).
2. Neural circuitry underlying social cognition, Mirror Neuron System (MNS): This study explored the neural basis of social function in individuals with schizophrenia (SCZ), a disorder known to have social deficits. The study showed reduced information processing of social stimuli in the MNS in patients compared to healthy controls. The extent of neural deficits was correlated with behavioral impairment in social function. A subsequent analysis of our data by a visiting scholar showed similarities between MNS deficits in children with autism spectrum disorders and SCZ patients with high negative symptom burden.
This project was supported by a Mental Illness Research and Treatment (MIRECC) pilot grant (PI: Singh), and an Early Career Psychiatrist Award by the American Psychiatric Foundation (PI:Singh).
3. Implementing circuit-based treatments, pharmacologic agents: The work with MNS, social cognition and social function in SCZ led to the hypothesis that socially promoting treatments may exert their influence through the MNS. This hypothesis was tested through a study of single doses of oxytocin (OT), a neurohormone with pro-social effects, on social circuitry in patients with SCZ. Results demonstrated that single doses of OT in fact enhance signaling in the MNS, and that the effects are especially pronounced in males with SCZ.
This project was supported by the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation’s Young Investigator grant (PI: Singh)