in Biological Psychology (2020), 154(1), 107919
Mental disorders with physical symptoms, e.g. somatic symptom disorder, are characterized by altered interoceptive accuracy (IAc), which can be explained by individual differences in interoceptive learning (IL). We investigated if stress facilitates IL. Seventy-three healthy participants performed a heartbeat counting task (HCT: T1) and a heartbeat perception training (HBPT). After exposure to a socially-evaluated cold pressor stress test (SECPT; n=48) or a control condition (n=25), two more HCTs were performed (T2: 30 minutes after SECPT; T3: 24 h later). After the HBPT, all participants showed an increase in IAc. We separated the stress group into high vs. low systolic blood pressures (SBP) responders (n=24 each), with high SBP responders showing the largest IAc increases. Only SBP, but not cortisol responsiveness significantly predicted IAc increase from T1 to T2. Our results indicate that post-learning autonomic stress response facilitates IL, whereas the HPA axis response may be less important for this effect.
in Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (2015), 40(4), 349-356
Some severely brain injured patients remain unresponsive, only showing reflex movements without any response to command. This syndrome has been named unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (UWS). The objective of the present study was to determine whether UWS patients are able to alter their brain activity using neurofeedback (NFB) technique. A small sample of three patients received a daily session of NFB for 3 weeks. We applied the ratio of theta and beta amplitudes as a feedback variable. Using an automatic threshold function, patients heard their favourite music whenever their theta/beta ratio dropped below the threshold. Changes in awareness were assessed weekly with the JFK Coma Recovery Scale-Revised for each treatment week, as well as 3 weeks before and after NFB. Two patients showed a decrease in their theta/beta ratio and theta-amplitudes during this period. The third patient showed no systematic changes in his EEG activity. The results of our study provide the first evidence that NFB can be used in patients in a state of unresponsive wakefulness.
in Neuropsychology (2015), 29(3), 417-420
Objective: Patients with left-sided neglect frequently show omissions and repetitive behavior on cancellation tests. Using a touch-screen-based cancellation task, we tested how visual feedback and distracters influence the number of omissions and perseverations. Method: Eighteen patients with left-sided visual neglect and 18 healthy controls performed four different cancellation tasks on an iPad touch screen: no feedback (the display did not change during the task), visual feedback (touched targets changed their color from black to green), visual feedback with distracters (20 distracters were evenly embedded in the display; detected targets changed their color from black to green), vanishing targets (touched targets disappeared from the screen). Results: Except for the condition with vanishing targets, neglect patients had significantly more omissions and perseverations than healthy controls in the remaining three subtests. Both conditions providing feedback by changing the target color showed the highest number of omissions. Erasure of targets nearly diminished omissions completely. The highest rate of perseverations was observed in the no-feedback condition. The implementation of distracters led to a moderate number of perseverations. Visual feedback without distracters and vanishing targets abolished perseverations nearly completely. Conclusions: Visual feedback and the presence of distracters aggravated hemispatial neglect. This finding is compatible with impaired disengagement from the ipsilesional side as an important factor of visual neglect. Improvement of cancellation behavior with vanishing targets could have therapeutic implications.
in Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair (2014), 28(5), 462-471
Brain lesions may disturb binocular fusion and stereopsis, leading to blurred vision, diplopia, and reduced binocular depth perception for which no evaluated treatment is currently available. Objective The study evaluated the effects of a novel binocular vision treatment designed to improve convergent fusional amplitude and stereoacuity in patients with stroke or traumatic brain injury (TBI). Methods Patients (20 in all: 11 with stroke, 9 with TBI) were tested in fusional convergence, stereoacuity, near/far visual acuity, accommodation, and subjective binocular reading time until diplopia emerged at 6 different time points. All participants were treated in a single subject baseline design, with 3 baseline assessments before treatment (pretherapy), an assessment immediately after a 6-week treatment period (posttherapy), and 2 follow-up tests 3 and 6 months after treatment. Patients received a novel fusion and dichoptic training using 3 different devices to slowly increase fusional and disparity angles. Results At pretherapy, the stroke and TBI groups showed severe impairments in convergent fusional range, stereoacuity, subjective reading duration, and partially in accommodation (only TBI group). After treatment, both groups showed considerable improvements in all these variables as well as slightly increased near visual acuity. No significant changes were observed during the pretherapy and follow-up periods, ruling out spontaneous recovery and demonstrating long-term stability of binocular treatment effects. Conclusions This proof-of-principle study indicates a substantial treatment-induced plasticity of the lesioned brain in the relearning of binocular fusion and stereovision, thus providing new, effective rehabilitation strategies to treat binocular vision deficits resulting from permanent visual cortical damage.
in Neuropsychology (2014), 28(3), 382-387
OBJECTIVE: Hypoxic brain damage is characterized by widespread, diffuse-disseminated brain lesions, which may cause severe disturbances in binocular vision, leading to diplopia and loss of stereopsis, for which no evaluated treatment is currently available. The study evaluated the effects of a novel binocular vision treatment designed to improve binocular fusion and stereopsis as well as to reduce diplopia in patients with cerebral hypoxia. METHOD: Four patients with severely reduced convergent fusion, stereopsis, and reading duration due to hypoxic brain damage were treated in a single-subject baseline design, with three baseline assessments before treatment to control for spontaneous recovery (pretherapy), an assessment immediately after a treatment period of 6 weeks (posttherapy), and two follow-up tests 3 and 6 months after treatment to assess stability of improvements. Patients received a novel fusion and dichoptic training using 3 different devices designed to slowly increase fusional and disparity angle. RESULTS: After the treatment, all 4 patients improved significantly in binocular fusion, subjective reading duration until diplopia emerged, and 2 of 4 patients improved significantly in local stereopsis. No significant changes were observed during the pretherapy baseline period and the follow-up period, thus ruling out spontaneous recovery and demonstrating long-term stability of treatment effects. CONCLUSIONS: This proof-of-principle study indicates a substantial treatment-induced plasticity after hypoxia in the relearning of binocular vision and offers a viable treatment option. Moreover, it provides new hope and direction for the development of effective rehabilitation strategies to treat neurovisual deficits resulting from hypoxic brain damage.