Nature and nurture of cortical gradients: from evolutionary patterns to functional plasticity.

Recording of Presentation


Speaker: Sofie Valk, PhD

Group leader, Research Group Cognitive Neurogenetics

Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive & Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany

Bio: Sofie is a research group leader of the Otto Hahn research group 'cognitive neurogenetics' at Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain sciences in Leipzig as well as research group leader at the INM-7 at Research Centre Jülich in Germany. She majored in artificial intelligence and social and political philosophy at the University of Amsterdam and completed her Masters in Brain and Cognitive sciences at the same University. Following she completed her PhD on the structure of the social brain at the Max Planck Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig Germany, under supervision of Prof Tania Singer. Next she did a two-year postdoc with Prof Simon Eickhoff at University of Düsseldorf and Research Centre Jülich studying the shared genetic basis of brain and behaviour. She has two awesome kids.

Talk Abstract: The topology of the cerebral cortex has been proposed to be an important prerequisite for human cognition. Here I will present two novel studies assessing the nature and nurture of large-scale brain organization in healthy adults. In the first study we assessed the genetic basis of large-scale cortical organization of thickness covariance using twin-models (Human Connectome Project) as well as cross-species comparisons (PRIME-DE) in combination with non-linear dimension reduction techniques. We found two organizational patterns traversing posterior-to-anterior and inferior-to-superior axes in both humans and macaques reflecting functional and evolutionary patterning. In a second study we evaluated the functional plasticity of large-scale brain organization 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 reorganization. Training of attention-mindfulness resulted in segregation of cortical networks, whereas socio-cognitive training resulted in their integration. Socio-affective training had stabilizing effects on functional organization. Together, these studies establish the genetic basis and functional plasticity of natural axes in the cerebral cortex and so provide important insights into the organization of human cognition.

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