Subacute effects of the psychedelic ayahuasca on the salience and default mode networks

Pasquini L, Palhano-Fontes F, de Araujo DB

Journal of Psychopharmacology (2020)

In collaboration with the Brain Institute in Natal (Brazil), I explored the subacute effects of the psychedelic Ayahuasca on functional brain network organization. This study revealed increased salience network connectivity, increased salience-default mode network connectivity, and decreased default mode network connectivity one day after Ayahuasca intake compared to placebo. Salience network connectivity increases correlated with altered somesthesia experienced during the acute effects, while increased salience-default mode network connectivity correlated with altered affect and default mode network connectivity decreases correlated with altered volition .


State and trait characteristics of anterior insula time-varying functional connectivity

State and trait characteristics of anterior insula time-varying functional connectivity

Pasquini L, Toller G, Staffaroni A, Brown JA, Deng J, Lee A, Kurcyus K, Shdo SM, Allen I, Sturm VE, Cobigo Y, Borghesani V, Battistella G, Gorno-Tempini ML, Rankin KP, Kramer J, Rosen HH, Miller BL, Seeley WW

Neuroimage (2020)

I have developed a novel approach combining seed-to-whole-brain sliding-window functional connectivity and k-means clustering to assess how functional connectivity of the right frontoinsula, a region supporting social-emotional functions, changes dynamically along a single scanning session. Using three large data samples of normal controls, this project revealed distinct, reliable dynamic connectivity states of the right frontoinsula that related to trait-level empathy scores.

Recently, I co-organized a symposium on "Clinical applications of time-varying neuroimaging" (OHBM 2019, Rome), where I presented preliminary data on dynamic insula connectivity in frontotemporal dementia, a neurodegenerative disease of social-emotional dysfunction.

In this postdoctoral project, I examined how neuron type-specific degeneration of the right frontoinsula is linked to regional grey and white matter atrophy and to loss of emotional empathy in frontotemporal dementia. I used questionnaire-based empathy assessments, in-vivo structural neuroimaging, and quantitative postmortem histopathological data from 16 patients across the frontotemporal clinico-pathological spectrum to show that neuron type specific degeneration predicts frontoinsular grey and white matter atrophy, which in turn predicts empathy deficits in patients.

Salience network atrophy links neuron type-specific degeneration to loss of empathy in frontotemporal dementia

Pasquini L, Nana AL, Toller G, Brown JA, Deng J, Staffaroni A, Kim EJ, Hwang JH, Li L, Park Y, Gaus SE, Allen I, Sturm VE, Spina S, Grinberg LT, Rankin KP, Kramer J, Rosen HH, Miller BL, Seeley WW

Cerebral Cortex (2020)


Medial Temporal Lobe Disconnection and Hyperexcitability Across Alzheimer’s Disease Stages

Pasquini L, Rahmani F, Maleki-Balajoo S, La Joie R, Mojtabad Z, Sorg C, Drzezga A, Tahmasian M

Journal of Alzheimer's Disease Reports (2019)

My doctoral research included leveraging resting-state fMRI and FDG-PET glucose metabolism data in patients with Alzheimer’s disease to study medial temporal lobe dysfunctions at distinct clinical disease stages, and assessing the relationship of such local dysfunctions with structural long-range disconnection and memory impairments. My research revealed that in Alzheimer’s disease, the medial temporal lobe is characterized by patterns of local hyper-synchronization. This local hypersynchronization correlates with medial temporal lobe disconnection from medial parietal associative cortices and is associated with memory deficits in patients.