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  1. Narratives can synchronize neural and physiological signals between individuals, but the relationship between these signals, and the underlying mechanism, is unclear. We hypothesized a top-down effect of cognition on arousal and predicted that auditory narratives will drive not only brain signals but also peripheral physiological signals. We find that auditory narratives entrained gaze variation, saccade initiation, pupil size, and heart rate. This is consistent with a top-down effect of cognition on autonomic function. We also hypothesized a bottom-up effect, whereby autonomic physiology affects arousal. Controlled breathing affected pupil size, and heart rate was entrained by controlled saccades. Additionally, fluctuations in heart rate preceded fluctuations of pupil size and brain signals. Gaze variation, pupil size, and heart rate were all associated with anterior-central brain signals. Together, these results suggest bidirectional causal effects between peripheral autonomic function and central brain circuits involved in the control of arousal. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 23, 2025
  2. Abstract

    Our continuous visual experience in daily life is dominated by change. Previous research has focused on visual change due to stimulus motion, eye movements or unfolding events, but not their combined impact across the brain, or their interactions with semantic novelty. We investigate the neural responses to these sources of novelty during film viewing. We analyzed intracranial recordings in humans across 6328 electrodes from 23 individuals. Responses associated with saccades and film cuts were dominant across the entire brain. Film cuts at semantic event boundaries were particularly effective in the temporal and medial temporal lobe. Saccades to visual targets with high visual novelty were also associated with strong neural responses. Specific locations in higher-order association areas showed selectivity to either high or low-novelty saccades. We conclude that neural activity associated with film cuts and eye movements is widespread across the brain and is modulated by semantic novelty.

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  3. Abstract

    Neural, physiological, and behavioral signals synchronize between human subjects in a variety of settings. Multiple hypotheses have been proposed to explain this interpersonal synchrony, but there is no clarity under which conditions it arises, for which signals, or whether there is a common underlying mechanism. We hypothesized that cognitive processing of a shared stimulus is the source of synchrony between subjects, measured here as intersubject correlation (ISC). To test this, we presented informative videos to participants in an attentive and distracted condition and subsequently measured information recall. ISC was observed for electro-encephalography, gaze position, pupil size, and heart rate, but not respiration and head movements. The strength of correlation was co-modulated in the different signals, changed with attentional state, and predicted subsequent recall of information presented in the videos. There was robust within-subject coupling between brain, heart, and eyes, but not respiration or head movements. The results suggest that ISC is the result of effective cognitive processing, and thus emerges only for those signals that exhibit a robust brain–body connection. While physiological and behavioral fluctuations may be driven by multiple features of the stimulus, correlation with other individuals is co-modulated by the level of attentional engagement with the stimulus.

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  4. null (Ed.)
    Experienced teachers pay close attention to their students, adjusting their teaching when students seem lost. This dynamic interaction is missing in online education. We hypothesized that attentive students follow videos similarly with their eyes. Thus, attention to instructional videos could be assessed remotely by tracking eye movements. Here we show that intersubject correlation of eye movements during video presentation is substantially higher for attentive students and that synchronized eye movements are predictive of individual test scores on the material presented in the video. These findings replicate for videos in a variety of production styles, for incidental and intentional learning and for recall and comprehension questions alike. We reproduce the result using standard web cameras to capture eye movements in a classroom setting and with over 1,000 participants at home without the need to transmit user data. Our results suggest that online education could be made adaptive to a student’s level of attention in real time. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
  6. Abstract

    Global integration of information in the brain results from complex interactions of segregated brain networks. Identifying the most influential neuronal populations that efficiently bind these networks is a fundamental problem of systems neuroscience. Here, we apply optimal percolation theory and pharmacogenetic interventions in vivo to predict and subsequently target nodes that are essential for global integration of a memory network in rodents. The theory predicts that integration in the memory network is mediated by a set of low-degree nodes located in the nucleus accumbens. This result is confirmed with pharmacogenetic inactivation of the nucleus accumbens, which eliminates the formation of the memory network, while inactivations of other brain areas leave the network intact. Thus, optimal percolation theory predicts essential nodes in brain networks. This could be used to identify targets of interventions to modulate brain function.

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