Gene expression fundamentally shapes the structural and functional architecture of the human brain. Open-access transcriptomic datasets like the Allen Human Brain Atlas provide an unprecedented ability to examine these mechanisms in vivo; however, a lack of standardization across research groups has given rise to myriad processing pipelines for using these data. Here, we develop the abagen toolbox, an open-access software package for working with transcriptomic data, and use it to examine how methodological variability influences the outcomes of research using the Allen Human Brain Atlas. Applying three prototypical analyses to the outputs of 750,000 unique processing pipelines, we find that choice of pipeline has a large impact on research findings, with parameters commonly varied in the literature influencing correlations between derived gene expression and other imaging phenotypes by as much as p ≥ 1:0. Our results further reveal an ordering of parameter importance, with processing steps that influence gene normalization yielding the greatest impact on downstream statistical inferences and conclusions. The presented work and the development of the abagen toolbox lay the foundation for more standardized and systematic research in imaging transcriptomics, and will help to advance future understanding of the influence of gene expression in the human brain.
- Bratislav Misic
- Alex Fornito
- Jean-Baptiste Poline
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Saad Jbabdi, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
© 2021, Markello et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Cochlear implants are neuroprosthetic devices that can restore hearing in people with severe to profound hearing loss by electrically stimulating the auditory nerve. Because of physical limitations on the precision of this stimulation, the acoustic information delivered by a cochlear implant does not convey the same level of acoustic detail as that conveyed by normal hearing. As a result, speech understanding in listeners with cochlear implants is typically poorer and more effortful than in listeners with normal hearing. The brain networks supporting speech understanding in listeners with cochlear implants are not well understood, partly due to difficulties obtaining functional neuroimaging data in this population. In the current study, we assessed the brain regions supporting spoken word understanding in adult listeners with right unilateral cochlear implants (n=20) and matched controls (n=18) using high-density diffuse optical tomography (HD-DOT), a quiet and non-invasive imaging modality with spatial resolution comparable to that of functional MRI. We found that while listening to spoken words in quiet, listeners with cochlear implants showed greater activity in the left prefrontal cortex than listeners with normal hearing, specifically in a region engaged in a separate spatial working memory task. These results suggest that listeners with cochlear implants require greater cognitive processing during speech understanding than listeners with normal hearing, supported by compensatory recruitment of the left prefrontal cortex.
Sleep strongly affects synaptic strength, making it critical for cognition, especially learning and memory formation. Whether and how sleep deprivation modulates human brain physiology and cognition is not well understood. Here we examined how overnight sleep deprivation vs overnight sufficient sleep affects (a) cortical excitability, measured by transcranial magnetic stimulation, (b) inducibility of long-term potentiation (LTP)- and long-term depression (LTD)-like plasticity via transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), and (c) learning, memory, and attention. The results suggest that sleep deprivation upscales cortical excitability due to enhanced glutamate-related cortical facilitation and decreases and/or reverses GABAergic cortical inhibition. Furthermore, tDCS-induced LTP-like plasticity (anodal) abolishes while the inhibitory LTD-like plasticity (cathodal) converts to excitatory LTP-like plasticity under sleep deprivation. This is associated with increased EEG theta oscillations due to sleep pressure. Finally, we show that learning and memory formation, behavioral counterparts of plasticity, and working memory and attention, which rely on cortical excitability, are impaired during sleep deprivation. Our data indicate that upscaled brain excitability and altered plasticity, due to sleep deprivation, are associated with impaired cognitive performance. Besides showing how brain physiology and cognition undergo changes (from neurophysiology to higher-order cognition) under sleep pressure, the findings have implications for variability and optimal application of noninvasive brain stimulation.