How Does Brain Structure Influence Performance on Language Tasks?

How Does Brain Structure Influence Performance on Language Tasks?

As a network neuroscientist, Danielle Basset, Eduardo D. Glandt Eduardo D. Glandt Faculty Fellow and Associate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering, draws on engineering principles to understand the “wiring” of the brain. By trancing the complicated connections between neurons and seeing the way fire together while people complete different kinds of tasks, Bassett and her colleagues gain a better understanding of the networks of brain activity that are involved in each — and what about the structure of those networks leads to better or worse performance.

Bassett’s earlier research has shown how the structure of these “wiring diagrams” leads to “cognitive control” — the ability to govern one’s own thoughts and actions.

In a new study, led by former lab member Sarah Muldoon, now an assistant professor of mathematics at the University at Buffalo, Bassett and her co-authors have begun shown how a person’s individual neuroanatomy can influence how quickly he or she can complete linguistic tasks.

Their experiments involved asking participants to quickly come up with a verb when presented with a noun, fill in a missing word in sentences, and read large numbers.

In an initial proof-of-concept study, a team led by University at Buffalo mathematician Sarah Muldoon finds that this approach shows promise for understanding the interplay between brain structure and performance on language-related tasks. The research was published in PLOS Computational Biology on Oct. 17.

“We are creating these personalized brain network models to understand what the brain is doing, based on how connected different regions of a person’s brain are to one another,” says first author Kanika Bansal, a postdoctoral researcher jointly working at UB, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Columbia University.

Continue reading at the University of Buffalo News Center.