Lack of empathy is a hallmark of social impairments in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, the concept empathy encompasses several socio-emotional and behavioral components underpinned by interacting brain circuits. This study examined empathic arousal and social understanding in individuals with ASD and matched controls by combining pressure pain thresholds (PPT) with functional magnetic resonance imaging (study 1) and electroencephalography/event-related potentials and eye-tracking responses (study 2) to empathy-eliciting stimuli depicting physical bodily injuries. Results indicate that participants with ASD had lower PPT than controls. When viewing body parts being accidentally injured, increased hemodynamic responses in the somatosensory cortex (SI/SII) but decreased responses in the anterior mid-cingulate and anterior insula as well as heightened N2 but preserved late-positive potentials (LPP) were detected in ASD participants. When viewing a person intentionally hurting another, decreased hemodynamic responses in the medial prefrontal cortex and reduced LPP were observed in the ASD group. PPT was a mediator for the SI/SII response in predicting subjective unpleasantness ratings to others' pain. Both ASD and control groups had comparable mu suppression, indicative of typical sensorimotor resonance. The findings demonstrate that, in addition to reduced pain thresholds, individuals with ASD exhibit heightened empathic arousal but impaired social understanding when perceiving others' distress.
Our study clearly challenges the broken mirror theory of autism. The functioning of the mirror neuron system might be preserved in individuals with ASD to a certain degree. Less mu suppression to action observation coupled with more communicational severity can reflect the symptom heterogeneity of ASD. Additional research needs to be done, and more caution should be used when reaching out to the media.
BackgroundCognitive impairment is one of common complications of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Increasing evidence suggests that interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β) plays a role in inducing neuronal apoptosis in cognitive dysfunction. The lung protective ventilatory strategies, which serve to reduce pulmonary morbidity for ARDS patients, almost always lead to hypercapnia. Some studies have reported that hypercapnia contributes to the risk of cognitive impairment and IL-1β secretion outside the central nervous system (CNS). However, the underlying mechanism of hypercapnia aggravating cognitive impairment under hypoxia has remained uncertain. This study was aimed to explore whether hypercapnia would partake in increasing IL-1β secretion via activating the NLRP3 (NLR family, pyrin domain-containing 3) inflammasome in the hypoxic CNS and in aggravating cognitive impairment.MethodsThe Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats that underwent hypercapnia/hypoxemia were used for assessment of NLRP3, caspase-1, IL-1β, Bcl-2, Bax, and caspase-3 expression by Western blotting or double immunofluorescence, and the model was also used for Morris water maze test. In addition, Z-YVAD-FMK, a caspase-1 inhibitor, was used to treat BV-2 microglia to determine whether activation of NLRP3 inflammasome was required for the enhancing effect of hypercapnia on expressing IL-1β by Western blotting or double immunofluorescence. The interaction effects were analyzed by factorial ANOVA. Simple effects analyses were performed when an interaction was observed.ResultsThere were interaction effects on cognitive impairment, apoptosis of hippocampal neurons, activation of NLRP3 inflammasome, and upregulation of IL-1β between hypercapnia treatment and hypoxia treatment. Hypercapnia + hypoxia treatment caused more serious damage to the learning and memory of rats than those subjected to hypoxia treatment alone. Expression levels of Bcl-2 were reduced, while that of Bax and caspase-3 were increased by hypercapnia in hypoxic hippocampus. Hypercapnia markedly increased the expression of NLRP3, caspase-1, and IL-1β in hypoxia-activated microglia both in vivo and in vitro. Pharmacological inhibition of NLRP3 inflammasome activation and release of IL-1β might ameliorate apoptosis of neurons.ConclusionsThe present results suggest that hypercapnia-induced IL-1β overproduction via activating the NLRP3 inflammasome by hypoxia-activated microglia may augment neuroinflammation, increase neuronal cell death, and contribute to the pathogenesis of cognitive impairments.
Tumor-associated macrophages have been shown to promote tumor growth. They may have an obligatory function in angiogenesis, invasion, and metastasis through release of inflammatory mediators. Their presence in ovarian cancer has been correlated with poor prognosis in these patients. The human cationic antimicrobial protein-18 (hCAP18)/LL-37 was originally identified as an effector molecule of the innate immune system. It is released by innate immune cells, such as macrophages, to combat microorganisms. Previous studies have characterized the hCAP18/LL-37 as a growth factor that has been shown to promote ovarian tumor progression. However, the role hCAP18/LL-37 has in macrophage-promoted ovarian tumor development and how its expression is controlled in this context remains poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate in co-culture experiments of macrophages and ovarian cancer cells a significant increase in the in vitro proliferation and invasiveness of the tumor cells is observed. These enhanced growth and invasion properties correlated with hCAP18/LL-37 induction. HCAP18/LL-37 expression was diminished by addition of two neutralizing antibodies, TLR2 or TLR6, as well as Cyp27B1 or VDR inhibitors. Furthermore, either the TLR2 or TLR6 antibody reduced vitamin D3 signaling and tumor cell progression in vitro. Addition of Cyp27B1 or VDR inhibitors abrogated TLR2/6 activation-induced expression of hCAP18/LL-37 in macrophages. Knockdown of tumor-produced versican V1 by RNAi in these tumor cells led to a decreased induction of hCAP18/LL-37 in macrophages. Versican V1 knockdown also inhibited TLR2 and vitamin D3 signaling, as well as growth and invasiveness of these tumor cells in the in vitro co-culture. In summary, we have found that versican V1 enhances hCAP18/LL-37 expression in macrophages through activation of TLR2 and subsequent vitamin D-dependent mechanisms which promote ovarian tumor progression in vitro.
Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) are characterized by heterogeneous impairments of social reciprocity and sensory processing. Voices, similar to faces, convey socially relevant information. Whether voice processing is selectively impaired remains undetermined. This study involved recording mismatch negativity (MMN) while presenting emotionally spoken syllables dada and acoustically matched nonvocal sounds to 20 subjects with ASC and 20 healthy matched controls. The people with ASC exhibited no MMN response to emotional syllables and reduced MMN to nonvocal sounds, indicating general impairments of affective voice and acoustic discrimination. Weaker angry MMN amplitudes were associated with more autistic traits. Receiver operator characteristic analysis revealed that angry MMN amplitudes yielded a value of 0.88 (p<.001). The results suggest that people with ASC may process emotional voices in an atypical fashion already at the automatic stage. This processing abnormality can facilitate diagnosing ASC and enable social deficits in people with ASC to be predicted.
Most neuroimaging research in stroke rehabilitation mainly focuses on the neural mechanisms underlying the natural history of post-stroke recovery. However, connectivity mapping from resting-state fMRI is well suited for different neurological conditions and provides a promising method to explore plastic changes for treatment-induced recovery from stroke. We examined the changes in resting-state functional connectivity (RS-FC) of the ipsilesional primary motor cortex (M1) in 10 post-acute stroke patients before and immediately after 4 weeks of robot-assisted bilateral arm therapy (RBAT). Motor performance, functional use of the affected arm, and daily function improved in all participants. Reduced interhemispheric RS-FC between the ipsilesional and contralesional M1 (M1-M1) and the contralesional-lateralized connections were noted before treatment. In contrast, greater M1-M1 functional connectivity and disturbed resting-state networks were observed after RBAT relative to pre-treatment. Increased changes in M1-M1 RS-FC after RBAT were coupled with better motor and functional improvements. Mediation analysis showed the pre-to-post difference in M1-M1 RS-FC was a significant mediator for the relationship between motor and functional recovery. These results show neuroplastic changes and functional recoveries induced by RBAT in post-acute stroke survivors and suggest that interhemispheric functional connectivity in the motor cortex may be a neurobiological marker for recovery after stroke rehabilitation.
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