The Brain Stimulation Laboratory
To improve human well-being, scientists must not only be able to predict behaviour from human brain data, but also to describe the causes of these data at a cellular or mechanistic level.

This understanding will lead to real clinical impact by shedding light on how impaired circuit mechanisms cause specific neurological or psychiatric symptoms – and in turn, lead to clinical interventions that target causes rather than symptoms. The School of Psychology is making strides in this area, by exploring non-invasive neurostimulation.

Investigating non-invasive practices

Bridging the gap between laboratory work and patient care brings a number of challenges in neuroscience. Most notably, neurostimulation techniques exist but are either suffering from a low spatial resolution (such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation [TMS]), meaning they are not as specified as they could be, or are focal but invasive and require surgery (such as Deep Brain Stimulation).

To address this limitation, the goal of the Brain Stimulation Laboratory is to use an emerging technique that is safe, non-invasive and localised (at the millimetre scale): ultrasound neurostimulation.

Building on her international track-record in the field, Brain Stimulation Laboratory Lead, Dr Elsa Fouragnan aims to provide proof of principle that non-invasive neurostimulation with ultrasound can reduce maladaptive behaviours – ie behaviours that do not adjust well to the environment or situation – by targeting circuit dysfunction.

Analysing neuroscientific techniques

Also working in the BRIC Computational Modelling lab, Elsa uses computational model estimates to inform the analysis of multimodal neuroscientific techniques, including neuroimaging techniques such as electroencephalography [EEG] and functional neuroimaging [fMRI], and neurostimulation techniques, including Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation [TMS] and Ultrasound Stimulation [TUS).

Her research aims to explain why impaired circuit mechanisms cause specific neurological or psychiatric symptoms related to decision making and learning. She has previously received funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Wellcome Trust.

Modifying movement and navigation

The control of movement involves a sequence of neuronal network changes in the motor systems within the brain. Successful coordinated movement requires a series of effective communications between different brain areas measured as brain rhythms using neuroimaging. Research at BRIC uses brain stimulation methods to manipulate these networks. Dr Alastair Smith leads a programme of research into the neural mechanisms of spatial navigation. This involves the use of transcranial electrical stimulation to disrupt or augment a participants ability to perform navigation tasks.

This research supports a better understanding of these important processes in health and disease. Professor Stephen Hall leads a programme of research, exploring the role of brain oscillations in the control of movement. 

Brain stimulation paradigms, such as theta burst stimulation (TBS), are effective methods of changing cortical excitability, which can improve or impair movement for a sustained period of time. 

Research in this group, explores the role of brain rhythms in these complex processes, in order to better understand changes in movement control in diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Stroke. 

Research expertise 

Lab lead:
Dr Elsa Fouragnan, Lecturer in Psychology 

Other research in this lab will be carried out by: 
Professor Stephen Hall, Dr Matt Roser, Dr Giorgio Ganis, Dr Alastair Smith, Professor Jonathan Marsden, Professor Andy Wills.


Key publications

Bault, N., Coricelli, G., & Rusconi, E. (2019). Probing the decisional brain with non-invasive brain stimulation. In A Handbook of Process Tracing Methods: 2nd Edition (Schulte-Mecklenbeck, Kuehberger & Johnson, pp. 249–269). New York and London: Routledge.

Fouragnan EF, Chau BKH, Folloni D, Kolling N, Verhagen L, Klein-Flügge M, Tankelevitch L, Papageorgiou GK, Aubry J-F 2019 'The macaque anterior cingulate cortex translates counterfactual choice value into actual behavioural change' Nature Neuroscience 22, (5) 797-808, DOI PEARL

Fouragnan E, Queirazza F, Retzler C, Mullinger KJ & Philiastides MG 2017 'Spatiotemporal neural characterisation of prediction error valence and surprise during reward learning in humans' Scientific Reports 7, (1), DOI PEARL

Fouragnan E, Retzler C, Mullinger K & Philiastides MG 2015 'Two spatiotemporally distinct value systems shape reward-based learning in the human brain' Nature Communications 6, (1), DOI PEARL.

Fouragnan E, Chau BKH, Folloni D, Kolling N, Verhagen L, Klein-Flügge M, Tankelevitch L, Papageorgiou GK, Aubry JF, Sallet J, Rushworth MFS. The macaque anterior cingulate cortex translates counterfactual choice value into actual behavioral change. Nature Neuroscience, 22(5), 797-808. 2019. doi: 10.1038/s41593-019-0375-6

Folloni D, Verhagen L, Mars R, Fouragnan E, Aubry JF, Rushworth MFS, Sallet J. Non-invasive and reversible manipulation of activity in deep structures of the primate brain using focal ultrasound neurostimulation. Neuron. 101, 1109–1116. February 2019.

Zhang, Q., Strangman, G. E., & Ganis, G. (2009). Adaptive filtering to reduce global interference in non-invasive NIRS measures of brain activation: how well and when does it work? Neuroimage, 45(3), 788-794.

Barrios, V., Kwan, V. S., Ganis, G., Gorman, J., Romanowski, J., & Keenan, J. P. (2008). Elucidating the neural correlates of egoistic and moralistic self-enhancement. Conscious Cogn, 17(2), 451-456.

Ganis, G., Keenan, J. P., Kosslyn, S. M., & Pascual-Leone, A. (2000). Transcranial magnetic stimulation of primary motor cortex affects mental rotation. Cereb Cortex, 10(2), 175-180.

Keenan, J. P., Freund, S., Hamilton, R. H., Ganis, G., & Pascual-Leone, A. (2000). Hand response differences in a self-face identification task. Neuropsychologia, 38(7), 1047-1053.

Keenan, J. P., Ganis, G., Freund, S., & Pascual-Leone, A. (2000). Self-face identification is increased with left hand responses. Laterality, 5(3), 259-268.

Kelly, K. J., Murray, E., Barrios, V., Gorman, J., Ganis, G., & Keenan, J. P. (2009). The effect of deception on motor cortex excitability. Soc Neurosci, 4(6), 570-574.

Kosslyn, S. M., Pascual-Leone, A., Felician, O., Camposano, S., Keenan, J. P., Thompson, W. L., Ganis, G., Sukel, K. E., & Alpert, N. M. (1999). The role of area 17 in visual imagery: convergent evidence from PET and rTMS. Science, 284(5411), 167-170.

Kwan, V. S., Barrios, V., Ganis, G., Gorman, J., Lange, C., Kumar, M., Shepard, A., & Keenan, J. P. (2007). Assessing the neural correlates of self-enhancement bias: a transcranial magnetic stimulation study. Exp Brain Res, 182(3), 379-385.

Sparing, R., Mottaghy, F. M., Ganis, G., Thompson, W. L., Topper, R., Kosslyn, S. M., & Pascual-Leone, A. (2002). Visual cortex excitability increases during visual mental imagery--a TMS study in healthy human subjects. Brain Res, 938(1-2), 92-97.

Theoret, H., Kobayashi, M., Ganis, G., Di Capua, P., & Pascual-Leone, A. (2002). Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation of human area MT/V5 disrupts perception and storage of the motion aftereffect. Neuropsychologia, 40(13), 2280-2287.

Roser, M., Evans, J. S. B., McNair, N. S., Fuggetta, G., Handley, S. J., Carroll, L. S., & Trippas, D. (2015). Investigating reasoning with multiple integrated neuroscientific methods. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9, 41.

Mcallister CJ, Ronnqvist KC, Woodhall GL, Stanford IM, Furlong PL & Hall SD. (2013). Oscillatory Beta Activity Mediates Neuroplastic Effects of Motor Cortex Stimulation in Humans. Journal of Neuroscience 33(18): 7919-7927.

Rhodes E. Gaetz W, Marsden J and Hall SD. (2018). Transient alpha and beta synchrony underlies preparatory recruitment of directional motor networks. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 0(6):867-875. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01250.

Enhancing research through BRIC 

The BRIC facility will provide a state-of-the-art Siemens Prisma 3T MRI scanner, and ultimately an ultrasound neurostimulation technique that is safe, non-invasive and localised (at the millimetre scale).