TSC 2010 Pre-Conference Workshop

Session 3 Tuesday Morning, April 13 (9:00a-1:00p)       TCC - COCONINO

Half Day, $75


Experimenting with Endogenic Experience: fMRI, EEG and TMS

in search of the functionality of the default-network


Talma Hendler, Abraham Zangen, Vince Calhoun, Michal Gruberger, Eti Ben-Simon


Certain forms of spontaneous brain activity have been recently indicated to be related to endogenic experience. This emerging field of interest, which evolves alongside with the concepts of "the default-mode network" and "the brain's dark energy", is led almost solely by neuro-imaging – mainly fMRI and PET - studies. Studies have already shown that some aspects of spontaneous neural activity during rest are associated with the experience of ongoing spontaneous thought, or self-referential thought, or mind-wondering. In these studies, typically ‘rest’ was contrasted with self-related or neutral cognitive tasks, sometimes also accompanied by behavioural measurements of self-related thought to assess experience.

In this workshop existing and new techniques for controlled experimental interventions in the relation between default-network activity and internally generated experience will be introduced, elaborated and discussed. Manipulations on rest- related subjective experience and manipulations on “default” neural activity will first be presented and discussed independently. The workshop will further aim to eventually reach a theoretical comprehensive model, in which the potency of each of these techniques will be combined to altogether shed more light on the relation between rest-related neural activations and experience. 

To discuss manipulations on rest-related experience, theoretical aspects of spontaneous thought and mind-wondering will first be raised and discussed. Then emphasis will be made on adapting neuro-imaging paradigms for examination of the relation between rest-related neural activity and variations in experience and consciousness. Two examples will be given from our neuro-imaging laboratory. In one, hypnosis was used to manipulate experience and temporal and spatial dynamics of neural activations were analyzed. In the other, EEG and fMRI were combined to show how two different alpha-related processes in the brain correspond to different experiences. Special attention will also be given to the role of altered states of consciousness in this kind of research and to the neural basis of various thought contents and emotions within the normal resting state. 

To discuss manipulations on default-network activations, options beyond neuro-imaging will be reported. The astonishing results of an attempt made by our group on the issue by employing inhibitory deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) prior to rest in healthy subjects will be presented. Albeit its drawbacks in terms of spatial resolution, this paradigm offers a unique opportunity to examine causality and localization in the relation between default-network activations and experience, thus elegantly complementing results obtained in imaging studies.

To conclude the workshop, a comprehensive modus operandi will further be discussed to explore default-network – experience relations, by which knowledgeable designed imaging studies will provide spatial resolution, network-based information and sub-network differentiation of experience-based neural activity, whereas TMS and dTMS, among other brain stimulation techniques, will show directionality and causality.


Prof. Talma Hendler (MD PhD), a cognitive neuroscientist and head of the Tel Aviv Functional Brain Center, a leading research imaging unit in Israel, situated at the Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. Dr Hendler's group has long-standing experience with healthy and neuropsychiatric imaging protocols.

Dr. Abraham Zangen (PhD), a senior scientist in the Department of Neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Dr. Zangen's group performs research on TMS, the brain reward system and self-related neural networks. Dr. Zangen is key inventor of the patented coil for transcranial magnetic stimulation of deep brain regions. CV attached.  

Dr. Vince D. Calhoun (Ph.D.) - is the Director of the Image Analysis and MR Research, and Associate Professor at University of New Mexico.  Dr.Calhoun develops techniques for making sense of complex brain imaging data (such as EEG, fMRI, DTI) to understand the healthy and especially the disordered human brain.

Michal Gruberger (MA), a licensed neuro-psychologist and a PhD student at the Department of Psychology in Tel-Aviv University. PhD dissertation: Functional neuro-anatomy of human consciousness as revealed by deep transcranial magnetic stimulation and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).  

Eti Ben-Simon (MA), a PhD student in the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel-Aviv University. PhD dissertation: Spontaneous brain activity during different brain states such as sleep, rest or task using fMRI, EEG and MEG.