Ongoing physiological processes in the cerebral cortex.

Section on Cognitive Neurophysiology and Imaging, Laboratory of Neuropsychology, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, 49 Convent Dr. 1E-21, MSC 4400, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.
NeuroImage (Impact Factor: 6.25). 10/2011; 62(4):2190-200. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.10.059
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has revealed that the human brain undergoes prominent, regional hemodynamic fluctuations when a subject is at rest. These ongoing fluctuations exhibit distinct patterns of spatiotemporal synchronization that have been dubbed "resting state functional connectivity", and which currently serve as a principal tool to investigate neural networks in the normal and pathological human brain. Despite the wide application of this approach in human neuroscience, the neural mechanisms that give rise to spontaneous fMRI correlations are largely unknown. Here we review results of recent electrophysiological studies in the cerebral cortex of humans and nonhuman primates that link neural activity to ongoing fMRI fluctuations. We begin by describing results obtained with simultaneous fMRI and electrophysiological measurements that allow for the identification of direct neural correlates of resting state functional connectivity. We next highlight experiments that investigate the correlational structure of spontaneous neural signals, including the spatial variation of signal coherence over the cortical surface, across cortical laminae, and between the two hemispheres. In the final section we speculate on the origins and potential consequences of ongoing signals for normal brain function, and point out inherent limitations of the fMRI correlation approach.

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Alexander Maier