Article

Background connectivity between frontal and sensory cortex depends on task state, independent of stimulus modality

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Abstract

The human brain has the ability to process identical information differently depending on the task. In order to perform a given task, the brain must select and react to the appropriate stimuli while ignoring other irrelevant stimuli. The dynamic nature of environmental stimuli and behavioral intentions requires an equally dynamic set of responses within the brain. Collectively, these responses act to set up and maintain states needed to perform a given task. However, the mechanisms that allow for setting up and maintaining a task state are not fully understood. Prior evidence suggests that one possible mechanism for maintaining a task state may be through altering 'background connectivity,' connectivity that exists independently of the trials of a task. Although previous studies have suggested that background connectivity contributes to a task state, these studies have typically not controlled for stimulus characteristics, or have focused primarily on relationships among areas involved with visual sensory processing. In the present study we examined background connectivity during tasks involving both visual and auditory stimuli. We examined the connectivity profiles of both visual and auditory sensory cortex that allow for selection of task-relevant stimuli, demonstrating the existence of a potentially universal pattern of background connectivity underlying attention to a stimulus. Participants were presented with simultaneous auditory and visual stimuli and were instructed to respond to only one, while ignoring the other. Using functional MRI, we observed task-based modulation of the background connectivity profile for both the auditory and visual cortex to certain brain regions. There was an increase in background connectivity between the task-relevant sensory cortex and control areas in the frontal cortex. This increase in synchrony when receiving the task-relevant stimulus as compared to the task irrelevant stimulus may be maintaining paths for passing information within the cortex. These task-based modulations of connectivity occur independently of stimuli and could be one way the brain sets up and maintains a task state.

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... It is hypothesized that this is done by brain modulation of task-dependent connection patterns. [5] use the term "background connectivity" for the task-dependent modulations that are due to variations in ongoing brain activity instead of stimulus-driven activity. To fully understand brain functionality during tasks, it is crucial to look at ongoing activity in addition to stimulus-driven activity. ...
... where Y is a T × N v matrix of BOLD response measurements, X is a T × P design matrix formed by the convolution of s and h, B is a P × N v matrix of regression coefficients, and E is a matrix of residual errors assumed to follow a matrix normal distribution E ∼ N M T ×Nv (0, U , L), with the structure of the temporal correlation matrix U and spatial correlation matrix L being determined by the basis modeling strategy described in Section 2.2. Correlation among the residual errors in an activation model like this has been called background connectivity [5]. ...
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In this paper, we introduce a new Bayesian approach for analyzing task fMRI data that simultaneously detects activation signatures and background connectivity. Our modeling involves a new hybrid tensor spatial-temporal basis strategy that enables scalable computing yet captures nearby and distant intervoxel correlation and long-memory temporal correlation. The spatial basis involves a composite hybrid transform with two levels: the first accounts for within-ROI correlation, and second between-ROI distant correlation. We demonstrate in simulations how our basis space regression modeling strategy increases sensitivity for identifying activation signatures, partly driven by the induced background connectivity that itself can be summarized to reveal biological insights. This strategy leads to computationally scalable fully Bayesian inference at the voxel or ROI level that adjusts for multiple testing. We apply this model to Human Connectome Project data to reveal insights into brain activation patterns and background connectivity related to working memory tasks.
... From such a residual sequence, containing the BOLD signal after that task related effects were regressed out, the average time course of the selected ROI was extracted and used to calculate the linear correlation with every voxel within the brain mask. Correlation values contained in the resulting volumes represent the background connectivity associated to the experimental task (Elkhetali et al., 2019). ...
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The contribution of brain regions to visuospatial abilities according to sex differences and gender identity is inconsistently described. One potential explaining factor may be the different tasks employed requiring a variable load of working memory and other cognitive resources. Here we asked to 20 cis and 20 transgender participants to undergo functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging during performance of a judgement line of orientation test that was adapted to explore the basic visuospatial processing while minimizing the working memory load. We show that V1 activation may be viewed as a brain area with enhanced activation in males, regardless of participants’ gender identity. On its turn, gender identity exclusively influences the visuospatial processing of extrastriate visual areas (V5) in women with gender dysphoria. They showed enhanced V5 activation and an increased functional connectivity between V5 and V1. Overall our neuroimaging results suggest that the basic visuospatial abilities are associated with different activations pattern of cortical visual areas depending on the sex assigned at birth and gender identity.
... From such a residual sequence, containing the BOLD signal after that task related effects were regressed out, the average time course of the selected ROI was extracted and used to calculate the linear correlation with every voxel within the brain mask. Correlation values contained in the resulting volumes represent the background connectivity associated to the experimental task (Elkhetali et al. 2019). ...
Preprint
The contribution of brain regions to visuospatial abilities according to sex differences and gender identity is inconsistently described. One potential explaining factor may be the different tasks employed requiring a variable load of working memory and other cognitive resources. Here we asked to 20 cis and 20 trans gender participants to undergo functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging during performance of a judgement line of orientation test that was adapted to explore the basic visuospatial processing while minimizing the working memory load. We show that V1 activation may be viewed as a sexual dimorphic brain area with enhanced activation in males, regardless of participants' gender identity. On its turn, gender identity exclusively influences the visuospatial processing of extrastriate visual areas (V5) in women with gender dysphoria. They showed enhanced V5 activation and an increased functional connectivity between V5 and V1. Overall our neuroimaging results suggest that the basic visuospatial abilities are associated with distinct activations pattern of cortical visual areas depending on the sex assigned at birth and gender identity.
... This allows background connectivity to be assessed with minimal contamination from task events. 23,24 Grouplevel connectivity contrasts for saline greater than midazolam and saline greater than ketamine were calculated and thresholded within Conn Toolbox, correcting the overall significance for a cluster false-discovery rate of P < 0.05. 25 26 ). ...
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Although variations of response time (RT) within a particular experimental condition are typically ignored, they may sometimes reflect meaningful changes in the efficiency of cognitive and neural processes. In the present study, we investigated whether trial-by-trial variations of response time (RT) in a cross-modal selective attention task were associated with variations of functional connectivity between brain regions that are thought to underlie attention. Sixteen healthy young adults performed an audiovisual selective attention task, which involved attending to a relevant visual letter while ignoring an irrelevant auditory letter, as we recorded their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In line with predictions, variations of RT were associated with variations of functional connectivity between the anterior cingulate cortex and various other brain regions that are posited to underlie attentional control, such as the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and bilateral regions of the posterior parietal cortex. They were also linked to variations of functional connectivity between anatomically early and anatomically late regions of the relevant-modality visual cortex whose communication is thought to be modulated by attentional control processes. By revealing that variations of RT in a selective attention task are linked to variations of functional connectivity in the attentional network, the present findings suggest that variations of attention may contribute to trial-by-trial fluctuations of behavioral performance.
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A new approach in studying interregional functional connectivity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is presented. Functional connectivity may be detected by means of cross correlating time course data from functionally related brain regions. These data exhibit high temporal coherence of low frequency fluctuations due to synchronized blood flow changes. In the past, this fMRI technique for studying functional connectivity has been applied to subjects that performed no prescribed task ("resting" state). This paper presents the results of applying the same method to task-related activation datasets. Functional connectivity analysis is first performed in areas not involved with the task. Then a method is devised to remove the effects of activation from the data using independent component analysis (ICA) and functional connectivity analysis is repeated. Functional connectivity, which is demonstrated in the "resting brain," is not affected by tasks which activate unrelated brain regions. In addition, ICA effectively removes activation from the data and may allow us to study functional connectivity even in the activated regions.