Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tracking ongoing cognition with fMRI of functional connectivity states.

This work by Gonzalez-Castillo at al. shows how close we are getting to real time monitoring of brain activity associated with different kinds of tasks (in this study, distinguishing functional connectivity distinctive to memory vs. rest, math vs. rest, and video vs. rest.)
Functional connectivity (FC) patterns in functional MRI exhibit dynamic behavior on the scale of seconds, with rich spatiotemporal structure and limited sets of whole-brain, quasi-stable FC configurations (FC states) recurring across time and subjects. Based on previous evidence linking various aspects of cognition to group-level, minute-to-minute FC changes in localized connections, we hypothesized that whole-brain FC states may reflect the global, orchestrated dynamics of cognitive processing on the scale of seconds. To test this hypothesis, subjects were continuously scanned as they engaged in and transitioned between mental states dictated by tasks. FC states computed within windows as short as 22.5 s permitted robust tracking of cognition in single subjects with near perfect accuracy. Accuracy dropped markedly for subjects with the lowest task performance. Spatially restricting FC information decreased accuracy at short time scales, emphasizing the distributed nature of whole-brain FC dynamics, beyond univariate magnitude changes, as valuable markers of cognition.

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