Gian Luca Romani
Profile Url: gian-luca-romani
Researcher at University of Chieti-Pescara
A fundamental question in systems neuroscience is how endogenous neuronal activity self-organizes during particular brain states. Recent neuroimaging studies have revealed systematic relationships between resting-state and task-induced functional connectivity (FC). In particular, continuous task studies, such as movie watching, speak to alterations in coupling among cortical regions and enhanced fluctuations in FC compared to resting-state. This suggests that FC may reflect systematic and large-scale reorganization of functionally integrated responses while subjects are watching movies. In this study, we characterized fluctuations in FC during resting-state and movie-watching conditions. We found that the FC patterns induced systematically by movie-watching can be explained with a single principal component. These condition-specific FC fluctuations overlapped with inter-subject synchronization patterns in occipital and temporal brain regions. However, unlike inter-subject synchronization, condition-specific FC patterns contained increased correlations within frontal brain regions and reduced correlations between frontal-parietal brain regions. We investigated the condition-specific functional variations as a shorter time scale, using time-resolved FC. The time-resolved FC showed condition-specificity over time, notably when subjects were also watching the same and different movie scenes. To explain the self-organisation of whole-brain FC through the alterations in local dynamics, we used a large-scale computational model. We found that the condition-specific reorganization of FC could be explained by local changes that engendered changes in FC among higher-order association regions, mainly in frontal parietal cortices.
Our behavior entails a flexible and context-sensitive interplay between brain areas to integrate information according to goal-directed requirements. However, the neural mechanisms governing the entrainment of functionally specialized brain areas remain poorly understood. In particular, the question arises whether observed changes in the regional activity for different cognitive conditions are explained by modifications of the inputs to the brain or its connectivity? We observe that transitions of fMRI activity between areas convey information about the tasks performed by 19 subjects, watching a movie versus a black screen (rest). We use a model-based framework that explains this spatiotemporal functional connectivity pattern by the local variability for 66 cortical regions and the network effective connectivity between them. We find that, among the estimated model parameters, movie viewing affects to a larger extent the local activity, which we interpret as extrinsic changes related to the increased stimulus load. However, detailed changes in the effective connectivity preserve a balance in the propagating activity and select specific pathways such that high-level brain regions integrate visual and auditory information, in particular boosting the communication between the two brain hemispheres. These findings speak to a dynamic coordination underlying the functional integration in the brain.