Cholinergic enhancement reduces functional connectivity and BOLD variability in visual extrastriate cortex during selective attention.
ABSTRACT: Enhancing cholinergic function improves performance on various cognitive tasks and alters neural responses in task specific brain regions. We have hypothesized that the changes in neural activity observed during increased cholinergic function reflect an increase in neural efficiency that leads to improved task performance. The current study tested this hypothesis by assessing neural efficiency based on cholinergically-mediated effects on regional brain connectivity and BOLD signal variability. Nine subjects participated in a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover fMRI study. Following an infusion of physostigmine (1 mg/h) or placebo, echo-planar imaging (EPI) was conducted as participants performed a selective attention task. During the task, two images comprised of superimposed pictures of faces and houses were presented. Subjects were instructed periodically to shift their attention from one stimulus component to the other and to perform a matching task using hand held response buttons. A control condition included phase-scrambled images of superimposed faces and houses that were presented in the same temporal and spatial manner as the attention task; participants were instructed to perform a matching task. Cholinergic enhancement improved performance during the selective attention task, with no change during the control task. Functional connectivity analyses showed that the strength of connectivity between ventral visual processing areas and task-related occipital, parietal and prefrontal regions reduced significantly during cholinergic enhancement, exclusively during the selective attention task. Physostigmine administration also reduced BOLD signal temporal variability relative to placebo throughout temporal and occipital visual processing areas, again during the selective attention task only. Together with the observed behavioral improvement, the decreases in connectivity strength throughout task-relevant regions and BOLD variability within stimulus processing regions support the hypothesis that cholinergic augmentation results in enhanced neural efficiency. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Cognitive Enhancers'.
Project description:Cognitive processes such as visual perception and selective attention induce specific patterns of brain oscillations. The neurochemical bases of these spectral changes in neural activity are largely unknown, but neuromodulators are thought to regulate processing. The cholinergic system is linked to attentional function in vivo, whereas separate in vitro studies show that cholinergic agonists induce high-frequency oscillations in slice preparations. This has led to theoretical proposals that cholinergic enhancement of visual attention might operate via gamma oscillations in visual cortex, although low-frequency alpha/beta modulation may also play a key role. Here we used MEG to record cortical oscillations in the context of administration of a cholinergic agonist (physostigmine) during a spatial visual attention task in humans. This cholinergic agonist enhanced spatial attention effects on low-frequency alpha/beta oscillations in visual cortex, an effect correlating with a drug-induced speeding of performance. By contrast, the cholinergic agonist did not alter high-frequency gamma oscillations in visual cortex. Thus, our findings show that cholinergic neuromodulation enhances attentional selection via an impact on oscillatory synchrony in visual cortex, for low rather than high frequencies. We discuss this dissociation between high- and low-frequency oscillations in relation to proposals that lower-frequency oscillations are generated by feedback pathways within visual cortex.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Most prior studies on selective attention in the setting of total sleep deprivation (SD) have focused on behavior or activation within fronto-parietal cognitive control areas. Here, we evaluated the effects of SD on the top-down biasing of activation of ventral visual cortex and on functional connectivity between cognitive control and other brain regions. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Twenty-three healthy young adult volunteers underwent fMRI after a normal night of sleep (RW) and after sleep deprivation in a counterbalanced manner while performing a selective attention task. During this task, pictures of houses or faces were randomly interleaved among scrambled images. Across different blocks, volunteers responded to house but not face pictures, face but not house pictures, or passively viewed pictures without responding. The appearance of task-relevant pictures was unpredictable in this paradigm. SD resulted in less accurate detection of target pictures without affecting the mean false alarm rate or response time. In addition to a reduction of fronto-parietal activation, attending to houses strongly modulated parahippocampal place area (PPA) activation during RW, but this attention-driven biasing of PPA activation was abolished following SD. Additionally, SD resulted in a significant decrement in functional connectivity between the PPA and two cognitive control areas, the left intraparietal sulcus and the left inferior frontal lobe. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: SD impairs selective attention as evidenced by reduced selectivity in PPA activation. Further, reduction in fronto-parietal and ventral visual task-related activation suggests that it also affects sustained attention. Reductions in functional connectivity may be an important additional imaging parameter to consider in characterizing the effects of sleep deprivation on cognition.
Project description:The anatomical connectivity of the human brain supports diverse patterns of correlated neural activity that are thought to underlie cognitive function. In a manner sensitive to underlying structural brain architecture, we examine the extent to which such patterns of correlated activity systematically vary across cognitive states. Anatomical white matter connectivity is compared with functional correlations in neural activity measured via blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signals. Functional connectivity is separately measured at rest, during an attention task, and during a memory task. We assess these structural and functional measures within previously-identified resting-state functional networks, denoted task-positive and task-negative networks, that have been independently shown to be strongly anticorrelated at rest but also involve regions of the brain that routinely increase and decrease in activity during task-driven processes. We find that the density of anatomical connections within and between task-positive and task-negative networks is differentially related to strong, task-dependent correlations in neural activity. The space mapped out by the observed structure-function relationships is used to define a quantitative measure of separation between resting, attention, and memory states. We find that the degree of separation between states is related to both general measures of behavioral performance and relative differences in task-specific measures of attention versus memory performance. These findings suggest that the observed separation between cognitive states reflects underlying organizational principles of human brain structure and function.
Project description:Working memory (WM) is essential for normal cognitive function, but shows marked decline in aging. The importance of selective attention in guiding WM performance is increasingly recognized. Studies so far are inconclusive about the ability to use selective attention during WM in aging. To investigate the neural mechanisms supporting selective attention in WM in aging, we tested a large group of older adults using functional magnetic resonance imaging whilst they performed a category-based (faces/houses) selective-WM task. Older adults were able to use attention to encode targets and suppress distractors to reach high levels of task performance. A subsequent, surprise recognition-memory task showed strong consequences of selective attention. Attended items in the relevant category were recognized significantly better than items in the ignored category. Neural measures also showed reliable markers of selective attention during WM. Purported control regions including the dorsolateral and inferior prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex were reliably recruited for attention to both categories. Activation levels in category-sensitive visual cortex showed reliable modulation according to attentional demands, and positively correlated with subsequent memory measures of attention and WM span. Psychophysiological interaction analyses showed that activity in category-sensitive areas were coupled with non-sensory cortex known to be involved in cognitive control and memory processing, including regions in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. In summary, we found that older adults were able to recruit a network of brain regions involved in top-down attention during selective WM, and individual differences in attentional control corresponded to the degree of attention-related modulation in the brain.
Project description:The neurotransmitter acetylcholine is considered essential for proper functioning of the hippocampus-dependent declarative memory system, and it represents a major neuropharmacological target for the treatment of memory deficits, such as those in Alzheimer's disease. During slow-wave sleep (SWS), however, declarative memory consolidation is particularly strong, while acetylcholine levels in the hippocampus drop to a minimum. Observations in rats led to the hypothesis that the low cholinergic tone during SWS is necessary for the replay of new memories in the hippocampus and their long-term storage in neocortical networks. However, this low tone should not affect nondeclarative memory systems. In this study, increasing central nervous cholinergic activation during SWS-rich sleep by posttrial infusion of 0.75 mg of the cholinesterase inhibitor physostigmine completely blocked SWS-related consolidation of declarative memories for word pairs in human subjects. The treatment did not interfere with consolidation of a nondeclarative mirror tracing task. Also, physostigmine did not alter memory consolidation during waking, when the endogenous central nervous cholinergic tone is maximal. These findings are in line with predictions that a low cholinergic tone during SWS is essential for declarative memory consolidation.
Project description:The resting brain exhibits coherent patterns of spontaneous low-frequency BOLD fluctuations. These so-called resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) networks are posited to reflect intrinsic representations of functional systems commonly implicated in cognitive function. Yet, the direct relationship between RSFC and the BOLD response induced by task performance remains unclear. Here we examine the relationship between a region's pattern of RSFC across participants and that same region's level of BOLD activation during an Eriksen Flanker task. To achieve this goal we employed a voxel-matched regression method, which assessed whether the magnitude of task-induced activity at each brain voxel could be predicted by measures of RSFC strength for the same voxel, across 26 healthy adults. We examined relationships between task-induced activation and RSFC strength for six different seed regions [Fox, M.D., Snyder, A.Z., Vincent, J.L., Corbetta, M., Van Essen, D.C., Raichle, M.E., 2005. The human brain is intrinsically organized into dynamic, anticorrelated functional networks. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 102, 9673-9678.], as well as the "default mode" and "task-positive" resting-state networks in their entirety. Our results indicate that, for a number of brain regions, inter-individual differences in task-induced BOLD activity were predicted by one of two resting-state properties: (1) the region's positive connectivity strength with the task-positive network, or (2) its negative connectivity with the default mode network. Strikingly, most of the regions exhibiting a significant relationship between their RSFC properties and task-induced BOLD activity were located in transition zones between the default mode and task-positive networks. These results suggest that a common mechanism governs many brain regions' neural activity during rest and its neural activity during task performance.
Project description:The brain is not a passive sensory-motor analyzer driven by environmental stimuli, but actively maintains ongoing representations that may be involved in the coding of expected sensory stimuli, prospective motor responses, and prior experience. Spontaneous cortical activity has been proposed to play an important part in maintaining these ongoing, internal representations, although its functional role is not well understood. One spontaneous signal being intensely investigated in the human brain is the interregional temporal correlation of the blood-oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal recorded at rest by functional MRI (functional connectivity-by-MRI, fcMRI, or BOLD connectivity). This signal is intrinsic and coherent within a number of distributed networks whose topography closely resembles that of functional networks recruited during tasks. While it is apparent that fcMRI networks reflect anatomical connectivity, it is less clear whether they have any dynamic functional importance. Here, we demonstrate that visual perceptual learning, an example of adult neural plasticity, modifies the resting covariance structure of spontaneous activity between networks engaged by the task. Specifically, after intense training on a shape-identification task constrained to one visual quadrant, resting BOLD functional connectivity and directed mutual interaction between trained visual cortex and frontal-parietal areas involved in the control of spatial attention were significantly modified. Critically, these changes correlated with the degree of perceptual learning. We conclude that functional connectivity serves a dynamic role in brain function, supporting the consolidation of previous experience.
Project description:The neural mechanisms underlying hazard perception are poorly understood as to how experience leads to better driving skills. In this study we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine experience-related changes in brain activation during hazard perception task between novice and aged drivers. Additionally, region of interest (ROI) and seed-to-voxel analyses were conducted to examine experience-related functional connectivity changes during visual attention and saliency networks between novice (n=15, age 22.13 ± 3.38 years years) and experienced (n=16, age 41.44 ± 5.83 years) drivers. Experienced drivers had significantly lower hazard perception reaction time (1.32 ± 1.09 s) and miss rates (11.42 ± 8.36 %) compared to the novice (3.58 ± 1.45 s and 39.67 ± 15.72 %, respectively). Blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) activation increased in occipital, parietal and frontal areas when executing hazard perception task in both groups. In general, during the task execution, experienced drivers showed greater activation in the occipital lobe, supramarginal gyrus (SMG), right anterior insular cortex (AIC), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and cerebellar regions compared to the novice drivers indicating more efficient visual attention and decision-making process during hazard perception task. Seed based functional analyses during the hazard perception task revealed greater connectivity between the ACC and the entire salience network (visual attention network) in the experienced group. Additionally, ACC had higher functional connectivity with the right frontal eye field (FEF), bilateral intraparietal sulcus (IPS) and lateral occipital areas in the experienced group. Our results suggest that better hazard perception in the experienced drivers is due to increase in the activation of executive attention regions and higher functional connectivity between bilateral occipital cortices and salience network. In conclusion, better hazard perception is highly dependent on emotional awareness, perception of motion velocity, spatial representation of the environment and executing control.
Project description:The idea of an organized mode of brain function that is present as default state and suspended during goal-directed behaviors has recently gained much interest in the study of human brain function. The default mode hypothesis is based on the repeated observation that certain brain areas show task-induced deactivations across a wide range of cognitive tasks. In this event-related functional resonance imaging study we tested the default mode hypothesis by comparing common and selective patterns of BOLD deactivation in response to the demands on visual attention and working memory (WM) that were independently modulated within one task. The results revealed task-induced deactivations within regions of the default mode network (DMN) with a segregation of areas that were additively deactivated by an increase in the demands on both attention and WM, and areas that were selectively deactivated by either high attentional demand or WM load. Attention-selective deactivations appeared in the left ventrolateral and medial prefrontal cortex and the left lateral temporal cortex. Conversely, WM-selective deactivations were found predominantly in the right hemisphere including the medial-parietal, the lateral temporo-parietal, and the medial prefrontal cortex. Moreover, during WM encoding deactivated regions showed task-specific functional connectivity. These findings demonstrate that task-induced deactivations within parts of the DMN depend on the specific characteristics of the attention and WM components of the task. The DMN can thus be subdivided into a set of brain regions that deactivate indiscriminately in response to cognitive demand ("the core DMN") and a part whose deactivation depends on the specific task.
Project description:Reaction Time (RT) is associated with increased amplitude of the Blood Oxygen-Level Dependent (BOLD) response in task positive regions. Few studies have focused on whether opposing RT-related suppression of task activity also occurs. The current study used two Go/No-go tasks with different cognitive demands to examine regions that showed greater BOLD suppression for longer RT trials. These RT-related suppression effects occurred within the DMN and were task-specific, localizing to separate regions for the two tasks. In the task requiring working memory, RT-related de-coupling of the DMN occurred. This was reflected by opposing RT-BOLD effects for different DMN regions, as well as by reduced positive RT-related Psycho-Physiological Interaction (PPI) connectivity within the DMN and a lack of negative RT-related PPI connectivity between DMN and task positive regions. The results suggest that RT-related DMN suppression is task-specific. RT-related de-coupling of the DMN with more complex task demands may contribute to lapses of attention and performance decrements that occur during cognitively-demanding tasks.