Simultaneous EEG-fMRI Reveals Temporal Evolution of Coupling between Supramodal Cortical Attention Networks and the Brainstem

Cortical and subcortical networks have been identified that are commonly associated with attention and task engagement, along with theories regarding their functional interaction. However, a link between these systems has not yet been demonstrated in healthy humans, primarily because of data acquisition and analysis limitations. We recorded simultaneous EEG–fMRI while subjects performed auditory and visual oddball tasks and used these data to investigate the BOLD correlates of single-trial EEG variability at latencies spanning the trial. We focused on variability along task-relevant dimensions in the EEG for identical stimuli and then combined auditory and visual data at the subject level to spatially and temporally localize brain regions involved in endogenous attentional modulations. Specifically, we found that anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) correlates strongly with both early and late EEG components, whereas brainstem, right middle frontal gyrus (rMFG), and right orbitofrontal cortex (rOFC) correlate significantly only with late components. By orthogonalizing with respect to event-related activity, we found that variability in insula and temporoparietal junction is reflected in reaction time variability, rOFC and brainstem correlate with residual EEG variability, and ACC and rMFG are significantly correlated with both. To investigate interactions between these correlates of temporally specific EEG variability, we performed dynamic causal modeling (DCM) on the fMRI data. We found strong evidence for reciprocal effective connections between the brainstem and cortical regions. Our results support the adaptive gain theory of locus ceruleus–norepinephrine (LC–NE) function and the proposed functional relationship between the LC–NE system, right-hemisphere ventral attention network, and P300 EEG response.

Available Online DOI:
Accepted 25 October 2013
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