Simultaneous EEG-fMRI Reveals a Temporal Cascade of Task-Related and Default-Mode Activations During a Simple Target Detection Task

Jennifer Walz, Robin Goldman, M. Carapezza, Jordan Muraskin, Truman R. Brown, Paul Sajda

Focused attention continuously and inevitably fluctuates, and to completely understand the mechanisms responsible for these modulations it is necessary to localize the brain regions involved. During a simple visual oddball task, neural responses measured by electroencephalography (EEG) modulate primarily with attention, but source localization of the correlates is a challenge. In this study we use single-trial analysis of simultaneously-acquired scalp EEG and functional magnetic resonance image (fMRI) data to investigate the blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) correlates of modulations in task-related attention, and we unravel the temporal cascade of these transient activations. We hypothesize that activity in brain regions associated with various task-related cognitive processes modulates with attention, and that their involvements occur transiently in a specific order. We analyze the fMRI BOLD signal by first regressing out the variance linked to observed stimulus and behavioral events. We then correlate the residual variance with the trial-to-trial variation of EEG discriminating components for identical stimuli, estimated at a sequence of times during a trial. Post-stimulus and early in the trial, we find activations in right-lateralized frontal regions and lateral occipital cortex, areas that are often linked to task-dependent processes, such as attentional orienting, and decision certainty. After the behavioral response we see correlates in areas often associated with the default-mode network and introspective processing, including precuneus, angular gyri, and posterior cingulate cortex. Our results demonstrate that during simple tasks both task-dependent and default-mode networks are transiently engaged, with a distinct temporal ordering and millisecond timescale.

Accepted 15 November 2014
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