Background connectivity between frontal and sensory cortex depends on task state, independent of stimulus modality

Academic Article


  • The human brain has the ability to process identical information differently depending on the task. In order to perform a given task, the brain must select and react to the appropriate stimuli while ignoring other irrelevant stimuli. The dynamic nature of environmental stimuli and behavioral intentions requires an equally dynamic set of responses within the brain. Collectively, these responses act to set up and maintain states needed to perform a given task. However, the mechanisms that allow for setting up and maintaining a task state are not fully understood. Prior evidence suggests that one possible mechanism for maintaining a task state may be through altering 'background connectivity,' connectivity that exists independently of the trials of a task. Although previous studies have suggested that background connectivity contributes to a task state, these studies have typically not controlled for stimulus characteristics, or have focused primarily on relationships among areas involved with visual sensory processing. In the present study we examined background connectivity during tasks involving both visual and auditory stimuli. We examined the connectivity profiles of both visual and auditory sensory cortex that allow for selection of task-relevant stimuli, demonstrating the existence of a potentially universal pattern of background connectivity underlying attention to a stimulus. Participants were presented with simultaneous auditory and visual stimuli and were instructed to respond to only one, while ignoring the other. Using functional MRI, we observed task-based modulation of the background connectivity profile for both the auditory and visual cortex to certain brain regions. There was an increase in background connectivity between the task-relevant sensory cortex and control areas in the frontal cortex. This increase in synchrony when receiving the task-relevant stimulus as compared to the task irrelevant stimulus may be maintaining paths for passing information within the cortex. These task-based modulations of connectivity occur independently of stimuli and could be one way the brain sets up and maintains a task state.
  • Published In

  • NeuroImage  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Elkhetali AS; Fleming LL; Vaden RJ; Nenert R; Mendle JE; Visscher KM
  • Start Page

  • 790
  • End Page

  • 800
  • Volume

  • 184