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Causal manipulation of functional connectivity in a specific neural pathway during behaviour and at rest
<jats:p>Correlations in brain activity between two areas (functional connectivity) have been shown to relate to their underlying structural connections. We examine the possibility that functional connectivity also reflects short-term changes in synaptic efficacy. We demonstrate that paired transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) near ventral premotor cortex (PMv) and primary motor cortex (M1) with a short 8-ms inter-pulse interval evoking synchronous pre- and post-synaptic activity and which strengthens interregional connectivity between the two areas in a pattern consistent with Hebbian plasticity, leads to increased functional connectivity between PMv and M1 as measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Moreover, we show that strengthening connectivity between these nodes has effects on a wider network of areas, such as decreasing coupling in a parallel motor programming stream. A control experiment revealed that identical TMS pulses at identical frequencies caused no change in fMRI-measured functional connectivity when the inter-pulse-interval was too long for Hebbian-like plasticity.</jats:p>
The occurrence of wide-scale neuroplasticity in the injured human brain raises hopes for biomarkers to guide personalised treatment. At the individual level, functional reorganisation has proven challenging to quantify using current techniques that are optimised for population-based analyses. In this cross-sectional study, we acquired functional MRI scans in 44 patients (22 men, 22 women, mean age: 39.4 ± 14 years) with a language-dominant hemisphere brain tumour prior to surgery and 23 healthy volunteers (11 men, 12 women, mean age: 36.3 ± 10.9 years) during performance of a verbal fluency task. We applied a recently developed approach to characterise the normal range of functional connectivity patterns during task performance in healthy controls. Next, we statistically quantified differences from the normal in individual patients and evaluated factors driving these differences. We show that the functional connectivity of brain regions involved in language fluency identifies "fingerprints" of brain plasticity in individual patients, not detected using standard task-evoked analyses. In contrast to healthy controls, patients with a tumour in their language dominant hemisphere showed highly variable fingerprints that uniquely distinguished individuals. Atypical fingerprints were influenced by tumour grade and tumour location relative to the typical fluency-activated network. Our findings show how alterations in brain networks can be visualised and statistically quantified from connectivity fingerprints in individual brains. We propose that connectivity fingerprints offer a statistical metric of individually-specific network organisation through which behaviourally-relevant adaptations could be formally quantified and monitored across individuals, treatments and time.
<jats:p>To understand brain circuits it is necessary both to record and manipulate their activity. Transcranial ultrasound stimulation (TUS) is a promising non-invasive brain stimulation technique. To date, investigations report short-lived neuromodulatory effects, but to deliver on its full potential for research and therapy, ultrasound protocols are required that induce longer-lasting ‘offline’ changes. Here, we present a TUS protocol that modulates brain activation in macaques for more than one hour after 40 s of stimulation, while circumventing auditory confounds. Normally activity in brain areas reflects activity in interconnected regions but TUS caused stimulated areas to interact more selectively with the rest of the brain. In a within-subject design, we observe regionally specific TUS effects for two medial frontal brain regions – supplementary motor area and frontal polar cortex. Independently of these site-specific effects, TUS also induced signal changes in the meningeal compartment. TUS effects were temporary and not associated with microstructural changes.</jats:p>
Manipulation of subcortical and deep cortical activity in the primate brain using transcranial focused ultrasound stimulation
The causal role of an area within a neural network can be determined by interfering with its activity and measuring the impact. Many current reversible manipulation techniques have limitations preventing their application particularly in deep areas of the primate brain. Here we demonstrate focused transcranial ultrasound stimulation (TUS) protocol impacts activity even in deep brain areas: a subcortical brain structure, the amygdala (experiment 1), and a deep cortical region, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC, experiment 2), in macaques. TUS neuromodulatory effects were measured by examining relationships between activity in each area and the rest of the brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In control conditions without sonication, activity in a given area is related to activity in interconnected regions but such relationships are reduced after sonication, specifically for the targeted areas. Dissociable and focal effects on neural activity could not be explained by auditory confounds.