Parsing the intrinsic networks underlying attention: a resting state study.Behav Brain Res 2015; 278:315-22BB
The attention system functionally modulates brain activity to exert control over thoughts, feelings and actions. Three distinct but mutually interacting components of attention have been hypothesized: alerting, which mediates the maintenance of a state of vigilance toward an upcoming stimulus; orienting, which supports the selection of sensory information, and executive control that is involved in detecting and resolving cognitive conflicts. The performance of tasks probing these components engages fronto-parietal and thalamic regions. Also, general attention has been associated with the activity of resting-state networks (RSNs), which are sets of brain regions with synchronous temporal fluctuations. Importantly, the association between the intrinsic brain activity of RSNs and the efficiency and integration of the specific attentional components remains largely unexplored. For this aim, we recruited twenty healthy volunteers who performed the Attention Network Test-Revised (ANT-R), assessing the alerting, orienting and executive control components as well as their interactions, and underwent resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging. For each participant RSNs were estimated using double regression. The RSNs spanning across areas previously implicated in attentional processing were correlated with ANT-R scores using multiple regressions. Significant brain behavior correlations emerged between ANT-R scores and RSNs comprising the regions relevant for attentional processing, i.e., left and right prefronto-parietal (PFC-PC), dorsal attentional (DAN), salience (SN), and default mode (DMN) networks. The activity of PFC-PC networks was correlated with alerting in parietal and frontal regions, and with location conflict in the frontal regions. The DAN connectivity was correlated with flanker, location conflict, and their interaction in parietal regions. SN was associated with flanker by location and flanker by orienting interactions in the inferior frontal regions. Finally, the activity of the DMN was associated with flanker conflict in midline structures such as precuneus and anterior cingulate cortex and also in right angular gyrus. These results suggest that the brain is endowed with an intrinsic functional organization to support attention, not only in its global function, but also in its distinct components.