Thalamic low frequency activity facilitates resting-state cortical interhemispheric MRI functional connectivity.Neuroimage 2019; 201:115985N
Blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) resting-state functional MRI (rsfMRI) has emerged as a valuable tool to map complex brain-wide functional networks, predict cognitive performance and identify biomarkers for neurological diseases. However, interpreting these findings poses challenges, as the neural basis of rsfMRI connectivity remains poorly understood. The thalamus serves as a relay station and modulates diverse long-range cortical functional integrations, yet few studies directly interrogate its role in brain-wide rsfMRI connectivity. Utilizing a multi-modal approach of rsfMRI, optogenetic stimulation and multi-depth cortical electrophysiology recording, we examined whether and how the somatosensory thalamus contributes to cortical interhemispheric rsfMRI connectivity. We found that low frequency (1 Hz) optogenetic stimulation of somatosensory-specific ventral posteromedial (VPM) thalamocortical excitatory neurons increased the interhemispheric rsfMRI connectivity in all examined sensory cortices, somatosensory, visual and auditory, and the local intrahemispheric BOLD activity at infraslow frequency (0.01-0.1 Hz). In parallel, multi-depth local field potential recordings at bilateral primary somatosensory cortices revealed increased interhemispheric correlations of low frequency neural oscillations (i.e., mainly < 10 Hz) at all cortical layers. Meanwhile, pharmacologically inhibiting VPM thalamocortical neurons decreased interhemispheric rsfMRI connectivity and local intrahemispheric infraslow BOLD activity in all sensory cortices. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that low frequency activities in the thalamo-cortical network contribute to brain-wide rsfMRI connectivity, highlighting the thalamus as a pivotal region that underlies rsfMRI connectivity.