Reconfiguration of Intrinsic Functional Coupling Patterns Following Circumscribed Network Lesions

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Communication between cortical regions is necessary for optimal cognitive processing. Functional relationships between cortical regions can be inferred through measurements of temporal synchrony in spontaneous activity patterns. These relationships can be further elaborated by surveying effects of cortical lesions upon inter-regional connectivity. Lesions to cortical hubs and heteromodal association regions are expected to induce distributed connectivity changes and higher-order cognitive deficits, yet their functional consequences remain relatively unexplored. Here, we used resting-state fMRI to investigate intrinsic functional connectivity (FC) and graph theoretical metrics in 12 patients with circumscribed lesions of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) portion of the Default Network (DN), and compared these metrics with those observed in healthy matched comparison participants and a sample of 1139 healthy individuals. Despite significant mPFC destruction, patients did not demonstrate weakened intrinsic FC among undamaged DN nodes. Instead, network-specific changes were manifested as weaker negative correlations between the DN and attentional and somatomotor networks. These findings conflict with the DN being a homogenous system functionally anchored at mPFC. Rather, they implicate a role for mPFC in mediating cross-network functional interactions. More broadly, our data suggest that lesions to association cortical hubs might induce clinical deficits by disrupting communication between interacting large-scale systems.

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