A Modulatory Effect of Brief Passive Exposure to Non-linguistic Sounds on Intrinsic Functional Connectivity: Relevance to Cognitive Performance

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A growing literature on resting-state fMRI (R-fMRI) has explored the impact of preceding sensory experience on intrinsic functional connectivity (iFC). However, it remains largely unknown how passive exposure to irrelevant auditory stimuli, which is a constant in everyday life, reconfigures iFC. Here, we directly compared pre- and post-exposure R-fMRI scans to examine: 1) modulatory effects of brief passive exposure to repeating non-linguistic sounds on subsequent iFC, and 2) associations between iFC modulations and cognitive abilities. We used an exploratory regional homogeneity (ReHo) approach that indexes local iFC, and performed a linear mixed-effects modeling analysis. A modulatory effect (increase) in ReHo was observed in the right superior parietal lobule (R.SPL) within the parietal attention network. Post hoc seed-based correlation analyses provided further evidence for increased parietal iFC (e.g., R.SPL with the right inferior parietal lobule). Notably, less iFC modulation was associated with better cognitive performance (e.g., word reading). These results suggest that: 1) the parietal attention network dynamically reconfigures its iFC in response to passive (thus irrelevant) non-linguistic sounds, but also 2) minimization of iFC modulation in the same network characterizes better cognitive performance. Our findings may open up new avenues for investigating cognitive disorders that involve impaired sensory processing.

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