Spontaneous Activity Associated with Primary Visual Cortex: A Resting-State fMRI Study

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Brain functions during the resting state have attracted considerable attention in the past several years. However, little has been known about spontaneous activity in the sensory cortices in the task-free state. This study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the existence of spontaneous activity in the primary visual areas (PVA) of normal-sighted subjects and to explore the physiological implications of such activity. Our results revealed that we were able to detect spontaneous activity, which was nonrandom in that it was distinctly clustered both temporally and spatially in the PVA of each subject. In addition, the neural network associated with the PVA-related spontaneous activity included the visual association areas, the precuneus, the precentral/postcentral gyrus, the middle frontal gyrus, the fusiform gyrus, the inferior/middle temporal gyrus, and the parahippocampal gyrus. After considering the functions of these regions, we speculated that the PVA-related spontaneous activity may be associated with memory-related mental imagery and/or visual memory consolidation processes. These findings confirm the presence of spontaneous activity in the PVA and related brain areas. This confirmation supports the perspective that brain is a system intrinsically operating on its own, and sensory information interacts with rather than determines the operation of the system.

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