Determining hierarchical functional networks from auditory stimuli fMRI

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We determined connectivity of the human brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while subjects experienced auditory stimuli in a 2-by-2 factorial design. The two factors in this study were “speaker” (same or different speaker) and “sentence” (same or different sentences). Connectivity studies allow us to ask how spatially remote brain regions are neurophysiologically related given these stimuli. In the context of this study, we examined how the “speaker” effect and “sentence” effect influenced these relationships. We applied a Bayesian connectivity method that determines hierarchical functional networks of functionally connected brain regions. Hierarchy in these functional networks is determined by conditional probabilities of elevated activity. For example, a brain region that becomes active a superset of the time of another region is considered ascendant to that brain region in the hierarchical network. For each factor level, we found a baseline functional network connecting the primary auditory cortex (Brodmann's Area [BA] 41) with the BA 42 and BA 22 of the superior temporal gyrus (STG). We also found a baseline functional network that includes Wernicke's Area (BA 22 posterior), STG, and BA 44 for each factor level. However, we additionally observed a strong ascendant connection from BA 41 to the posterior cingulate (BA 30) and Broca's Area and a stronger connection from Wernicke's Area to STG and the posterior cingulate while passively listening to different sentences rather than the same sentence repeatedly. Finally, our results revealed no significant “speaker” effect or interaction between “speaker” and “sentence.” Hum. Brain Mapp, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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