Intrinsic intranasal chemosensory brain networks shown by resting-state functional MRI

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The human brain is organized into functional networks for sensory-motor and cognitive processing. Intrinsic networks are detectable in the absence of stimulation or task demands, whereas extrinsic networks are detectable when stimulated by sensory or cognitive demands. Intranasal chemosensory processing relies on two dissociable networks for processing incoming trigeminal and olfactory stimulation, but it is not known whether these networks are intrinsically organized. The aim of this study was to identify whether brain networks for intranasal chemosensory processing are detectable in functional connectivity resting-state functional MRI (fMRI). Sixteen healthy adults participated in a 5-min resting-state fMRI study. Functional connectivity seeds were defined from coordinates that anchor olfactory (i.e. bilateral piriform and orbitofrontal cortex) and trigeminal (bilateral anterior insula and cingulate cortex) networks in published task activation studies, and the resulting networks were thresholded at P less than 0.001. The olfactory network showed extended functional connectivity to the thalamus, medial prefrontal cortex, caudate, nucleus accumbens, parahippocampal gyrus, and hippocampus. The trigeminal network showed extended functional connectivity to the precuneus, thalamus, caudate, brainstem, and cerebellum. Both networks overlapped in the thalamus, caudate, medial prefrontal cortex, and insula. These results show that brain networks for intranasal chemosensory processing are intrinsically organized, not just extrinsically instantiated in response to task demands, and resemble networks for processing olfactory and trigeminal stimulation. As such, it may be possible to study the functional organization and dynamics of the olfactory network in resting-state fMRI as well as its implications for aging and disease.

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