Functional segregation and integration within fronto-parietal networks

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Abstract

Experimental data on monkeys and functional studies in humans support the existence of a complex fronto-parietal system activating for cognitive and motor tasks, which may be anatomically supported by the superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF). Advanced tractography methods have recently allowed the separation of the three branches of the SLF but are not suitable for their functional investigation. In order to gather comprehensive information about the functional organisation of these fronto-parietal connections, we used an innovative method, which combined tractography of the SLF in the largest dataset so far (129 participants) with 14 meta-analyses of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies. We found that frontal and parietal functions can be clustered into a dorsal spatial/motor network associated with the SLF I, and a ventral non-spatial/motor network associated with the SLF III. Further, all the investigated functions activated a middle network mostly associated with the SLF II. Our findings suggest that dorsal and ventral fronto-parietal networks are segregated but also share regions of activation, which may support flexible response properties or conscious processing. In sum, our novel combined approach provided novel findings on the functional organisation of fronto-parietal networks, and may be successfully applied to other brain connections.

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