Sliding-window analysis tracks fluctuations in amygdala functional connectivity associated with physiological arousal and vigilance during fear conditioning
We evaluated whether sliding-window analysis can reveal functionally relevant brain network dynamics during a well-established fear conditioning paradigm. To this end, we tested if fMRI fluctuations in amygdala functional connectivity (FC) can be related to task-induced changes in physiological arousal and vigilance, as reflected in the skin conductance level (SCL). Thirty-two healthy individuals participated in the study. For the sliding-window analysis we used windows that were shifted by one volume at a time. Amygdala FC was calculated for each of these windows. Simultaneously acquired SCL time series were averaged over time frames that corresponded to the sliding-window FC analysis, which were subsequently regressed against the whole-brain seed-based amygdala sliding-window FC using the GLM. Surrogate time series were generated to test whether connectivity dynamics could have occurred by chance. In addition, results were contrasted against static amygdala FC and sliding-window FC of the primary visual cortex, which was chosen as a control seed, while a physio-physiological interaction (PPI) was performed as cross-validation. During periods of increased SCL, the left amygdala became more strongly coupled with the bilateral insula and anterior cingulate cortex, core areas of the salience network. The sliding-window analysis yielded a connectivity pattern that was unlikely to have occurred by chance, was spatially distinct from static amygdala FC and from sliding-window FC of the primary visual cortex, but was highly comparable to that of the PPI analysis. We conclude that sliding-window analysis can reveal functionally relevant fluctuations in connectivity in the context of an externally cued task.