Spontaneous resting-state BOLD fluctuations reveal persistent domain-specific neural networks

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Resting-state functional connectivity MRI (rs-fcMRI) analyses have identified intrinsic neural networks supporting domain-general cognitive functions including language, attention, executive control and memory. The brain, however, also has a domain-specific organization, including regions that contribute to perceiving and knowing about others (the ‘social’ system) or manipulable objects designed to perform specific functions (the ‘tool’ system). These ‘social’ and ‘tool’ systems, however, might not constitute intrinsic neural networks per se, but rather only come online as needed to support retrieval of domain-specific information during social- or tool-related cognitive tasks. To address this issue, we functionally localized two regions in lateral temporal cortex activated when subjects perform social- and tool conceptual tasks. We then compared the strength of the correlations with these seed regions during rs-fcMRI. Here, we show that the ‘social’ and ‘tool’ neural networks are maintained even when subjects are not engaged in social- and tool-related information processing, and so constitute intrinsic domain-specific neural networks.

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