Correlations between inherent, task-free low-frequency fluctuations in the blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) signals of the brain provide a potent tool to delineate its functional architecture in terms of intrinsic functional connectivity (iFC). Still, it remains unclear how iFC is modulated during learning. We employed whole-brain resting-state magnetic resonance imaging prior to and after training-independent repetitive sensory stimulation (rSS), which is known to induce somatosensory cortical reorganization. We investigated which areas in the sensorimotor network are susceptible to neural plasticity (i.e., where changes in functional connectivity occurred) and where iFC might be indicative of enhanced tactile performance. We hypothesized iFC to increase in those brain regions primarily receiving the afferent tactile input. Strengthened intrinsic connectivity within the sensorimotor network after rSS was found not only in the postcentral gyrus contralateral to the stimulated hand, but also in associative brain regions, where iFC correlated positively with tactile performance or learning. We also observed that rSS led to attenuation of the network at higher cortical levels, which possibly promotes facilitation of tactile discrimination. We found that resting-state BOLD fluctuations are linked to behavioral performance and sensory learning, indicating that network fluctuations at rest are predictive of behavioral changes and neuroplasticity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology