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Information flow

Topographically specific functional connectivity between visual field maps in the human brain.
Heinzle J, Kahnt T, Haynes JD.
Published in Neuroimage. 2011 Jun 1;56(3):1426-36.

Neural activity in mammalian brains exhibits large spontaneous fluctuations whose structure reveals the intrinsic functional connectivity of the brain on many spatial and temporal scales. Between remote brain regions, spontaneous activity is organized into large-scale functional networks. To date, it has remained unclear whether the intrinsic functional connectivity between brain regions scales down to the fine detail of anatomical connections, for example the fine-grained topographic connectivity structure in visual cortex. Here, we show that fMRI signal fluctuations reveal a detailed retinotopically organized functional connectivity structure between the visual field maps of remote areas of the human visual cortex. The structured coherent fluctuations were even preserved in complete darkness when all visual input was removed. While the topographic connectivity structure was clearly visible in within hemisphere connections, the between hemisphere connectivity structure differs for representations along the vertical and horizontal meridian respectively. These results suggest a tight link between spontaneous neural activity and the fine-grained topographic connectivity pattern of the human brain. Thus, intrinsic functional connectivity reflects the detailed connectivity structure of the cortex at a fine spatial scale. It might thus be a valuable tool to complement anatomical studies of the human connectome, which is one of the keys to understand the functioning of the human brain.

Multivariate information-theoretic measures reveal directed information structure and task relevant changes in fMRI connectivity.
Lizier JT, Heinzle J, Horstmann A, Haynes JD, Prokopenko M.
Published in J Comput Neurosci. 2011 Feb;30(1):85-107.

The human brain undertakes highly sophisticated information processing facilitated by the interaction between its sub-regions. We present a novel method for interregional connectivity analysis, using multivariate extensions to the mutual information and transfer entropy. The method allows us to identify the underlying directed information structure between brain regions, and how that structure changes according to behavioral conditions. This method is distinguished in using asymmetric, multivariate, information-theoretical analysis, which captures not only directional and non-linear relationships, but also collective interactions. Importantly, the method is able to estimate multivariate information measures with only relatively little data. We demonstrate the method to analyze functional magnetic resonance imaging time series to establish the directed information structure between brain regions involved in a visuo-motor tracking task. Importantly, this results in a tiered structure, with known movement planning regions driving visual and motor control regions. Also, we examine the changes in this structure as the difficulty of the tracking task is increased. We find that task difficulty modulates the coupling strength between regions of a cortical network involved in movement planning and between motor cortex and the cerebellum which is involved in the fine-tuning of motor control. It is likely these methods will find utility in identifying interregional structure (and experimentally induced changes in this structure) in other cognitive tasks and data modalities.

Flow of affective information between communicating brains.
Anders S, Heinzle J, Weiskopf N, Ethofer T, Haynes JD.
Published in Neuroimage. 2011 Jan 1;54(1):439-46. Epub 2010 Jul 17.

When people interact, affective information is transmitted between their brains. Modern imaging techniques permit to investigate the dynamics of this brain-to-brain transfer of information. Here, we used information-based functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the flow of affective information between the brains of senders and perceivers engaged in ongoing facial communication of affect. We found that the level of neural activity within a distributed network of the perceiver's brain can be successfully predicted from the neural activity in the same network in the sender's brain, depending on the affect that is currently being communicated. Furthermore, there was a temporal succession in the flow of affective information from the sender's brain to the perceiver's brain, with information in the perceiver's brain being significantly delayed relative to information in the sender's brain. This delay decreased over time, possibly reflecting some 'tuning in' of the perceiver with the sender. Our data support current theories of intersubjectivity by providing direct evidence that during ongoing facial communication a 'shared space' of affect is successively built up between senders and perceivers of affective facial signals.