Previous functional imaging research has consistently indicated involvement of bilateral fronto-parietal networks during the execution of visuospatial tasks. Studies with TMS have suggested that the right hemispheric network, but not the left, is functionally relevant for visuospatial judgments. However, very little is still known about the interactions within these fronto-parietal networks underlying visuospatial processing. In the current study, we investigated task modulation of functional connectivity (instantaneous correlations of regional time courses), and task-specific effective connectivity (direction of influences), within the right fronto-parietal network activated during visuospatial judgments. Ten healthy volunteers performed a behaviorally controlled visuospatial judgment task (ANGLE) or a control task (COLOR) in an fMRI experiment. Visuospatial task-specific activations were found in posterior parietal cortex (PPC) and middle/inferior frontal gyrus (MFG). Functional connectivity within this network was task-modulated, with significantly higher connectivity between PPC and MFG during ANGLE than during COLOR. Effective connectivity analysis for directed influence revealed that visuospatial task-specific projections within this network were predominantly in a frontal-to-parietal direction. Moreover, ANGLE-specific influences from thalamic nuclei to PPC were identified. Exploratory effective connectivity analysis revealed that closely neighboring clusters, within visuospatial regions, were differentially involved in the network. These neighboring clusters had opposite effective connectivity patterns to other nodes of the fronto-parietal network. Our data thus reveal that visuospatial judgments are supported by massive fronto-parietal backprojections, thalamo-parietal influence, and multiple stages, or loops, of information flow within the visuospatial network. We speculate on possible functional contributions of the various network nodes and informational loops in a neurocognitive model.
View graph of relations
- CORTICAL SURFACE, EVENT-RELATED FMRI, FUNCTIONAL MRI, HUMAN FRONTAL-CORTEX, MENTAL-IMAGERY, PARIETAL CORTEX, POSTERIOR PARIETAL, PREFRONTAL CORTEX, SPATIAL WORKING-MEMORY, TRANSCRANIAL MAGNETIC STIMULATION