Brain connectivity during resting state and subsequent working memory task predicts behavioural performance

Cortex. 2012 Oct;48(9):1187-96. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2011.07.006. Epub 2011 Aug 5.


Brain regions simultaneously activated during any cognitive process are functionally connected, forming large-scale networks. These functional networks can be examined during active conditions [i.e., task-functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)] and also in passive states (resting-fMRI), where the default mode network (DMN) is the most widely investigated system. The role of the DMN remains unclear, although it is known to be responsible for the shift between resting and focused attention processing. There is also some evidence for its malleability in relation to previous experience. Here we investigated brain connectivity patterns in 16 healthy young subjects by using an n-back task with increasing levels of memory load within the fMRI context. Prior to this working memory (WM) task, participants were trained outside fMRI with a shortened test version. Immediately after, they underwent a resting-state fMRI acquisition followed by the full fMRI n-back test. We observed that the degree of intrinsic correlation within DMN and WM networks was maximal during the most demanding n-back condition (3-back). Furthermore, individuals showing a stronger negative correlation between the two networks under both conditions exhibited better behavioural performance. Interestingly, and despite the fact that we considered eight different resting-state fMRI networks previously identified in humans, only the connectivity within the posteromedial parts of the DMN (precuneus) prior to the fMRI n-back task predicted WM execution. Our results using a data-driven probabilistic approach for fMRI analysis provide the first evidence of a direct relationship between behavioural performance and the degree of negative correlation between the DMN and WM networks. They further suggest that in the context of expectancy for an imminent cognitive challenge, higher resting-state activity in the posteromedial parietal cortex may be related to increased attentional preparatory resources.

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology
  • Behavior*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Rest / physiology
  • Young Adult