Synchrony of brain activity over time describes the functional connectivity between brain regions but does not address the temporal component of this relationship. We propose a complementary method of analysis by introducing the width of cross-correlation curves between functional MRI (fMRI) time series as a metric of the relative duration of synchronous activity between brain regions, or "sustained connectivity". Using resting-state fMRI, cognitive, and demographics data from 1,003 subjects included in the Human Connectome Project, we find that sustained connectivity is a reproducible trait in individuals, heritable, more transient in females, and shows changes with age in early adulthood. Sustained connectivity in sensory brain regions is specifically associated with differences in processing speed across subjects, particularly in men. In contrast, traditional functional connectivity was correlated with a measure of episodic memory, but not with processing speed. Individual differences in hemodynamic response function (HRF) are closely approximated by sustained connectivity and width of the HRF is also correlated with processing speed across individuals, suggesting that variability in hemodynamic response may be influenced by transient versus sustained neural activity rather than simply differences in vascularity and signal transduction. Sustained connectivity may provide new opportunities to study brain dynamics in clinical populations.
Keywords: fMRI; human connectome project; processing speed; resting-state; sustained connectivity.
© 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.