The tongue performs movements in all directions to subserve its diverse functions in chewing, swallowing, and speech production. Using task-based functional MRI in a group of 17 healthy young participants, we studied (1) potential differences in the cerebral control of frontal (protrusion), horizontal (side to side), and vertical (elevation) tongue movements and (2) inter-individual differences in tongue motor control. To investigate differences between different tongue movements, we performed voxel-wise multiple linear regressions. To investigate inter-individual differences, we applied a novel approach, spatio-temporal filtering of independent components. For this approach, individual functional data were decomposed into spatially independent components and corresponding time courses using independent component analysis. A temporal filter (correlation with the expected brain response) was used to identify independent components time-locked to the tongue motor tasks. A spatial filter (cross-correlation with established neurofunctional systems) was used to identify brain activity not time-locked to the tasks. Our results confirm the importance of an extended bilateral cortical and subcortical network for the control of tongue movements. Frontal (protrusion) tongue movements, highly overlearned movements related to speech production, showed less activity in the frontal and parietal lobes compared to horizontal (side to side) and vertical (elevation) movements and greater activity in the left frontal and temporal lobes compared to vertical movements (cluster-forming threshold of Z > 3.1, cluster significance threshold of p < 0.01, corrected for multiple comparisons). The investigation of inter-individual differences revealed a component representing the tongue primary sensorimotor cortex time-locked to the task in all participants. Using the spatial filter, we found the default mode network in 16 of 17 participants, the left fronto-parietal network in 16, the right fronto-parietal network in 8, and the executive control network in four participants (Pearson's r > 0.4 between neurofunctional systems and individual components). These results demonstrate that spatio-temporal filtering of independent components allows to identify individual brain activity related to a specific task and also structured spatiotemporal processes representing known neurofunctional systems on an individual basis. This novel approach may be useful for the assessment of individual patients and results may be related to individual clinical, behavioral, and genetic information.
Keywords: cerebellum; cortex; functional magnetic resonance imaging; independent component analysis; motor control; speech production; swallowing; tongue.
Copyright © 2020 Sörös, Schäfer and Witt.