Working memory load-dependent changes in cortical network connectivity estimated by machine learning

Neuroimage. 2020 Aug 15;217:116895. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116895. Epub 2020 May 1.


Working memory engages multiple distributed brain networks to support goal-directed behavior and higher order cognition. Dysfunction in working memory has been associated with cognitive impairment in neuropsychiatric disorders. It is important to characterize the interactions among cortical networks that are sensitive to working memory load since such interactions can also hint at the impaired dynamics in patients with poor working memory performance. Functional connectivity is a powerful tool used to investigate coordinated activity among local and distant brain regions. Here, we identified connectivity footprints that differentiate task states representing distinct working memory load levels. We employed linear support vector machines to decode working memory load from task-based functional connectivity matrices in 177 healthy adults. Using neighborhood component analysis, we also identified the most important connectivity pairs in classifying high and low working memory loads. We found that between-network coupling among frontoparietal, ventral attention and default mode networks, and within-network connectivity in ventral attention network are the most important factors in classifying low vs. high working memory load. Task-based within-network connectivity profiles at high working memory load in ventral attention and default mode networks were the most predictive of load-related increases in response times. Our findings reveal the large-scale impact of working memory load on the cerebral cortex and highlight the complex dynamics of intrinsic brain networks during active task states.

Keywords: Functional connectivity; Machine learning; Task load; Ventral attention network; Working memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Machine Learning*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Support Vector Machine
  • Young Adult