Prevalent and sex-biased breathing patterns modify functional connectivity MRI in young adults

Nat Commun. 2020 Oct 20;11(1):5290. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-18974-9.


Resting state functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a tool for investigating human brain organization. Here we identify, visually and algorithmically, two prevalent influences on fMRI signals during 440 h of resting state scans in 440 healthy young adults, both caused by deviations from normal breathing which we term deep breaths and bursts. The two respiratory patterns have distinct influences on fMRI signals and signal covariance, distinct timescales, distinct cardiovascular correlates, and distinct tendencies to manifest by sex. Deep breaths are not sex-biased. Bursts, which are serial taperings of respiratory depth typically spanning minutes at a time, are more common in males. Bursts share features of chemoreflex-driven clinical breathing patterns that also occur primarily in males, with notable neurological, psychiatric, medical, and lifespan associations. These results identify common breathing patterns in healthy young adults with distinct influences on functional connectivity and an ability to differentially influence resting state fMRI studies.

Trial registration: NCT01031407.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Respiration*
  • Rest
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult

Associated data