Relation of resting brain signal variability to cognitive and socioemotional measures in an adult lifespan sample

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2023 Sep 18;18(1):nsad044. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsad044.


Temporal variability of the fMRI-derived blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signal during cognitive tasks shows important associations with individual differences in age and performance. Less is known about relations between spontaneous BOLD variability measured at rest and relatively stable cognitive measures, such as IQ or socioemotional function. Here, we examined associations among resting BOLD variability, cognitive/socioemotional scores from the NIH Toolbox and optimal time of day for alertness (chronotype) in a sample of 157 adults from 20 to 86 years of age. To investigate individual differences in these associations independently of age, we regressed age out from both behavioral and BOLD variability scores. We hypothesized that greater BOLD variability would be related to higher fluid cognition scores, more positive scores on socioemotional scales and a morningness chronotype. Consistent with this idea, we found positive correlations between resting BOLD variability, positive socioemotional scores (e.g. self-efficacy) and morning chronotype, as well as negative correlations between variability and negative emotional scores (e.g. loneliness). Unexpectedly, we found negative correlations between BOLD variability and fluid cognition. These results suggest that greater resting brain signal variability facilitates optimal socioemotional function and characterizes those with morning-type circadian rhythms, but individuals with greater fluid cognition may be more likely to show less temporal variability in spontaneous measures of BOLD activity.

Keywords: cognition; emotion; fMRI; social; variability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain* / diagnostic imaging
  • Chronotype
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Longevity*

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