Large-scale changes in network interactions as a physiological signature of spatial neglect.
The relationship between spontaneous brain activity and behaviour following focal injury is not well understood. Here, we report a large-scale study of resting state functional connectivity MRI and spatial neglect following stroke in a large (n=84) heterogeneous sample of first-ever stroke patients (within 1-2 weeks). Spatial neglect, which is typically more severe after right than left hemisphere injury, includes deficits of spatial attention and motor actions contralateral to the lesion, and low general attention due to impaired vigilance/arousal. Patients underwent structural and resting state functional MRI scans, and spatial neglect was measured using the Posner spatial cueing task, and Mesulam and Behavioural Inattention Test cancellation tests. A principal component analysis of the behavioural tests revealed a main factor accounting for 34% of variance that captured three correlated behavioural deficits: visual neglect of the contralesional visual field, visuomotor neglect of the contralesional field, and low overall performance. In an independent sample (21 healthy subjects), we defined 10 resting state networks consisting of 169 brain regions: visual-fovea and visual-periphery, sensory-motor, auditory, dorsal attention, ventral attention, language, fronto-parietal control, cingulo-opercular control, and default mode. We correlated the neglect factor score with the strength of resting state functional connectivity within and across the 10 resting state networks. All damaged brain voxels were removed from the functional connectivity:behaviour correlational analysis. We found that the correlated behavioural deficits summarized by the factor score were associated with correlated multi-network patterns of abnormal functional connectivity involving large swaths of cortex. Specifically, dorsal attention and sensory-motor networks showed: (i) reduced interhemispheric functional connectivity; (ii) reduced anti-correlation with fronto-parietal and default mode networks in the right hemisphere; and (iii) increased intrahemispheric connectivity with the basal ganglia. These patterns of functional connectivity:behaviour correlations were stronger in patients with right- as compared to left-hemisphere damage and were independent of lesion volume. Our findings identify large-scale changes in resting state network interactions that are a physiological signature of spatial neglect and may relate to its right hemisphere lateralization.