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A study has researched brain function induced when watching films

A study has researched brain function induced when watching films

A study published in NeuroImage, directed by Gustavo Deco, ICREA researcher at the Department of Information and Communication Technologies and director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, involving Murat Demirtaş, Adrián Ponce Álvarez and Matthieu Gilson, members of his team with researchers from centres in Germany, Australia, Belgium, the USA, Italy, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

07.11.2018

A fundamental question in systems neuroscience, the branch of neuroscience that studies how nerve cells or groups of cells behave when they connect to form networks that perform a common function, such as the viewing a film, is to find out how brain activity organizes itself in specific brain states.

A study published in the advanced online edition of the journal NeuroImage, directed by Gustavo Deco, ICREA researcher with the Department of Information and Communication Technologies (DTIC) and director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, shows that a particular pattern of cortical regions, or component,  changes its coupling during the viewing of films compared to the resting-state.

This research has involved members of his team: Murat DemirtaşAdrián Ponce Álvarez and Matthieu Gilson together with international researchers from centres in Germany, Australia, Belgium, the USA, Italy, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

The study represents a breakthrough in the understanding of the transitions that lead the brain from one state to another state, and the relationship between local changes and global effects in the brain network

Recent studies using neuroimaging techniques have demonstrated the similarity between the activity of the brain at rest (that is, in the absence of sensory stimuli and the production movements) and the activity of the brain during cognitive tasks. “In other words, it would seem that the activity of rest contains the activity of all the tasks. Proof of this is the relative invariance of the matrix of correlations between cortical regions, known as functional connectivity (FC), during rest and the tasks”, explains Adrián Ponce, co-author of the study.

Despite all this evidence, “this is not quite accurate because, for example, when studying continuous tasks, such as the viewing of films, we have seen changes in the coupling between cortical regions in comparison with the resting-state”, adds Ponce. This suggests that functional connectivity induced by tasks, as is the task of watching a film, may be reflecting the systematic large-scale reorganization of sets of neurons that are integrated functionally.

Thus, the study published in NueroImage identifies a pattern of cortical regions in particular, or component, that changes its coupling during the viewing of films, compared to rest. This pattern indicates changes in sensory, visual and auditory areas of the brain (occipital and temporal) but also in association areas (frontal and frontal-parietal). The latter are regions that integrate external sensory stimuli with internal brain processes.

In conclusion: “The pattern of cortical regions that changes during the viewing of the film not only corresponds to regions directly affected by audiovisual stimuli, but also to regions involved in processes of association and interpretation”

A large-scale computational model explains the reorganization of functional connectivity

To understand the origin of these experimental observations, the authors used a whole-brain computational. These large-scale models have been developed and perfected by Gustavo Deco’s research team during the last few years. The model shows that the local changes in the local dynamic properties in association regions may explain the specific changes of the status of functional connectivity on a global level.

These large-scale models have been developed and perfected by Gustavo Deco’s research team during the last few years

“To explain the reorganization of global functional connectivity through alterations in local dynamics, we used a large-scale computational model. We have noted that the specific reorganization of functional connectivity could be explained by changes in local dynamics in higher-order association regions, mainly located in frontal and parietal cortices”, the authors claim.

The study represents a breakthrough in the understanding of the transitions that lead the brain from one state to another state, and the relationship between local changes and global effects in the brain network.

Reference article:

Demirtaş M, Ponce-Alvarez A, Gilson M, Hagmann P, Mantini D, Betti V, Romani GL, Friston K, Corbetta M, Deco G (2019) “Distinct modes of functional connectivity induced by movie-watching”, Neuroimage 184, 335-348, doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.09.042.

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