Semantic verbal fluency brain network: Delineating a physiological basis for the functional hubs using dual-echo ASL and graph theory approach

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Objective. Semantic verbal fluency (SFV) is a cognitive process that engages and modulates specific brain areas related to language comprehension and production, decision making, response inhibition, and memory retrieval. The impairment of the brain network responsible for these functions is related to various neurological conditions, and different strategies have been proposed to assess SVF-related deficits in such diseases. In the present study, the concomitant changes of brain perfusion and functional connectivity were investigated during the resting state and SVF task performance. Approach. Arterial spin labeling (ASL), a perfusion-based magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) method, was used with a pseudocontinuous labeling approach and dual-echo readout in 28 healthy right-handed Brazilian Portuguese speakers. The acquisition was performed in a resting state condition and during the performance of a SVF task. Main results. During task performance, a significant increase in cerebral blood flow (CBF) was observed in language-related regions of the frontal lobe, including Brodmann's areas 6, 9, 45, and 47, associated with semantic processing, word retrieval, and speech motor programming. Such regions, along with the posterior cingulate, showed a crucial role in the SVF functional network, assessed by seed-to-voxel and graph analysis. Our approach successfully overcame the generalization problem regarding functional MRI (fMRI) graph analysis with cognitive, task-based paradigms. Moreover, the CBF maps enabled the functional assessment of orbital frontal and temporal regions commonly affected by magnetic susceptibility artifacts in conventional T2∗-weighted fMRI approaches. Significance. Our results demonstrated the capability of ASL to evaluate perfusion alterations and functional patterns simultaneously regarding the SVF network providing a quantitative physiological basis to functional hubs in this network, which may support future clinical studies.




Paschoal, A. M., Da Silva, P. H. R., Rondinoni, C., Arrigo, I. V., Paiva, F. F., & Leoni, R. F. (2021). Semantic verbal fluency brain network: Delineating a physiological basis for the functional hubs using dual-echo ASL and graph theory approach. Journal of Neural Engineering, 18(4).

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