The spontaneous brain activity exhibits long-range spatial correlations detected using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) signals in newborns when (1) long neuronal pathways are still developing, and (2) the electrical brain activity consists of developmentally unique, intermittent events believed to guide activity-dependent brain wiring. We studied this spontaneous electrical brain activity using multichannel electroencephalography (EEG) of premature and fullterm babies during sleep to assess the development of spatial integration during last months of gestation. Correlations of frequency-specific amplitudes were found to follow a robust bimodality: During low amplitudes (low mode), brain activity exhibited very weak spatial correlations. In contrast, the developmentally essential high-amplitude events (high mode) showed strong spatial correlations. There were no clear spatial patterns in the early preterm, but clear frontal and parieto-occipital modules at term age. A significant fronto-occipital gradient was also seen in the development of the graph measure clustering coefficient. Strikingly, no bimodality was found in the fMRI recordings of the fullterm babies, suggesting that early EEG activity and fMRI signal reflect different mechanisms of spatial coordination. The results are compatible with the idea that early developing human brain exhibits intermittent long-range spatial connections that likely provide the endogenous guidance for early activity-dependent development of brain networks.
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