The Time Varying Networks of the Interoceptive Attention and Rest

Author: Ana Y Martínez1, Athena Demertzi2, Clemens C C Bauer3, Zeus Gracia-Tabuenca1, Sarael Alcauter1, Fernando A Barrios4
1 Instituto de Neurobiología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Querétaro, México.
2 University of Liège, GIGA Research Institute, Sart Tilman, BELGIUM.
3 McGovern Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.
4 Instituto de Neurobiología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Querétaro, México
Conference/Journal: eNeuro
Date published: 2021 May 10
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0341-20.2021. , Word Count: 368

Focused attention to spontaneous sensations is a dynamic process that demands interoceptive abilities. Failure to control it has been linked to neuropsychiatric disorders like illness-anxiety disorder. Regulatory strategies, such as focused attention meditation, may enhance the ability to control focused attention particularly to body sensations, which can be reflected on functional neuroanatomy. The functional connectivity (FC) related to focused attention has been described, however, the dynamic brain organization associated to this process and the differences to the resting state remains to be studied. To quantify the cerebral dynamic counterpart of focused attention to interoception, we examined fifteen experienced meditators while performing a 20-minute attentional task to spontaneous sensations. Subjects underwent three scanning sessions obtaining a resting-state scan before and after the task. Sliding window dynamic functional connectivity and k-means clustering identified five recurrent FC patterns along the dorsal attention network (DAN), default mode network (DMN), and frontoparietal network (FPN). Subjects remained longer in a low connectivity brain pattern during the resting conditions. By contrast, subjects spent a higher proportion of time in complex patterns during the task than rest. Moreover, a carry-over effect in functional connectivity was observed following the interoceptive task performance, suggestive of an active role in the learning process linked to cognitive training. Our results suggest that focused attention to interoceptive processes, demands a dynamic brain organization with specific features that distinguishes it from the resting condition. This approach may provide new insights characterizing the neural basis of the focused attention, an essential component for human adaptability.Significance StatementThe dynamic brain connectivity related to focused attention to interoceptive processes remains to be explored. Here, we estimated the dynamic connectivity within the DAN, DMN and FPN to characterize the focused attention to interoception and its differences to resting state. Five recurrent FC patterns were found. At rest subjects remain longer in a low connectivity pattern. In contrast to rest, the task showed an increase in the time spent in complex connectivity patterns. In addition, a lasting effect in the dynamic FC that extended to the rest was observed following the task performance. Altogether, these results contribute to identify the dynamic brain organization supporting the focused attention.

Keywords: Attention; Dynamic; Functional connectivity; Interoception.

PMID: 33975858 DOI: 10.1523/ENEURO.0341-20.2021