Large-scale brain networks account for sustained and transient activity during target detection.
Mantini D., Corbetta M., Perrucci MG., Romani GL., Del Gratta C.
Target detection paradigms have been widely applied in the study of human cognitive functions, particularly those associated with arousal, attention, stimulus processing and memory. In EEG recordings, the detection of task-relevant stimuli elicits the P300 component, a transient response with latency around 300 ms. The P300 response has been shown to be affected by the amount of mental effort and learning, as well as habituation. Furthermore, trial-by-trial variability of the P300 component has been associated with inter-stimulus interval, target-to-target interval or target probability; however, understanding the mechanisms underlying this variability is still an open question. In order to investigate whether it could be related to the distinct cortical networks in which coherent intrinsic activity is organized, and to understand the contribution of those networks to target detection processes, we carried out a simultaneous EEG-fMRI study, collecting data from 13 healthy subjects during a visual oddball task. We identified five large-scale networks, that largely overlap with the dorsal attention, the ventral attention, the core, the visual and the sensory-motor networks. Since the P300 component has been consistently associated with target detection, we concentrated on the first two brain networks, the time-course of which showed a modulation with the P300 response as detected in simultaneous EEG recordings. A trial-by-trial EEG-fMRI correlation approach revealed that they are involved in target detection with different functional roles: the ventral attention network, dedicated to revealing salient stimuli, was transiently activated by the occurrence of targets; the dorsal attention network, usually engaged during voluntary orienting, reflected sustained activity, possibly related to search for targets.