A whole-brain voxel based measure of intrinsic connectivity contrast reveals local changes in tissue connectivity with anesthetic without a priori assumptions on thresholds or regions of interest
The analysis of spontaneous fluctuations of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) signals has recently gained attention as a powerful tool for investigating brain circuits in a non-invasive manner. Correlation-based connectivity analysis investigates the correlations of spontaneous fluctuations of the fMRI signal either between a single seed region of interest (ROI) and the rest of the brain or between multiple ROIs. To do this, a priori knowledge is required for defining the ROI(s) and without such knowledge functional connectivity fMRI cannot be used as an exploratory tool for investigating the functional organization of the brain and its modulation under different conditions. In this work we examine two indices that provide voxel based maps reflecting the intrinsic connectivity contrast (ICC) of individual tissue elements without the need for defining ROIs and hence require no a priori information or assumptions. These voxel based ICC measures can also be used to delineate regions of interest for further functional or network analyses. The indices were applied to the study of sevoflurane anesthesia-induced alterations in intrinsic connectivity. In concordance with previous studies, the results show that sevoflurane affects different brain circuits in a heterogeneous manner. In addition ICC analyses revealed changes in regions not previously identified using conventional ROI connectivity analyses, probably because of an inappropriate choice of the ROI in the earlier studies. This work highlights the importance of such voxel based connectivity methodology.