Laterality effects in functional connectivity of the angular gyrus during rest and episodic retrieval

Buddhika Bellana, Zhongxu Liu, John A E Anderson, Morris Moscovitch, Cheryl L Grady
Neuropsychologia 2016 January 8, 80: 24-34

INTRODUCTION: The angular gyrus (AG) is consistently reported in neuroimaging studies of episodic memory retrieval and is a fundamental node within the default mode network (DMN). Its specific contribution to episodic memory is debated, with some suggesting it is important for the subjective experience of episodic recollection, rather than retrieval of objective episodic details. Across studies of episodic retrieval, the left AG is recruited more reliably than the right. We explored functional connectivity of the right and left AG with the DMN during rest and retrieval to assess whether connectivity could provide insight into the nature of this laterality effect.

METHODS: Using data from the publically available 1000 Functional Connectome Project, 8min of resting fMRI data from 180 healthy young adults were analysed. Whole-brain functional connectivity at rest was measured using a seed-based Partial Least Squares (seed-PLS) approach (McIntosh and Lobaugh, 2004) with bilateral AG seeds. A subsequent analysis used 6-min of rest and 6-min of unconstrained, silent retrieval of autobiographical events from a new sample of 20 younger adults. Analysis of this dataset took a more targeted approach to functional connectivity analysis, consisting of univariate pairwise correlations restricted to nodes of the DMN.

RESULTS: The seed-PLS analysis resulted in two Latent Variables that together explained ~86% of the shared cross-block covariance. The first LV revealed a common network consistent with the DMN and engaging the AG bilaterally, whereas the second LV revealed a less robust, yet significant, laterality effect in connectivity - the left AG was more strongly connected to the DMN. Univariate analyses of the second sample again revealed better connectivity between the left AG and the DMN at rest. However, during retrieval the left AG was more strongly connected than the right to non-medial temporal (MTL) nodes of the DMN, and MTL nodes were more strongly connected to the right AG.

DISCUSSION: The multivariate analysis of resting connectivity revealed that the left and right AG show similar connectivity with the DMN. Only after accounting for this commonality were we able to detect a left laterality effect in DMN connectivity. Further probing with univariate connectivity analyses during retrieval demonstrates that the left preference we observe is restricted to the non-MTL regions of the DMN, whereas the right AG shows significantly better connectivity with the MTL. These data suggest bilateral involvement of the AG during retrieval, despite the focus on the left AG in the literature. Furthermore, the results suggest that the contribution of the left AG to retrieval may be separable from that of the MTL, consistent with a role for the left AG in the subjective aspects of recollection in memory, whereas the MTL and the right AG may contribute to objective recollection of specific memory details.


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