Stimuli presented at short temporal delays before functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can have a robust impact on the organization of synchronous activity in resting state networks. This presents an opportunity to investigate how sensory, affective and cognitive stimuli alter functional connectivity in rodent models. Here, we assessed the effect of a familiar contextual stimulus presented 10 minutes prior to sedation for imaging on functional connectivity.
A subset of animals were co-presented with an unfamiliar social stimulus in the same environment to further investigate the effect of familiarity on network topology. Female and male rats were imaged at 11.1 Tesla and graph theory analysis was applied to matrices generated from seed-based functional connectivity data sets with 144 nodes and 10,296 edge weights. Our results show an unconventional network topology in response to the familiar (context) but not the unfamiliar (social) stimulus. The familiar stimulus strongly reduced network strength, global efficiency, and altered the location of the highest eigenvector centrality nodes from cortex to the hypothalamus. We did not observe changes in modular organization, nodal cartographic assignments, assortative mixing, rich club organization, and network resilience. The results suggest that experiential factors, perhaps involving associative or episodic memory, can exert a dramatic effect on functional network strength and efficiency when presented at a short temporal delay before imaging.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience