November 23, 2020

Greater TMS-evoked frontoparietal effective connectivity is correlated with better cognitive performance

Fronto-parietal activity has been related to fluid intelligence and flexible cognitive control. However, causal insights on this relation are lacking. We used real-time integration of MRI-guided TMS and EEG to characterize the spatial and temporal properties of signal propagation between these two regions and relate them to cognitive performance. 31 healthy adults (55 (6) years, 20 female) underwent TMS-EEG and a full cognitive assessment. Local and propagated current from 5 source space-reconstructed scouts ipsilateral to two stimulation sites (pre frontal cortex (PFC) and inferior parietal lobule (IPL)) was quantified in two-time windows (15-40ms and 40-80ms) and related to domain-general (global cognition) and domain-specific (memory, working memory, reasoning, flexibility, lexical access and visuo-spatial) cognitive functions. TMS-evoked activity from stimulation of the PFC and the IPL resulted in local and distributed activity across frontoparietal regions. TMS-evoked activity in local regions was not correlated with cognitive functions. In response to TMS of the PFC, propagated current to the distal superior parietal scout in the first 15-40ms was significantly associated with global cognition ({beta} = 2.63, SE = .898, p = .008, R2 = .31). Similarly, following TMS of the IPL, propagation to the middle prefrontal gyrus scout (15-40ms) was significantly associated with global cognition ({beta} = 2.67, SE = 1.289, p = .025, R2 = .27). In an exploratory step, domain-specific correlations were seen in the PFC condition. Locally evoked activity measured via source space reconstruction from TMS of two association hubs is not associated with cognitive functions. However, the propagation of the TMS pulse through frontoparietal connections is associated with overall cognitive ability. These associations are driven by a number of cognitive domains in the PFC stimulation condition.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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