Reliability of resting-state functional connectivity in the human spinal cord: assessing the impact of distinct noise sources

Kaptan, Merve, Horn, Ulrike, Vannesjo, S. Johanna, Mildner, Toralf, Weiskopf, Nikolaus, Finsterbusch, Jürgen, Brooks, Jonathan C. W. ORCID: and Eippert, Falk (2023) Reliability of resting-state functional connectivity in the human spinal cord: assessing the impact of distinct noise sources. NeuroImage, 275. ISSN 1053-8119

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The investigation of spontaneous fluctuations of the blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signal has recently been extended from the brain to the spinal cord, where it has stimulated interest from a clinical perspective. A number of resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have demonstrated robust functional connectivity between the time series of BOLD fluctuations in bilateral dorsal horns and between those in bilateral ventral horns, in line with the functional neuroanatomy of the spinal cord. A necessary step prior to extension to clinical studies is assessing the reliability of such resting-state signals, which we aimed to do here in a group of 45 healthy young adults at the clinically prevalent field strength of 3T. When investigating connectivity in the entire cervical spinal cord, we observed fair to good reliability for dorsal-dorsal and ventral-ventral connectivity, whereas reliability was poor for within- and between-hemicord dorsal-ventral connectivity. Considering how prone spinal cord fMRI is to noise, we extensively investigated the impact of distinct noise sources and made two crucial observations: removal of physiological noise led to a reduction in functional connectivity strength and reliability – due to the removal of stable and participant-specific noise patterns – whereas removal of thermal noise considerably increased the detectability of functional connectivity without a clear influence on reliability. Finally, we also assessed connectivity within spinal cord segments and observed that while the pattern of connectivity was similar to that of whole cervical cord, reliability at the level of single segments was consistently poor. Taken together, our results demonstrate the presence of reliable resting-state functional connectivity in the human spinal cord even after thoroughly accounting for physiological and thermal noise, but at the same time urge caution if focal changes in connectivity (e.g. due to segmental lesions) are to be studied, especially in a longitudinal manner.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Data availability: Links to data and code are provided in the manuscript. Funding information: JB received funding from the UK Medical Research Council (MR/N026969/1). FE received funding from the Max Planck Society and the European Research Council (under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme; grant agreement No 758974). NW received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013, ERC grant agreement No 616905), the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (under the grant agreement No 681094) and the BMBF (01EW1711A & B) in the framework of ERA-NET NEURON.
Uncontrolled Keywords: sdg 3 - good health and well-being ,/dk/atira/pure/sustainabledevelopmentgoals/good_health_and_well_being
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 09 May 2023 14:30
Last Modified: 31 May 2023 11:30
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2023.120152

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