Dynamic sculpting of brain functional connectivity and mental rotation aptitude

Abstract: Changes in long-range synchronization are considered a key mechanism for the integration and segregation of cortical regions mediating cognitive processes. Such synchronization or functional connectivity is reflected in human electroencephalographic (EEG) coherence and in steady-state visually evoked potential (SSVEP) coherence. In this chapter, the relationship between cognitive proficiency in the mental rotation task (MRT) and functional connectivity reflected in SSVEP event-related partial coherence is described. The capacity to estimate changing levels of functional connectivity with a relatively high temporal resolution makes it possible to examine the relationship between functional connectivity at various points in time and aptitude. In the current study, the relationships between functional connectivity and two mental rotation aptitude measures, mental rotation speed and mental rotation accuracy, are described. We observed that functional connectivity was correlated with proficiency and that this correlation was both positive and negative for various regions and points in time. It is suggested that cognitive aptitude is related to the brain’s capacity to enhance functional connectivity or communication between cortical regions that are relevant to the cognitive demands while attenuating irrelevant communication. This capacity is termed functional connectivity sculpting, and it is proposed that functional connectivity sculpting may constitute an important functional component of the neural substrate of learning and aptitude.
Keywords: functional connectivity; synchronization; steady state visually evoked potential; partial coherence; mental rotation; aptitude


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