Probing resting-state functional connectivity in the infant brain: methods and potentiality
Mongerson, Chandler Rebecca Lee
MetadataShow full item record
Early brain development is characterized by rapid growth and perpetual reconfiguration, driven by a dynamic milieu of heterogeneous processes. Moreover, potent postnatal brain plasticity engenders increased vulnerability to environmental stimuli. However, little is known regarding the ontogeny and temporal manifestations of inter- and intra-regional functional connectivity that comprise functional brain networks. Recently, resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) emerged as a promising non-invasive neuroinvestigative tool, measuring spontaneous fluctuations in blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal at rest that reflect baseline neuronal activity. Its application has expanded to infant populations in the past decade, providing unprecedented insight into functional organization of the developing brain, as well as early biomarkers of abnormal/ disease states. However, rapid extension of the resting-state technique to infant populations leaves many methodological issues need to be resolved prior to standardization of the technique. The purpose of this thesis is to describe a protocol for intrinsic functional connectivity analysis, and extraction of resting-state networks in infants <12 months of age using the data-driven approach independent component analysis (ICA). To begin, we review the evolution of resting-state fMRI application in infant populations, including the biological premise for neural networks. Next, we present a protocol designed such that investigators without previous knowledge in the field can implement the analysis and reliably obtain viable results consistent with previous literature. Presented protocol provides detailed, albeit basic framework for RSN analysis, with interwoven discussion of basic theory behind each technique, as well as the rationale behind selecting parameters. The overarching goal is to catalyze efforts towards development of robust, infant-specific acquisition and preprocessing pipelines, as well as promote greater transparency by researchers regarding methods used. Finally, we review the literature, current methodological challenges and potential future directions for the field of infant resting-state fMRI.