Abnormalities of resting state functional connectivity are related to sustained attention deficits in MS

Marisa Loitfelder, Massimo Filippi, Mara Rocca, Paola Valsasina, Stefan Ropele, Margit Jehna, Siegrid Fuchs, Reinhold Schmidt, Christa Neuper, Franz Fazekas, Christian Enzinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Resting state (RS) functional MRI recently identified default network abnormalities related to cognitive impairment in MS. fMRI can also be used to map functional connectivity (FC) while the brain is at rest and not adhered to a specific task. Given the importance of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) for higher executive functioning in MS, we here used the ACC as seed-point to test for differences and similarities in RS-FC related to sustained attention between MS patients and controls. Design: Block-design rest phases of 3 Tesla fMRI data were analyzed to assess RS-FC in 31 patients (10 clinically isolated syndromes, 16 relapsing-remitting, 5 secondary progressive MS) and 31 age- and gender matched healthy controls (HC). Participants underwent extensive cognitive testing. Observations: In both groups, signal changes in several brain areas demonstrated significant correlation with RS-activity in the ACC. These comprised the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), insular cortices, the right caudate, right middle temporal gyrus, angular gyri, the right hippocampus, and the cerebellum. Compared to HC, patients showed increased FC between the ACC and the left angular gyrus, left PCC, and right postcentral gyrus. Better cognitive performance in the patients was associated with increased FC to the cerebellum, middle temporal gyrus, occipital pole, and the angular gyrus. Conclusion: We provide evidence for adaptive changes in RS-FC in MS patients compared to HC in a sustained attention network. These results extend and partly mirror findings of task-related fMRI, suggesting FC may increase our understanding of cognitive dysfunction in MS.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere42862
JournalPLoS One
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 17 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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