Segregation of Brain Structural Networks Supports Spatio-Temporal Predictive Processing

Valentina Ciullo, Daniela Vecchio, Tommaso Gili, Gianfranco Spalletta, Federica Piras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability to generate probabilistic expectancies regarding when and where sensory stimuli will occur, is critical to derive timely and accurate inferences about updating contexts. However, the existence of specialized neural networks for inferring predictive relationships between events is still debated. Using graph theoretical analysis applied to structural connectivity data, we tested the extent of brain connectivity properties associated with spatio-temporal predictive performance across 29 healthy subjects. Participants detected visual targets appearing at one out of three locations after one out of three intervals; expectations about stimulus location (spatial condition) or onset (temporal condition) were induced by valid or invalid symbolic cues. Connectivity matrices and centrality/segregation measures, expressing the relative importance of, and the local interactions among specific cerebral areas respect to the behavior under investigation, were calculated from whole-brain tractography and cortico-subcortical parcellation. Results: Response preparedness to cued stimuli relied on different structural connectivity networks for the temporal and spatial domains. Significant covariance was observed between centrality measures of regions within a subcortical-fronto-parietal-occipital network -comprising the left putamen, the right caudate nucleus, the left frontal operculum, the right inferior parietal cortex, the right paracentral lobule and the right superior occipital cortex-, and the ability to respond after a short cue-target delay suggesting that the local connectedness of such nodes plays a central role when the source of temporal expectation is explicit. When the potential for functional segregation was tested, we found highly clustered structural connectivity across the right superior, the left middle inferior frontal gyrus and the left caudate nucleus as related to explicit temporal orienting. Conversely, when the interaction between explicit and implicit temporal orienting processes was considered at the long interval, we found that explicit processes were related to centrality measures of the bilateral inferior parietal lobule. Degree centrality of the same region in the left hemisphere covaried with behavioral measures indexing the process of attentional re-orienting. These results represent a crucial step forward the ordinary predictive processing description, as we identified the patterns of connectivity characterizing the brain organization associated with the ability to generate and update temporal expectancies in case of contextual violations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - May 24 2018


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