Unraveling the spatiotemporal brain dynamics during a simulated reach-to-eat task.


Institute for Neural Computation, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, 92093, USA. Electronic address: [Email]


The reach-to-eat task involves a sequence of action components including looking, reaching, grasping, and feeding. While cortical representations of individual action components have been mapped in human functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, little is known about the continuous spatiotemporal dynamics among these representations during the reach-to-eat task. In a periodic event-related fMRI experiment, subjects were scanned while they reached toward a food image, grasped the virtual food, and brought it to their mouth within each 16-s cycle. Fourier-based analysis of fMRI time series revealed periodic signals and noise distributed across the brain. Independent component analysis was used to remove periodic or aperiodic motion artifacts. Time-frequency analysis was used to analyze the temporal characteristics of periodic signals in each voxel. Circular statistics was then used to estimate mean phase angles of periodic signals and select voxels based on the distribution of phase angles. By sorting mean phase angles across regions, we were able to show the real-time spatiotemporal brain dynamics as continuous traveling waves over the cortical surface. The activation sequence consisted of approximately the following stages: (1) stimulus related activations in occipital and temporal cortices; (2) movement planning related activations in dorsal premotor and superior parietal cortices; (3) reaching related activations in primary sensorimotor cortex and supplementary motor area; (4) grasping related activations in postcentral gyrus and sulcus; (5) feeding related activations in orofacial areas. These results suggest that phase-encoded design and analysis can be used to unravel sequential activations among brain regions during a simulated reach-to-eat task.


Circular statistics,Independent component analysis,Phase-encoded design,Time-frequency analysis,Time-resolved fMRI,Traveling wave method,