Functional Connectivity Across Dorsal And Ventral Attention Networks In Response To Task Difficulty And Experimental Pain


The dorsal and ventral attention networks (DAN & VAN) provide a framework for studying attentional modulation of pain. It has been argued that cognitive demand distracts attention from painful stimuli via top-down reinforcement of task goals (DAN), whereas pain exerts an interruptive effect on cognitive performance via bottom-up pathways (VAN). The current study explores this explanatory framework by manipulating pain and task demand in combination with functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) and Granger Causal Connectivity Analyses (GCCA). Twenty-one participants played a racing game at low and high difficulty levels with or without experimental pain (administered via a cold pressor test). Six channels of fNIRS were collected from bilateral frontal eye fields and intraparietal sulci (DAN), with right-lateralised channels at the inferior frontal gyrus and temporoparietal junction (VAN). Our first analysis revealed increased G-causality from bottom-up pathways (VAN) during the cold pressor test. However, an equivalent experience of experimental pain during gameplay increased G-causality in top-down (DAN) pathways, with the left intraparietal sulcus serving a hub of connectivity. High game difficulty increased G-causality via top-down pathways and implicated the right inferior frontal gyrus as an interhemispheric hub. Our results are discussed with reference to existing models of both networks and attentional modulation of pain.

Neuroscience Letters