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Cereb Cortex. 2019 Dec 17;29(11):4628-4645. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhy340.

Spontaneous Brain Activity Predicts Task-Evoked Activity During Animate Versus Inanimate Touch.

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Department of Psychological, Health and Territorial Sciences (DiSPuTer), G. d'Annunzio University of Chieti-Pescara, Via dei Vestini 33, Chieti (CH), Italy.
Department of Neuroscience, Imaging and Clinical Sciences, G. d'Annunzio University of Chieti-Pescara, Via dei Vestini 33, Chieti (CH), Italy.
Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies (ITAB), G. d'Annunzio Foundation, Via dei Vestini 33, Chieti (CH), Italy.
Department of Anesthesiology, University of Michigan Medical School CPFRC@Domino Farms, Lby M Ste 3100, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
The Royal's Institute of Mental Health Research & University of Ottawa Brain and Mind Research Institute, Centre for Neural Dynamics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, 145 Carling Avenue, Rm. 6435, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Mental Health Centre, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Tianmu Road 305, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China.
Centre for Cognition and Brain Disorders, Hangzhou Normal University, Tianmu Road 305, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China.
TMU Research Centre for Brain and Consciousness, Shuang Hospital, Taipei Medical University, No. 250 Wu-Xing Street, Taipei, Taiwan.
Graduate Institute of Humanities in Medicine, Taipei Medical University, No. 250 Wu-Xing Street, Taipei, Taiwan.


The spontaneous activity of the brain is characterized by an elaborate temporal structure with scale-free properties as indexed by the power law exponent (PLE). We test the hypothesis that spontaneous brain activity modulates task-evoked activity during interactions with animate versus inanimate stimuli. For this purpose, we developed a paradigm requiring participants to actively touch either animate (real hand) or inanimate (mannequin hand) stimuli. Behaviorally, participants perceived the animate target as closer in space, temporally more synchronous with their own self, and more personally relevant, compared with the inanimate. Neuronally, we observed a modulation of task-evoked activity by animate versus inanimate interactions in posterior insula, in medial prefrontal cortex, comprising anterior cingulate cortex, and in medial superior frontal gyrus. Among these regions, an increased functional connectivity was shown between posterior insula and perigenual anterior cingulate cortex (PACC) during animate compared with inanimate interactions and during resting state. Importantly, PLE during spontaneous brain activity in PACC correlated positively with PACC task-evoked activity during animate versus inanimate stimuli. In conclusion, we demonstrate that brain spontaneous activity in PACC can be related to the distinction between animate and inanimate stimuli and thus might be specifically tuned to align our brain with its animate environment.


animate stimuli; perigenual anterior cingulate cortex; scale-free brain dynamics; spontaneous brain activity; task evoked activity


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