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Neuroimage. 2020 Mar 14:116721. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116721. [Epub ahead of print]

Neural correlates of non-specific skin conductance responses during resting state fMRI.

Author information

1
Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center, Hartford, CT, USA.
2
Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center, Hartford, CT, USA; Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA.
3
Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA.
4
Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center, Hartford, CT, USA; Department of Psychiatry, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA.
5
Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center, Hartford, CT, USA; Department of Psychiatry, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA. Electronic address: michael.stevens@hhchealth.org.

Abstract

Skin conductance responses (SCRs) reliably occur in the absence of external stimulation. However, the neural correlates of these non-specific SCRs have been less explored than brain activity associated with stimulus-elicited SCRs. This study modeled spontaneous skin conductance responses observed during an unstructured resting state fMRI scan in 58 adolescents. A Finite Impulse Response (FIR) fMRI model was used to detect any type of hemodynamic response shape time-locked to non-specific SCRs; the shape of these responses was then carefully characterized. The strongest evidence for signal change was found in several sub-regions of sensorimotor cortex. There also was evidence for engagement of discrete areas within the lateral surfaces of the parietal lobe, cingulate cortex, fronto-insular operculum, and both visual and auditory primary processing areas. The hemodynamic profile measured by FIR modeling clearly resembled an event-related response. However, it was a complex response, best explained by two quickly successive, but opposing neuronal impulses across all brain regions - a brief positive response that begins several seconds prior to the SCR with a much longer negative neuronal impulse beginning shortly after the SCR onset. Post hoc exploratory analyses linked these two hemodynamic response phases to different emotion-related individual differences. In conclusion, this study shows the neural correlates of non-specific SCRs are a widespread, cortical network of brain regions engaged in a complex, seemingly biphasic fashion. This bimodal response profile should be considered in replication studies that attempt to directly link brain activity to possible homeostatic mechanisms or seek evidence for alternative mechanisms.

KEYWORDS:

Electrodermal; Resting state; Skin conductance; Spontaneous fluctuations; fMRI

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Conflict of interest statement

Declaration of competing interest The authors have no financial disclosures to report.

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