Although attention plays a ubiquitous role in perception and cognition, researchers lack a simple way to measure a person's overall attentional abilities. Because behavioral measures are diverse and difficult to standardize, we pursued a neuromarker of an important aspect of attention, sustained attention, using functional magnetic resonance imaging. To this end, we identified functional brain networks whose strength during a sustained attention task predicted individual differences in performance. Models based on these networks generalized to previously unseen individuals, even predicting performance from resting-state connectivity alone. Furthermore, these same models predicted a clinical measure of attention—symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder—from resting-state connectivity in an independent sample of children and adolescents. These results demonstrate that whole-brain functional network strength provides a broadly applicable neuromarker of sustained attention.
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M.D.R. and E.S.F. are supported by US National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. This work was also supported by US National Institutes of Health EB009666 to R.T.C. and T32 DA022975 to D.S. Data were provided by the ADHD-200 Consortium25, coordinated by M.P. Milham. Data collection at Peking University was supported by the following funding sources: The Commonwealth Sciences Foundation, Ministry of Health, China (200802073); The National Foundation, Ministry of Science and Technology, China (2007BAI17B03); The National Natural Sciences Foundation, China (30970802); The Funds for International Cooperation of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81020108022); The National Natural Science Foundation of China (8100059); and the Open Research Fund of the State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
Integrated supplementary information
Supplementary Figure 1 The 236-region functional parcellation used to define network nodes in the ADHD-200 dataset.
Colored nodes were included in the atlas, whereas regions in faint gray were not. These regions, located mainly in the inferior portions of the cerebellum, brainstem, temporal poles and orbital frontal cortex, were excluded because some scans in the ADHD-200 dataset did not include full cortex and cerebellum coverage.
Models were trained on task data from n – 1 gradCPT subjects and tested on data from the left-out individual. Spearman’s correlation, rather than robust regression, was used at the edge selection step.
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Rosenberg, M., Finn, E., Scheinost, D. et al. A neuromarker of sustained attention from whole-brain functional connectivity. Nat Neurosci 19, 165–171 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.4179
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