Date of Award

12-17-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Dr. Mukesh Dhamala

Second Advisor

Dr. Vadym Apalkov

Third Advisor

Dr. Brian Thoms

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Unil Perera

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Yohannes Abate

Sixth Advisor

Dr. Misty Bentz

Abstract

Synchronized oscillations of ensembles of neurons in the brain underlie human cognition and behaviors. Neuronal network oscillations can be described by the physics of coupled dynamical systems. This dissertation examines the dynamic network activities in two distinct neurocognitive networks, the salience network (SN) and the ventral temporal cortex-dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (VTC-DLPFC) network, during perceptual decision-making (PDM).

The key nodes of the SN include the right anterior insula (rAI), left anterior insula (lAI), and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) in the brain. When and how a sensory signal enters and organizes within the SN before reaching the central executive network including the prefrontal cortex has been a mystery. Second, prior studies also report that perception of visual objects (face and house) involves a network of the VTC—the fusiform face area (FFA) and para-hippocampal place area (PPA)—and the DLPFC. How sensory information enters and organizes within the VTC-DLPFC network is not well understood, in milliseconds time-scale of human’s perception and decision-making. We used clear and noisy face/house image categorization tasks and scalp electroencephalography (EEG) recordings to study the dynamics of these networks. We demonstrated that beta (13–30 Hz) oscillation bound the SN, became most active around 100 ms after the stimulus onset, the rAI acted as a main outflow hub within the SN, and the SN activities were negatively correlated with the difficult tasks. We also uncovered that the VTC-DLPFC network activities were mediated by beta (13-30 Hz) and gamma (30-100 Hz) oscillations. Beta activities were enhanced in the time frame 125-250 ms after stimulus onset, the VTC acted as main outflow hub, and network activities were negatively correlated with the difficult tasks. In contrast, gamma activities were elevated in the time frame 0-125 ms, the DLPFC acted as a main outflow hub, and network activities—specifically the FFA-PPA pair—were positively correlated with the difficult tasks. These findings significantly enhance our understanding of how sensory information enters and organizes within the SN and the VTC-DLPFC network, respectively in PDM.

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