Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies of the human brain have suggested that low-frequency fluctuations in resting fMRI data collected using blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) contrast correspond to functionally relevant resting state networks (RSNs). Whether the fluctuations of resting fMRI signal in RSNs are a direct consequence of neocortical neuronal activity or are low-frequency artifacts due to other physiological processes (e.g., autonomically driven fluctuations in cerebral blood flow) is uncertain. In order to investigate further these fluctuations, we have characterized their spatial and temporal properties using probabilistic independent component analysis (PICA), a robust approach to RSN identification. Here, we provide evidence that: i. RSNs are not caused by signal artifacts due to low sampling rate (aliasing); ii. they are localized primarily to the cerebral cortex; iii. similar RSNs also can be identified in perfusion fMRI data; and iv. at least 5 distinct RSN patterns are reproducible across different subjects. The RSNs appear to reflect "default" interactions related to functional networks related to those recruited by specific types of cognitive processes. RSNs are a major source of non-modeled signal in BOLD fMRI data, so a full understanding of their dynamics will improve the interpretation of functional brain imaging studies more generally. Because RSNs reflect interactions in cognitively relevant functional networks, they offer a new approach to the characterization of state changes with pathology and the effects of drugs.
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