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Expertise modulates local regional homogeneity of spontaneous brain activity in the resting brain: An fMRI study using the model of skilled acupuncturists

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Abstract

Studies on training/expertise-related effects on human brain in context of neuroplasticity have revealed that plastic changes modulate not only task activations but also patterns and strength of internetworks and intranetworks functional connectivity in the resting state. Much has known about plastic changes in resting state on global level; however, how training/expertise-related effect affects patterns of local spontaneous activity in resting brain remains elusive. We investigated the homogeneity of local blood oxygen level-dependent fluctuations in the resting state using a regional homogeneity (ReHo) analysis among 16 acupuncturists and 16 matched nonacupuncturists (NA). To prove acupuncturists' expertise, we used a series of psychophysical tests. Our results demonstrated that, acupuncturists significantly outperformed NA in tactile-motor and emotional regulation domain and the acupuncturist group showed increased coherence in local BOLD signal fluctuations in the left primary motor cortex (MI), the left primary somatosensory cortex (SI) and the left ventral medial prefrontal cortex/orbitofrontal cortex (VMPFC/OFC). Regression analysis displayed that, in the acupuncturists group, ReHo of VMPFC/OFC could predict behavioral outcomes, evidenced by negative correlation between unpleasantness ratings and ReHo of VMPFC/OFC and ReHo of SI and MI positively correlated with the duration of acupuncture practice. We suggest that expertise could modulate patterns of local resting state activity by increasing regional clustering strength, which is likely to contribute to advanced local information processing efficiency. Our study completes the understanding of neuroplasticity changes by adding the evidence of local resting state activity alterations, which is helpful for elucidating in what manner training effect extends beyond resting state. Hum Brain Mapp 35:1074–1084, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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