Task-induced deactivation in diverse brain systems correlates with interindividual differences in distinct autonomic indices

Vittorio Iacovella, Luca Faes, Uri Hasson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Neuroimaging research has shown that different cognitive tasks induce relatively specific activation patterns, as well as less task-specific deactivation patterns. Here we examined whether individual differences in Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) activity during task performance correlate with the magnitude of task-induced deactivation. In an fMRI study, participants performed a continuous mental arithmetic task in a task/rest block design, while undergoing combined fMRI and heart/respiration rate acquisitions using photoplethysmograph and respiration belt. As expected, task performance increased heart-rate and reduced the RMSSD, a cardiac index related to vagal tone. Across participants, higher heart rate during task was linked to increased activation in fronto-parietal regions, as well as to stronger deactivation in ventromedial prefrontal regions. Respiration frequency during task was associated with similar patterns, but in different regions than those identified for heart-rate. Finally, in a large set of regions, almost exclusively limited to the Default Mode Network, lower RMSSD was associated with greater deactivation, and furthermore, the vast majority of these regions were task-deactivated at the group level. Together, our findings show that inter-individual differences in ANS activity are strongly linked to task-induced deactivation. Importantly, our findings suggest that deactivation is a multifaceted construct potentially linked to ANS control, because distinct ANS measures correlate with deactivation in different regions. We discuss the implications for current theories of cortical control of the ANS and for accounts of deactivation, with particular reference to studies documenting a ”failure to deactivate” in multiple clinical states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-42
Number of pages14
StatePublished - May 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


  • ANS
  • Arithmetic
  • Deactivation
  • Interindividual differences


Dive into the research topics of 'Task-induced deactivation in diverse brain systems correlates with interindividual differences in distinct autonomic indices'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this