Barbara Basile1, Andrea Bassi2, Giovanni Calcagnini3, Pietro Cortelli4, Carlo Caltagirone2,5, Marco Bozzali1
1Neuroimaging Laboratory, Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome, Italy; 2Department of Clinical & Behavioural Neurology, Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome, Italy; 3Department of Technology & Health, Italian Institute of Health, Rome, Italy; 4Department of Neurological Science, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy; 5Department of Neuroscience, University of Rome Tor Vergata', Rome, Italy
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is well known in its peripheral functioning, while its central aspects are still rather obscure. We present here a novel method that, using fMRI and a parasympathetic stimulation of the carotid baroreceptors, allows to investigate brain activity by a direct perturbation of the ANS. We provide here new evidence that ANS perturbation induces expected peripheral responses together with modulation of brain activity in both, regions associated with the autonomic control and regions implicated in higher level functions. Moreover, we show that the parasympathetic stimulation modulates brain networks engaged during high-level cognitive tasks.