Dynamic coupling of complex brain networks and dual-task behavior

Mohsen Alavash*, Christiane M. Thiel, Carsten Gießing

*Corresponding author for this work
12 Citations (Scopus)


Multi-tasking is a familiar situation where behavioral performance is often challenged. To date, fMRI studies investigating the neural underpinning of dual-task interference have mostly relied on local brain activation maps or static brain connectivity networks. Here, based on task fMRI we explored how fluctuations in behavior during concurrent performance of a visuospatial and a speech task relate to alternations in the topology of dynamic brain connectivity networks. We combined a time-resolved functional connectivity and complex network analysis with a sliding window approach applied to the trial by trial behavioral responses to investigate the coupling between dynamic brain networks and dual-task behavior at close temporal proximity. Participants showed fluctuations in their dual-task behavior over time, with the accuracy in the component tasks being statistically independent from one another. On the global level of brain networks we found that dynamic changes of network topology were differentially coupled with the behavior in each component task during the course of dual-tasking. While momentary decrease in the global efficiency of dynamic brain networks correlated with subsequent increase in visuospatial accuracy, better speech performance was preceded by higher global network efficiency and was followed by an increase in between-module connectivity over time. Additionally, dynamic alternations in the modular organization of brain networks at the posterior cingulate cortex were differentially predictive for the visuospatial as compared to the speech accuracy over time. Our results provide the first evidence that, during the course of dual-tasking, each component task is supported by a distinct topological configuration of brain connectivity networks. This finding suggests that the failure of functional brain connectivity networks to adapt to an optimal topology supporting the performance in both component tasks at the same time contributes to the moment to moment fluctuations in dual-task behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-246
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 01.04.2016

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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