Information load dynamically modulates functional brain connectivity during narrative listening

Rossana Mastrandrea, Luca Cecchetti, Giada Lettieri, Giacomo Handjaras, Andrea Leo, Paolo Papale, Tommaso Gili, Nicola Martini, Daniele Della Latta, Dante Chiappino, Pietro Pietrini, Emiliano Ricciardi

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Narratives are paradigmatic examples of natural language, where nouns represent a proxy of information. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies revealed the recruitment of temporal cortices during noun processing and the existence of a noun-specific network at rest. Yet, it is unclear whether, in narratives, changes in noun density influence the brain functional connectivity, so that the coupling between regions correlates with information load. We acquired fMRI activity in healthy individuals listening to a narrative with noun density changing over time and measured whole-network and node-specific degree and betweenness centrality. Network measures were correlated with information magnitude with a time-varying approach. Noun density correlated positively with the across-regions average number of connections and negatively with the average betweenness centrality, suggesting the pruning of peripheral connections as information decreased. Locally, the degree of the bilateral anterior superior temporal sulcus (aSTS) was positively associated with nouns. Importantly, aSTS connectivity cannot be explained by changes in other parts of speech (e.g., verbs) or syllable density. Our results indicate that the brain recalibrates its global connectivity as a function of the information conveyed by nouns in natural language. Also, using naturalistic stimulation and network metrics, we corroborate the role of aSTS in noun processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8110
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • Humans
  • Brain Mapping/methods
  • Brain/diagnostic imaging
  • Language
  • Temporal Lobe/physiology
  • Speech
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging


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