Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
EEG studies have shown that interindividual differences in the electrophysiological properties of sleep spindles (e.g., density, amplitude, duration) are highly correlated with trait-like “reasoning” abilities (i.e., “fluid intelligence”; problem-solving skills; the ability to employ logic or identify complex patterns), but not interindividual differences in STM or “verbal” intellectual abilities. Previous simultaneous EEG-fMRI studies revealed brain activations time-locked to spindles. Our group has recently demonstrated that the extent of activation in a subset of these regions was related to interindividual differences in reasoning intellectual abilities, specifically. However, spindles reflect communication between spatially distant and functionally distinct brain areas. The functional communication among brain regions related to spindles and their relationship to reasoning abilities have yet to be investigated. Using simultaneous EEG-fMRI sleep recordings and psychophysiological interaction analysis, we identified spindle-related functional communication among brain regions in the thalamo-cortical-BG system, the salience network, and the default mode network. Furthermore, the extent of the functional connectivity of the cortical–striatal circuitry and the thalamo-cortical circuitry was specifically related to reasoning abilities but was unrelated to STM or verbal abilities, thus suggesting that individuals with higher fluid intelligence have stronger functional coupling among these brain areas during spontaneous spindle events. This may serve as a first step in further understanding the function of sleep spindles and the brain network functional communication, which support the capacity for fluid intelligence.