Date of Award

Fall 2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Engineering - (Ph.D.)

Department

Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Tara L. Alvarez

Second Advisor

Bharat Biswal

Third Advisor

William Corson Hunter

Fourth Advisor

Mesut Sahin

Fifth Advisor

Eugene Tunik

Abstract

Vergence eye movement is one of the oculomotor systems which allow depth perception via disconjugate movement of the eyes. Neuroimaging methods such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measure neural activity changes activity in the brain while subjects perform experimental tasks. A rich body of primate investigations on vergence is already established in the neurophysiology literature; on the other hand, there are a limited number of fMRI studies on neural mechanisms behind the vergence system.

The results demonstrated that vergence system shares neural sources and also shows differentiation within the boundaries of frontal eye fields (FEF) and midbrain of the brainstem in comparison to saccadic, rapid conjugate eye movements, system with application of simple tracking experiment. Functional activity within the FEF was located anterior to the saccadic functional activity (z > 2.3; p < 0.03). Functional activity within the midbrain was observed as a result of application of vergence task, but not for the saccade data set. The novel memory-guided vergence experiment also showed a relationship between posterior parahippocampal area and memory where two other experiments were implemented for comparison of memory load in this region. Significant percent change in the functional activity was observed for the posterior parahippocampal area. Furthermore, an increase in the interconnectivity was observed for vergence tasks via utilization of Granger-Causality Analysis. When prediction was involved the increase in the number of causal interactions was statistically significant (p< 0.05). The comparison of the number of influences between prediction-evoked vergence task and simple tracking vergence task was also statistically significant for these two experimental paradigms, p < 0.0001. Another result observed in this dissertation was the application of hierarchical independent component analysis from to the fronto-parietal and cerebellar components within saccade and vergence tasks. Interestingly, cerebellar component showed delayed latency in the group level signal in comparison to fronto-parietal group level signals, which was evaluated to determine why segregation existed between the components acquired from the implementation of independent component analysis. Lastly, region of interet (ROI) based analysis in comparison to global (whole) brain analysis indicated more sensitive results on frontal, parietal, brainstem and occipital areas at both individual and group levels.

Overall, the purpose of this dissertation was to investigate neural control of vergence movements by 1-spatial mapping of vergence induced functional activity, 2- applying different signal processing methods to quantify neural correlates of the vergence system at causal functional connectivity, underlying sources and region of interests (ROI) based levels. It was concluded that quantification of vergence movements via fMRI can build a synergy with behavioral investigations and may also shed light on neural differentiation between healthy individuals and patients with neural dysfunctions and injuries by serving as a biomarker.

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