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Cerebral regional and network characteristics in asthma patients: a resting-state fMRI study

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Asthma is a serious health problem that involves not only the respiratory system but also the central nervous system. Previous studies identified either regional or network alterations in patients with asthma, but inconsistent results were obtained. A key question remains unclear: are the regional and neural network deficits related or are they two independent characteristics in asthma? Answering this question is the aim of this study. By collecting resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging from 39 patients with asthma and 40 matched health controls, brain functional measures including regional activity (amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations) and neural network function (degree centrality (DC) and functional connectivity) were calculated to systematically characterize the functional alterations. Patients exhibited regional abnormities in the left angular gyrus, right precuneus, and inferior temporal gyrus within the default mode network. Network abnormalities involved both the sensorimotor network and visual network with key regions including the superior frontal gyrus and occipital lobes. Altered DC in the lingual gyrus was correlated with the degree of airway obstruction. This study elucidated different patterns of regional and network changes, thereby suggesting that the two parameters reflect different brain characteristics of asthma. These findings provide evidence for further understanding the potential cerebral alterations in the pathophysiology of asthma.