Pupil dynamics serve as a physiological indicator of cognitive processes and arousal states of the brain across a diverse range of behavioral experiments. Pupil diameter changes reflect brain state fluctuations driven by neuromodulatory systems. Resting state fMRI (rs-fMRI) has been used to identify global patterns of neuronal correlation with pupil diameter changes, however, the linkage between distinct brain state-dependent activation patterns of neuromodulatory nuclei with pupil dynamics remains to be explored. Here, we identified four clusters of trials with unique activity patterns related to pupil diameter changes in anesthetized rat brains. Going beyond the typical rs-fMRI correlation analysis with pupil dynamics, we decomposed spatiotemporal patterns of rs-fMRI with principal components analysis (PCA) and characterized the cluster-specific pupil-fMRI relationships by optimizing the PCA component weighting via decoding methods. This work shows that pupil dynamics are tightly coupled with different neuromodulatory centers in different trials, presenting a novel PCA-based decoding method to study the brain state-dependent pupil-fMRI relationship.
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