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1.  Driving and Driven Architectures of Directed Small-World Human Brain Functional Networks 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23460.
Recently, increasing attention has been focused on the investigation of the human brain connectome that describes the patterns of structural and functional connectivity networks of the human brain. Many studies of the human connectome have demonstrated that the brain network follows a small-world topology with an intrinsically cohesive modular structure and includes several network hubs in the medial parietal regions. However, most of these studies have only focused on undirected connections between regions in which the directions of information flow are not taken into account. How the brain regions causally influence each other and how the directed network of human brain is topologically organized remain largely unknown. Here, we applied linear multivariate Granger causality analysis (GCA) and graph theoretical approaches to a resting-state functional MRI dataset with a large cohort of young healthy participants (n = 86) to explore connectivity patterns of the population-based whole-brain functional directed network. This directed brain network exhibited prominent small-world properties, which obviously improved previous results of functional MRI studies showing weak small-world properties in the directed brain networks in terms of a kernel-based GCA and individual analysis. This brain network also showed significant modular structures associated with 5 well known subsystems: fronto-parietal, visual, paralimbic/limbic, subcortical and primary systems. Importantly, we identified several driving hubs predominantly located in the components of the attentional network (e.g., the inferior frontal gyrus, supplementary motor area, insula and fusiform gyrus) and several driven hubs predominantly located in the components of the default mode network (e.g., the precuneus, posterior cingulate gyrus, medial prefrontal cortex and inferior parietal lobule). Further split-half analyses indicated that our results were highly reproducible between two independent subgroups. The current study demonstrated the directions of spontaneous information flow and causal influences in the directed brain networks, thus providing new insights into our understanding of human brain functional connectome.
PMCID: PMC3155571  PMID: 21858129
2.  Modular reorganization of brain resting state networks and its independent validation in Alzheimer's disease patients 
Previous studies have demonstrated disruption in structural and functional connectivity occurring in the Alzheimer's Disease (AD). However, it is not known how these disruptions alter brain network reorganization. With the modular analysis method of graph theory, and datasets acquired by the resting-state functional connectivity MRI (R-fMRI) method, we investigated and compared the brain organization patterns between the AD group and the cognitively normal control (CN) group. Our main finding is that the largest homotopic module (defined as the insula module) in the CN group was broken down to the pieces in the AD group. Specifically, it was discovered that the eight pairs of the bilateral regions (the opercular part of inferior frontal gyrus, area triangularis, insula, putamen, globus pallidus, transverse temporal gyri, superior temporal gyrus, and superior temporal pole) of the insula module had lost symmetric functional connection properties, and the corresponding gray matter concentration (GMC) was significant lower in AD group. We further quantified the functional connectivity changes with an index (index A) and structural changes with the GMC index in the insula module to demonstrate their great potential as AD biomarkers. We further validated these results with six additional independent datasets (271 subjects in six groups). Our results demonstrated specific underlying structural and functional reorganization from young to old, and for diseased subjects. Further, it is suggested that by combining the structural GMC analysis and functional modular analysis in the insula module, a new biomarker can be developed at the single-subject level.
PMCID: PMC3739061  PMID: 23950743
Alzheimer's disease; MCI; validation; module analysis; resting-state functional connectivity; brain network; gray matter concentration; graph theory
3.  GAT: A Graph-Theoretical Analysis Toolbox for Analyzing Between-Group Differences in Large-Scale Structural and Functional Brain Networks 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e40709.
In recent years, graph theoretical analyses of neuroimaging data have increased our understanding of the organization of large-scale structural and functional brain networks. However, tools for pipeline application of graph theory for analyzing topology of brain networks is still lacking. In this report, we describe the development of a graph-analysis toolbox (GAT) that facilitates analysis and comparison of structural and functional network brain networks. GAT provides a graphical user interface (GUI) that facilitates construction and analysis of brain networks, comparison of regional and global topological properties between networks, analysis of network hub and modules, and analysis of resilience of the networks to random failure and targeted attacks. Area under a curve (AUC) and functional data analyses (FDA), in conjunction with permutation testing, is employed for testing the differences in network topologies; analyses that are less sensitive to the thresholding process. We demonstrated the capabilities of GAT by investigating the differences in the organization of regional gray-matter correlation networks in survivors of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and healthy matched Controls (CON). The results revealed an alteration in small-world characteristics of the brain networks in the ALL survivors; an observation that confirm our hypothesis suggesting widespread neurobiological injury in ALL survivors. Along with demonstration of the capabilities of the GAT, this is the first report of altered large-scale structural brain networks in ALL survivors.
PMCID: PMC3396592  PMID: 22808240
4.  Topological Organization of Functional Brain Networks in Healthy Children: Differences in Relation to Age, Sex, and Intelligence 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55347.
Recent studies have demonstrated developmental changes of functional brain networks derived from functional connectivity using graph theoretical analysis, which has been rapidly translated to studies of brain network organization. However, little is known about sex- and IQ-related differences in the topological organization of functional brain networks during development. In this study, resting-state fMRI (rs-fMRI) was used to map the functional brain networks in 51 healthy children. We then investigated the effects of age, sex, and IQ on economic small-world properties and regional nodal properties of the functional brain networks. At a global level of whole networks, we found significant age-related increases in the small-worldness and local efficiency, significant higher values of the global efficiency in boys compared with girls, and no significant IQ-related difference. Age-related increases in the regional nodal properties were found predominately in the frontal brain regions, whereas the parietal, temporal, and occipital brain regions showed age-related decreases. Significant sex-related differences in the regional nodal properties were found in various brain regions, primarily related to the default mode, language, and vision systems. Positive correlations between IQ and the regional nodal properties were found in several brain regions related to the attention system, whereas negative correlations were found in various brain regions primarily involved in the default mode, emotion, and language systems. Together, our findings of the network topology of the functional brain networks in healthy children and its relationship with age, sex, and IQ bring new insights into the understanding of brain maturation and cognitive development during childhood and adolescence.
PMCID: PMC3563524  PMID: 23390528
5.  Disrupted Modularity and Local Connectivity of Brain Functional Networks in Childhood-Onset Schizophrenia 
Modularity is a fundamental concept in systems neuroscience, referring to the formation of local cliques or modules of densely intra-connected nodes that are sparsely inter-connected with nodes in other modules. Topological modularity of brain functional networks can quantify theoretically anticipated abnormality of brain network community structure – so-called dysmodularity – in developmental disorders such as childhood-onset schizophrenia (COS). We used graph theory to investigate topology of networks derived from resting-state fMRI data on 13 COS patients and 19 healthy volunteers. We measured functional connectivity between each pair of 100 regional nodes, focusing on wavelet correlation in the frequency interval 0.05–0.1 Hz, then applied global and local thresholding rules to construct graphs from each individual association matrix over the full range of possible connection densities. We show how local thresholding based on the minimum spanning tree facilitates group comparisons of networks by forcing the connectedness of sparse graphs. Threshold-dependent graph theoretical results are compatible with the results of a k-means unsupervised learning algorithm and a multi-resolution (spin glass) approach to modularity, both of which also find community structure but do not require thresholding of the association matrix. In general modularity of brain functional networks was significantly reduced in COS, due to a relatively reduced density of intra-modular connections between neighboring regions. Other network measures of local organization such as clustering were also decreased, while complementary measures of global efficiency and robustness were increased, in the COS group. The group differences in complex network properties were mirrored by differences in simpler statistical properties of the data, such as the variability of the global time series and the internal homogeneity of the time series within anatomical regions of interest.
PMCID: PMC2965020  PMID: 21031030
graph theory; brain; network; modularity; schizophrenia; clustering; fMRI
6.  Characterization of Functional and Structural Integrity in Experimental Focal Epilepsy: Reduced Network Efficiency Coincides with White Matter Changes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e39078.
Although focal epilepsies are increasingly recognized to affect multiple and remote neural systems, the underlying spatiotemporal pattern and the relationships between recurrent spontaneous seizures, global functional connectivity, and structural integrity remain largely unknown.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here we utilized serial resting-state functional MRI, graph-theoretical analysis of complex brain networks and diffusion tensor imaging to characterize the evolution of global network topology, functional connectivity and structural changes in the interictal brain in relation to focal epilepsy in a rat model. Epileptic networks exhibited a more regular functional topology than controls, indicated by a significant increase in shortest path length and clustering coefficient. Interhemispheric functional connectivity in epileptic brains decreased, while intrahemispheric functional connectivity increased. Widespread reductions of fractional anisotropy were found in white matter regions not restricted to the vicinity of the epileptic focus, including the corpus callosum.
Our longitudinal study on the pathogenesis of network dynamics in epileptic brains reveals that, despite the locality of the epileptogenic area, epileptic brains differ in their global network topology, connectivity and structural integrity from healthy brains.
PMCID: PMC3395639  PMID: 22808026
7.  Functional neural network analysis in frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer's disease using EEG and graph theory 
BMC Neuroscience  2009;10:101.
Although a large body of knowledge about both brain structure and function has been gathered over the last decades, we still have a poor understanding of their exact relationship. Graph theory provides a method to study the relation between network structure and function, and its application to neuroscientific data is an emerging research field. We investigated topological changes in large-scale functional brain networks in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) by means of graph theoretical analysis of resting-state EEG recordings. EEGs of 20 patients with mild to moderate AD, 15 FTLD patients, and 23 non-demented individuals were recorded in an eyes-closed resting-state. The synchronization likelihood (SL), a measure of functional connectivity, was calculated for each sensor pair in 0.5–4 Hz, 4–8 Hz, 8–10 Hz, 10–13 Hz, 13–30 Hz and 30–45 Hz frequency bands. The resulting connectivity matrices were converted to unweighted graphs, whose structure was characterized with several measures: mean clustering coefficient (local connectivity), characteristic path length (global connectivity) and degree correlation (network 'assortativity'). All results were normalized for network size and compared with random control networks.
In AD, the clustering coefficient decreased in the lower alpha and beta bands (p < 0.001), and the characteristic path length decreased in the lower alpha and gamma bands (p < 0.05) compared to controls. In FTLD no significant differences with controls were found in these measures. The degree correlation decreased in both alpha bands in AD compared to controls (p < 0.05), but increased in the FTLD lower alpha band compared with controls (p < 0.01).
With decreasing local and global connectivity parameters, the large-scale functional brain network organization in AD deviates from the optimal 'small-world' network structure towards a more 'random' type. This is associated with less efficient information exchange between brain areas, supporting the disconnection hypothesis of AD. Surprisingly, FTLD patients show changes in the opposite direction, towards a (perhaps excessively) more 'ordered' network structure, possibly reflecting a different underlying pathophysiological process.
PMCID: PMC2736175  PMID: 19698093
8.  Altered Functional and Structural Connectivity Networks in Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63850.
Psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) are paroxysmal behaviors that resemble epileptic seizures but lack abnormal electrical activity. Recent studies suggest aberrant functional connectivity involving specific brain regions in PNES. Little is known, however, about alterations of topological organization of whole-brain functional and structural connectivity networks in PNES. We constructed functional connectivity networks from resting-state functional MRI signal correlations and structural connectivity networks from diffusion tensor imaging tractography in 17 PNES patients and 20 healthy controls. Graph theoretical analysis was employed to compute network properties. Moreover, we investigated the relationship between functional and structural connectivity networks. We found that PNES patients exhibited altered small-worldness in both functional and structural networks and shifted towards a more regular (lattice-like) organization, which could serve as a potential imaging biomarker for PNES. In addition, many regional characteristics were altered in structural connectivity network, involving attention, sensorimotor, subcortical and default-mode networks. These regions with altered nodal characteristics likely reflect disease-specific pathophysiology in PNES. Importantly, the coupling strength of functional-structural connectivity was decreased and exhibited high sensitivity and specificity to differentiate PNES patients from healthy controls, suggesting that the decoupling strength of functional-structural connectivity might be an important characteristic reflecting the mechanisms of PNES. This is the first study to explore the altered topological organization in PNES combining functional and structural connectivity networks, providing a new way to understand the pathophysiological mechanisms of PNES.
PMCID: PMC3661726  PMID: 23717498
9.  A Comparative Study of Theoretical Graph Models for Characterizing Structural Networks of Human Brain 
Previous studies have investigated both structural and functional brain networks via graph-theoretical methods. However, there is an important issue that has not been adequately discussed before: what is the optimal theoretical graph model for describing the structural networks of human brain? In this paper, we perform a comparative study to address this problem. Firstly, large-scale cortical regions of interest (ROIs) are localized by recently developed and validated brain reference system named Dense Individualized Common Connectivity-based Cortical Landmarks (DICCCOL) to address the limitations in the identification of the brain network ROIs in previous studies. Then, we construct structural brain networks based on diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data. Afterwards, the global and local graph properties of the constructed structural brain networks are measured using the state-of-the-art graph analysis algorithms and tools and are further compared with seven popular theoretical graph models. In addition, we compare the topological properties between two graph models, namely, stickiness-index-based model (STICKY) and scale-free gene duplication model (SF-GD), that have higher similarity with the real structural brain networks in terms of global and local graph properties. Our experimental results suggest that among the seven theoretical graph models compared in this study, STICKY and SF-GD models have better performances in characterizing the structural human brain network.
PMCID: PMC3863486  PMID: 24369454
10.  Altered functional and structural brain network organization in autism☆ 
NeuroImage : Clinical  2012;2:79-94.
Structural and functional underconnectivity have been reported for multiple brain regions, functional systems, and white matter tracts in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Although recent developments in complex network analysis have established that the brain is a modular network exhibiting small-world properties, network level organization has not been carefully examined in ASD. Here we used resting-state functional MRI (n = 42 ASD, n = 37 typically developing; TD) to show that children and adolescents with ASD display reduced short and long-range connectivity within functional systems (i.e., reduced functional integration) and stronger connectivity between functional systems (i.e., reduced functional segregation), particularly in default and higher-order visual regions. Using graph theoretical methods, we show that pairwise group differences in functional connectivity are reflected in network level reductions in modularity and clustering (local efficiency), but shorter characteristic path lengths (higher global efficiency). Structural networks, generated from diffusion tensor MRI derived fiber tracts (n = 51 ASD, n = 43 TD), displayed lower levels of white matter integrity yet higher numbers of fibers. TD and ASD individuals exhibited similar levels of correlation between raw measures of structural and functional connectivity (n = 35 ASD, n = 35 TD). However, a principal component analysis combining structural and functional network properties revealed that the balance of local and global efficiency between structural and functional networks was reduced in ASD, positively correlated with age, and inversely correlated with ASD symptom severity. Overall, our findings suggest that modeling the brain as a complex network will be highly informative in unraveling the biological basis of ASD and other neuropsychiatric disorders.
► Complex network analysis of resting-state fMRI and DTI tractography in autism ► Local and long-range functional connectivity is reduced in ASD. ► Reduced local efficiency and modularity of functional networks in ASD ► Altered age-related trajectory of global efficiency for structural networks in ASD
PMCID: PMC3777708  PMID: 24179761
Resting-state functional connectivity; Diffusion tensor imaging; Graph theory; Brain networks; Autism spectrum disorders
11.  Extraversion and neuroticism relate to topological properties of resting-state brain networks 
With the advent and development of modern neuroimaging techniques, there is an increasing interest in linking extraversion and neuroticism to anatomical and functional brain markers. Here, we aimed to test the theoretically derived biological personality model as proposed by Eysenck using graph theoretical analyses. Specifically, the association between the topological organization of whole-brain functional networks and extraversion/neuroticism was explored. To construct functional brain networks, functional connectivity among 90 brain regions was measured by temporal correlation using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data of 71 healthy subjects. Graph theoretical analysis revealed a positive association of extraversion scores and normalized clustering coefficient values. These results suggested a more clustered configuration in brain networks of individuals high in extraversion, which could imply a higher arousal threshold and higher levels of arousal tolerance in the cortex of extraverts. On a local network level, we observed that a specific nodal measure, i.e., betweenness centrality (BC), was positively associated with neuroticism scores in the right precentral gyrus (PreCG), right caudate nucleus, right olfactory cortex, and bilateral amygdala. For individuals high in neuroticism, these results suggested a more frequent participation of these specific regions in information transition within the brain network and, in turn, may partly explain greater regional activation levels and lower arousal thresholds in these regions. In contrast, extraversion scores were positively correlated with BC in the right insula, while negatively correlated with BC in the bilateral middle temporal gyrus (MTG), indicating that the relationship between extraversion and regional arousal is not as simple as proposed by Eysenck.
PMCID: PMC3678091  PMID: 23781183
resting-state; functional magnetic resonance imaging; graph topological properties; extraversion; neuroticism
12.  Sculpting the Intrinsic Modular Organization of Spontaneous Brain Activity by Art 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66761.
Artistic training is a complex learning that requires the meticulous orchestration of sophisticated polysensory, motor, cognitive, and emotional elements of mental capacity to harvest an aesthetic creation. In this study, we investigated the architecture of the resting-state functional connectivity networks from professional painters, dancers and pianists. Using a graph-based network analysis, we focused on the art-related changes of modular organization and functional hubs in the resting-state functional connectivity network. We report that the brain architecture of artists consists of a hierarchical modular organization where art-unique and artistic form-specific brain states collectively mirror the mind states of virtuosos. We show that even in the resting state, this type of extraordinary and long-lasting training can macroscopically imprint a neural network system of spontaneous activity in which the related brain regions become functionally and topologically modularized in both domain-general and domain-specific manners. The attuned modularity reflects a resilient plasticity nurtured by long-term experience.
PMCID: PMC3694132  PMID: 23840527
13.  Hierarchical Alteration of Brain Structural and Functional Networks in Female Migraine Sufferers 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51250.
Little is known about the changes of brain structural and functional connectivity networks underlying the pathophysiology in migraine. We aimed to investigate how the cortical network reorganization is altered by frequent cortical overstimulation associated with migraine.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Gray matter volumes and resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging signal correlations were employed to construct structural and functional networks between brain regions in 43 female patients with migraine (PM) and 43 gender-matched healthy controls (HC) by using graph theory-based approaches. Compared with the HC group, the patients showed abnormal global topology in both structural and functional networks, characterized by higher mean clustering coefficients without significant change in the shortest absolute path length, which indicated that the PM lost optimal topological organization in their cortical networks. Brain hubs related to pain-processing revealed abnormal nodal centrality in both structural and functional networks, including the precentral gyrus, orbital part of the inferior frontal gyrus, parahippocampal gyrus, anterior cingulate gyrus, thalamus, temporal pole of the middle temporal gyrus and the inferior parietal gyrus. Negative correlations were found between migraine duration and regions with abnormal centrality. Furthermore, the dysfunctional connections in patients' cortical networks formed into a connected component and three dysregulated modules were identified involving pain-related information processing and motion-processing visual networks.
Our results may reflect brain alteration dynamics resulting from migraine and suggest that long-term and high-frequency headache attacks may cause both structural and functional connectivity network reorganization. The disrupted information exchange between brain areas in migraine may be reshaped into a hierarchical modular structure progressively.
PMCID: PMC3515541  PMID: 23227257
14.  Mapping the Alzheimer’s Brain with Connectomics 
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia. As an incurable, progressive, and neurodegenerative disease, it causes cognitive and memory deficits. However, the biological mechanisms underlying the disease are not thoroughly understood. In recent years, non-invasive neuroimaging and neurophysiological techniques [e.g., structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), diffusion MRI, functional MRI, and EEG/MEG] and graph theory based network analysis have provided a new perspective on structural and functional connectivity patterns of the human brain (i.e., the human connectome) in health and disease. Using these powerful approaches, several recent studies of patients with AD exhibited abnormal topological organization in both global and regional properties of neuronal networks, indicating that AD not only affects specific brain regions, but also alters the structural and functional associations between distinct brain regions. Specifically, disruptive organization in the whole-brain networks in AD is involved in the loss of small-world characters and the re-organization of hub distributions. These aberrant neuronal connectivity patterns were associated with cognitive deficits in patients with AD, even with genetic factors in healthy aging. These studies provide empirical evidence to support the existence of an aberrant connectome of AD. In this review we will summarize recent advances discovered in large-scale brain network studies of AD, mainly focusing on graph theoretical analysis of brain connectivity abnormalities. These studies provide novel insights into the pathophysiological mechanisms of AD and could be helpful in developing imaging biomarkers for disease diagnosis and monitoring.
PMCID: PMC3251821  PMID: 22291664
connectome; graph theory; small-world; cortical thickness; genetics; DTI; fMRI; EEG/MEG
15.  Topological Isomorphisms of Human Brain and Financial Market Networks 
Although metaphorical and conceptual connections between the human brain and the financial markets have often been drawn, rigorous physical or mathematical underpinnings of this analogy remain largely unexplored. Here, we apply a statistical and graph theoretic approach to the study of two datasets – the time series of 90 stocks from the New York stock exchange over a 3-year period, and the fMRI-derived time series acquired from 90 brain regions over the course of a 10-min-long functional MRI scan of resting brain function in healthy volunteers. Despite the many obvious substantive differences between these two datasets, graphical analysis demonstrated striking commonalities in terms of global network topological properties. Both the human brain and the market networks were non-random, small-world, modular, hierarchical systems with fat-tailed degree distributions indicating the presence of highly connected hubs. These properties could not be trivially explained by the univariate time series statistics of stock price returns. This degree of topological isomorphism suggests that brains and markets can be regarded broadly as members of the same family of networks. The two systems, however, were not topologically identical. The financial market was more efficient and more modular – more highly optimized for information processing – than the brain networks; but also less robust to systemic disintegration as a result of hub deletion. We conclude that the conceptual connections between brains and markets are not merely metaphorical; rather these two information processing systems can be rigorously compared in the same mathematical language and turn out often to share important topological properties in common to some degree. There will be interesting scientific arbitrage opportunities in further work at the graph-theoretically mediated interface between systems neuroscience and the statistical physics of financial markets.
PMCID: PMC3173712  PMID: 22007161
human brain; networks; financial markets; fMRI; topology
16.  Human Brain Networks in Health and Disease 
Current opinion in neurology  2009;22(4):340-347.
Purpose of review
Recent developments in the statistical physics of complex networks have been translated to neuroimaging data in an effort to enhance our understanding of human brain structural and functional networks. This review focuses on studies using graph theoretical measures applied to structural MRI, diffusion MRI, functional MRI, electroencephalography and magnetoencephalography data.
Recent findings
Complex network properties have been identified with some consistency in all modalities of neuroimaging data and over a range of spatial and time scales. Conserved properties include small-worldness, high efficiency of information transfer for low wiring cost, modularity, and the existence of network hubs. Structural and functional network metrics have been found to be heritable and to change with normal aging. Clinical studies, principally in Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia, have identified abnormalities of network configuration in patients. Future work will likely involve efforts to synthesize structural and functional networks in integrated models and to explore the inter-dependence of network configuration and cognitive performance.
Graph theoretical analysis of neuroimaging data is growing rapidly and could potentially provide a relatively simple but powerful quantitative framework to describe and compare whole human brain structural and functional networks under diverse experimental and clinical conditions.
PMCID: PMC2902726  PMID: 19494774
network; graph; small-world; modularity; wiring cost
17.  Mapping Anatomical Connectivity Patterns of Human Cerebral Cortex Using In Vivo Diffusion Tensor Imaging Tractography 
Cerebral Cortex (New York, NY)  2008;19(3):524-536.
The characterization of the topological architecture of complex networks underlying the structural and functional organization of the brain is a basic challenge in neuroscience. However, direct evidence for anatomical connectivity networks in the human brain remains scarce. Here, we utilized diffusion tensor imaging deterministic tractography to construct a macroscale anatomical network capturing the underlying common connectivity pattern of human cerebral cortex in a large sample of subjects (80 young adults) and further quantitatively analyzed its topological properties with graph theoretical approaches. The cerebral cortex was divided into 78 cortical regions, each representing a network node, and 2 cortical regions were considered connected if the probability of fiber connections exceeded a statistical criterion. The topological parameters of the established cortical network (binarized) resemble that of a “small-world” architecture characterized by an exponentially truncated power-law distribution. These characteristics imply high resilience to localized damage. Furthermore, this cortical network was characterized by major hub regions in association cortices that were connected by bridge connections following long-range white matter pathways. Our results are compatible with previous structural and functional brain networks studies and provide insight into the organizational principles of human brain anatomical networks that underlie functional states.
PMCID: PMC2722790  PMID: 18567609
anatomical connectivity; betweenness centrality; DTI tractography; network; small world
18.  Rich Club Organization of Macaque Cerebral Cortex and Its Role in Network Communication 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e46497.
Graph-theoretical analysis of brain connectivity data has revealed significant features of brain network organization across a range of species. Consistently, large-scale anatomical networks exhibit highly nonrandom attributes including an efficient small world modular architecture, with distinct network communities that are interlinked by hub regions. The functional importance of hubs motivates a closer examination of their mutual interconnections, specifically to examine the hypothesis that hub regions are more densely linked than expected based on their degree alone, i.e. forming a central rich club. Extending recent findings of rich club topology in the cat and human brain, this report presents evidence for the existence of rich club organization in the cerebral cortex of a non-human primate, the macaque monkey, based on a connectivity data set representing a collation of numerous tract tracing studies. Rich club regions comprise portions of prefrontal, parietal, temporal and insular cortex and are widely distributed across network communities. An analysis of network motifs reveals that rich club regions tend to form star-like configurations, indicative of their central embedding within sets of nodes. In addition, rich club nodes and edges participate in a large number of short paths across the network, and thus contribute disproportionately to global communication. As rich club regions tend to attract and disperse communication paths, many of the paths follow a characteristic pattern of first increasing and then decreasing node degree. Finally, the existence of non-reciprocal projections imposes a net directional flow of paths into and out of the rich club, with some regions preferentially attracting and others dispersing signals. Overall, the demonstration of rich club organization in a non-human primate contributes to our understanding of the network principles underlying neural connectivity in the mammalian brain, and further supports the hypothesis that rich club regions and connections have a central role in global brain communication.
PMCID: PMC3460908  PMID: 23029538
19.  Large-scale Cortical Network Properties Predict Future Sound-to-Word Learning Success 
Journal of cognitive neuroscience  2012;24(5):1087-1103.
The human brain possesses a remarkable capacity to interpret and recall novel sounds as spoken language. These linguistic abilities arise from complex processing spanning a widely distributed cortical network and are characterized by marked individual variation. Recently, graph theoretical analysis has facilitated the exploration of how such aspects of large-scale brain functional organization may underlie cognitive performance. Brain functional networks are known to possess small-world topologies characterized by efficient global and local information transfer, but whether these properties relate to language learning abilities remains unknown. Here we applied graph theory to construct large-scale cortical functional networks from cerebral hemodynamic (fMRI) responses acquired during an auditory pitch discrimination task and found that such network properties were associated with participants’ future success in learning words of an artificial spoken language. Successful learners possessed networks with reduced local efficiency but increased global efficiency relative to less successful learners and had a more cost-efficient network organization. Regionally, successful and less successful learners exhibited differences in these network properties spanning bilateral prefrontal, parietal, and right temporal cortex, overlapping a core network of auditory language areas. These results suggest that efficient cortical network organization is associated with sound-to-word learning abilities among healthy, younger adults.
PMCID: PMC3736731  PMID: 22360625
20.  The envirome and the connectome: exploring the structural noise in the human brain associated with socioeconomic deprivation 
Complex cognitive functions are widely recognized to be the result of a number of brain regions working together as large-scale networks. Recently, complex network analysis has been used to characterize various structural properties of the large-scale network organization of the brain. For example, the human brain has been found to have a modular architecture i.e., regions within the network form communities (modules) with more connections between regions within the community compared to regions outside it. The aim of this study was to examine the modular and overlapping modular architecture of the brain networks using complex network analysis. We also examined the association between neighborhood level deprivation and brain network structure—modularity and gray nodes. We compared network structure derived from anatomical MRI scans of 42 middle-aged neurologically healthy men from the least (LD) and the most deprived (MD) neighborhoods of Glasgow with their corresponding random networks. Cortical morphological covariance networks were constructed from the cortical thickness derived from the MRI scans of the brain. For a given modularity threshold, networks derived from the MD group showed similar number of modules compared to their corresponding random networks, while networks derived from the LD group had more modules compared to their corresponding random networks. The MD group also had fewer gray nodes—a measure of overlapping modular structure. These results suggest that apparent structural difference in brain networks may be driven by differences in cortical thicknesses between groups. This demonstrates a structural organization that is consistent with a system that is less robust and less efficient in information processing. These findings provide some evidence of the relationship between socioeconomic deprivation and brain network topology.
PMCID: PMC3824100  PMID: 24273501
socioeconomic status; neighborhood deprivation; gray nodes; modularity; graph theory; cortical thickness
21.  Network analysis reveals increased integration during emotional and motivational processing 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2012;32(24):8361-8372.
In recent years, a large number of human studies have investigated large-scale network properties of the brain, typically during the resting state. A critical gap in the knowledge base concerns the understanding of network properties of a focused set of brain regions during task conditions engaging these regions. Although emotion and motivation recruit many brain regions, it is currently unknown how they affect network-level properties of inter-region interactions. In the present study, we sought to characterize network structure during “mini-states” engendered by emotional and motivational cues investigated in separate studies. To do so, we employed graph-theoretic network analysis to probe network-, community-, and node-level properties of the trial-by-trial functional connectivity between regions of interest. We employed methods that operate on weighted graphs that make use of the continuous information of connectivity strength. In both the Emotion and Motivation datasets, global efficiency increased and decomposability decreased. Thus, processing became less segregated with the context signaled by the cue (potential shock or potential reward). Our findings also revealed several important features of inter-community communication, including notable contributions of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, anterior insula, and thalamus during threat, and of the caudate and nucleus accumbens during reward. Together, the results suggest that one way in which emotional and motivational processing affect brain responses is by enhancing signal communication between regions, especially between cortical and subcortical ones.
PMCID: PMC3400262  PMID: 22699916
22.  Combining the Finite Element Method with Structural Connectome-based Analysis for Modeling Neurotrauma: Connectome Neurotrauma Mechanics 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(8):e1002619.
This article presents the integration of brain injury biomechanics and graph theoretical analysis of neuronal connections, or connectomics, to form a neurocomputational model that captures spatiotemporal characteristics of trauma. We relate localized mechanical brain damage predicted from biofidelic finite element simulations of the human head subjected to impact with degradation in the structural connectome for a single individual. The finite element model incorporates various length scales into the full head simulations by including anisotropic constitutive laws informed by diffusion tensor imaging. Coupling between the finite element analysis and network-based tools is established through experimentally-based cellular injury thresholds for white matter regions. Once edges are degraded, graph theoretical measures are computed on the “damaged” network. For a frontal impact, the simulations predict that the temporal and occipital regions undergo the most axonal strain and strain rate at short times (less than 24 hrs), which leads to cellular death initiation, which results in damage that shows dependence on angle of impact and underlying microstructure of brain tissue. The monotonic cellular death relationships predict a spatiotemporal change of structural damage. Interestingly, at 96 hrs post-impact, computations predict no network nodes were completely disconnected from the network, despite significant damage to network edges. At early times () network measures of global and local efficiency were degraded little; however, as time increased to 96 hrs the network properties were significantly reduced. In the future, this computational framework could help inform functional networks from physics-based structural brain biomechanics to obtain not only a biomechanics-based understanding of injury, but also neurophysiological insight.
Author Summary
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, approximately 1.7 million people, on average, sustain a traumatic brain injury annually. During the last few decades, brain neurotrauma biomechanics has been an active area of research involving medical clinicians and a broad range of scientists and engineers. In addition, advances and fast growth of human connectomics continues to reveal new insights into the damaged brain. With recent advances in computational methods and high performance computing, we see the need and the exciting possibility to merge brain neurotrauma biomechanics and human connectomics science to form a new area of investigation - connectome neurotrauma mechanics. For neurotrauma, the idea is simple - inform human structural connectome analysis using physics-based predictions of biomechanical brain injury. If successful, this technique may be further used to inform human functional connectome analysis, thus providing a new tool to help understand the pathophysiology of mild traumatic brain injury.
PMCID: PMC3420926  PMID: 22915997
23.  Modular and Hierarchically Modular Organization of Brain Networks 
Brain networks are increasingly understood as one of a large class of information processing systems that share important organizational principles in common, including the property of a modular community structure. A module is topologically defined as a subset of highly inter-connected nodes which are relatively sparsely connected to nodes in other modules. In brain networks, topological modules are often made up of anatomically neighboring and/or functionally related cortical regions, and inter-modular connections tend to be relatively long distance. Moreover, brain networks and many other complex systems demonstrate the property of hierarchical modularity, or modularity on several topological scales: within each module there will be a set of sub-modules, and within each sub-module a set of sub-sub-modules, etc. There are several general advantages to modular and hierarchically modular network organization, including greater robustness, adaptivity, and evolvability of network function. In this context, we review some of the mathematical concepts available for quantitative analysis of (hierarchical) modularity in brain networks and we summarize some of the recent work investigating modularity of structural and functional brain networks derived from analysis of human neuroimaging data.
PMCID: PMC3000003  PMID: 21151783
graph; near-decomposability; partition; fractal; cortex
24.  Exploring the Morphospace of Communication Efficiency in Complex Networks 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58070.
Graph theoretical analysis has played a key role in characterizing global features of the topology of complex networks, describing diverse systems such as protein interactions, food webs, social relations and brain connectivity. How system elements communicate with each other depends not only on the structure of the network, but also on the nature of the system's dynamics which are constrained by the amount of knowledge and resources available for communication processes. Complementing widely used measures that capture efficiency under the assumption that communication preferentially follows shortest paths across the network (“routing”), we define analytic measures directed at characterizing network communication when signals flow in a random walk process (“diffusion”). The two dimensions of routing and diffusion efficiency define a morphospace for complex networks, with different network topologies characterized by different combinations of efficiency measures and thus occupying different regions of this space. We explore the relation of network topologies and efficiency measures by examining canonical network models, by evolving networks using a multi-objective optimization strategy, and by investigating real-world network data sets. Within the efficiency morphospace, specific aspects of network topology that differentially favor efficient communication for routing and diffusion processes are identified. Charting regions of the morphospace that are occupied by canonical, evolved or real networks allows inferences about the limits of communication efficiency imposed by connectivity and dynamics, as well as the underlying selection pressures that have shaped network topology.
PMCID: PMC3591454  PMID: 23505455
25.  Discriminating Different Classes of Biological Networks by Analyzing the Graphs Spectra Distribution 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e49949.
The brain's structural and functional systems, protein-protein interaction, and gene networks are examples of biological systems that share some features of complex networks, such as highly connected nodes, modularity, and small-world topology. Recent studies indicate that some pathologies present topological network alterations relative to norms seen in the general population. Therefore, methods to discriminate the processes that generate the different classes of networks (e.g., normal and disease) might be crucial for the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of the disease. It is known that several topological properties of a network (graph) can be described by the distribution of the spectrum of its adjacency matrix. Moreover, large networks generated by the same random process have the same spectrum distribution, allowing us to use it as a “fingerprint”. Based on this relationship, we introduce and propose the entropy of a graph spectrum to measure the “uncertainty” of a random graph and the Kullback-Leibler and Jensen-Shannon divergences between graph spectra to compare networks. We also introduce general methods for model selection and network model parameter estimation, as well as a statistical procedure to test the nullity of divergence between two classes of complex networks. Finally, we demonstrate the usefulness of the proposed methods by applying them to (1) protein-protein interaction networks of different species and (2) on networks derived from children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and typically developing children. We conclude that scale-free networks best describe all the protein-protein interactions. Also, we show that our proposed measures succeeded in the identification of topological changes in the network while other commonly used measures (number of edges, clustering coefficient, average path length) failed.
PMCID: PMC3526608  PMID: 23284629

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