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1.  Fast transient networks in spontaneous human brain activity 
eLife  2014;3:e01867.
To provide an effective substrate for cognitive processes, functional brain networks should be able to reorganize and coordinate on a sub-second temporal scale. We used magnetoencephalography recordings of spontaneous activity to characterize whole-brain functional connectivity dynamics at high temporal resolution. Using a novel approach that identifies the points in time at which unique patterns of activity recur, we reveal transient (100–200 ms) brain states with spatial topographies similar to those of well-known resting state networks. By assessing temporal changes in the occurrence of these states, we demonstrate that within-network functional connectivity is underpinned by coordinated neuronal dynamics that fluctuate much more rapidly than has previously been shown. We further evaluate cross-network interactions, and show that anticorrelation between the default mode network and parietal regions of the dorsal attention network is consistent with an inability of the system to transition directly between two transient brain states.
eLife digest
When subjects lie motionless inside scanners without any particular task to perform, their brains show stereotyped patterns of activity across regions known as resting state networks. Each network consists of areas with a common function, such as the ‘motor’ network or the ‘visual’ network. The role of resting state networks is unclear, but these spontaneous activity patterns are altered in disorders including autism, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
One puzzling feature of resting state networks is that they seem to last for relatively long times. However, the majority of studies into resting state networks have used fMRI brain scans, in which changes in the level of oxygen in the blood are used as a proxy for the activity of a given brain region. Since changes in blood oxygen occur relatively slowly, the ability of fMRI to detect rapid changes in activity is limited: it is thus possible that the long-lived nature of resting state networks is an artefact of the use of fMRI.
Now, Baker et al. have used a different type of brain scan known as an MEG scan to show that the activity of resting state networks is shorter lived than previously thought. MEG scanners measure changes in the magnetic fields generated by electrical currents in the brain, which means that they can detect alterations in brain activity much more rapidly than fMRI.
MEG recordings from the brains of nine healthy subjects revealed that individual resting state networks were typically stable for only 100 ms to 200 ms. Moreover, transitions between different networks did not occur randomly; instead, certain networks were much more likely to become active after others. The work of Baker et al. suggests that the resting brain is constantly changing between different patterns of activity, which enables it to respond quickly to any given situation.
PMCID: PMC3965210  PMID: 24668169
magnetoencephalography; resting state; connectivity; non-stationary; hidden Markov model; microstates; human
2.  Dynamic recruitment of resting state sub-networks 
Neuroimage  2015;115:85-95.
Resting state networks (RSNs) are of fundamental importance in human systems neuroscience with evidence suggesting that they are integral to healthy brain function and perturbed in pathology. Despite rapid progress in this area, the temporal dynamics governing the functional connectivities that underlie RSN structure remain poorly understood. Here, we present a framework to help further our understanding of RSN dynamics. We describe a methodology which exploits the direct nature and high temporal resolution of magnetoencephalography (MEG). This technique, which builds on previous work, extends from solving fundamental confounds in MEG (source leakage) to multivariate modelling of transient connectivity. The resulting processing pipeline facilitates direct (electrophysiological) measurement of dynamic functional networks. Our results show that, when functional connectivity is assessed in small time windows, the canonical sensorimotor network can be decomposed into a number of transiently synchronising sub-networks, recruitment of which depends on current mental state. These rapidly changing sub-networks are spatially focal with, for example, bilateral primary sensory and motor areas resolved into two separate sub-networks. The likely interpretation is that the larger canonical sensorimotor network most often seen in neuroimaging studies reflects only a temporal aggregate of these transient sub-networks. Our approach opens new frontiers to study RSN dynamics, showing that MEG is capable of revealing the spatial, temporal and spectral signature of the human connectome in health and disease.
•The sensorimotor network consists of a series of transiently synchronising subnetworks.•These subnetworks are robust across multiple tasks.•The occurrence of these subnetworks is modulated by the current mental state.
PMCID: PMC4573462  PMID: 25899137
3.  Resting state MEG oscillations show long-range temporal correlations of phase synchrony that break down during finger movement 
The capacity of the human brain to interpret and respond to multiple temporal scales in its surroundings suggests that its internal interactions must also be able to operate over a broad temporal range. In this paper, we utilize a recently introduced method for characterizing the rate of change of the phase difference between MEG signals and use it to study the temporal structure of the phase interactions between MEG recordings from the left and right motor cortices during rest and during a finger-tapping task. We use the Hilbert transform to estimate moment-to-moment fluctuations of the phase difference between signals. After confirming the presence of scale-invariance we estimate the Hurst exponent using detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA). An exponent of >0.5 is indicative of long-range temporal correlations (LRTCs) in the signal. We find that LRTCs are present in the α/μ and β frequency bands of resting state MEG data. We demonstrate that finger movement disrupts LRTCs correlations, producing a phase relationship with a structure similar to that of Gaussian white noise. The results are validated by applying the same analysis to data with Gaussian white noise phase difference, recordings from an empty scanner and phase-shuffled time series. We interpret the findings through comparison of the results with those we obtained from an earlier study during which we adopted this method to characterize phase relationships within a Kuramoto model of oscillators in its sub-critical, critical, and super-critical synchronization states. We find that the resting state MEG from left and right motor cortices shows moment-to-moment fluctuations of phase difference with a similar temporal structure to that of a system of Kuramoto oscillators just prior to its critical level of coupling, and that finger tapping moves the system away from this pre-critical state toward a more random state.
PMCID: PMC4469817  PMID: 26136690
MEG; movement; brain oscillations; long-range temporal correlations; phase synchronization; resting state
4.  Functional Connectivity in MRI Is Driven by Spontaneous BOLD Events 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0124577.
Functional brain signals are frequently decomposed into a relatively small set of large scale, distributed cortical networks that are associated with different cognitive functions. It is generally assumed that the connectivity of these networks is static in time and constant over the whole network, although there is increasing evidence that this view is too simplistic. This work proposes novel techniques to investigate the contribution of spontaneous BOLD events to the temporal dynamics of functional connectivity as assessed by ultra-high field functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The results show that: 1) spontaneous events in recognised brain networks contribute significantly to network connectivity estimates; 2) these spontaneous events do not necessarily involve whole networks or nodes, but clusters of voxels which act in concert, forming transiently synchronising sub-networks and 3) a task can significantly alter the number of localised spontaneous events that are detected within a single network. These findings support the notion that spontaneous events are the main driver of the large scale networks that are commonly detected by seed-based correlation and ICA. Furthermore, we found that large scale networks are manifestations of smaller, transiently synchronising sub-networks acting dynamically in concert, corresponding to spontaneous events, and which do not necessarily involve all voxels within the network nodes oscillating in unison.
PMCID: PMC4429612  PMID: 25922945
5.  Complexity Measures in Magnetoencephalography: Measuring "Disorder" in Schizophrenia 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0120991.
This paper details a methodology which, when applied to magnetoencephalography (MEG) data, is capable of measuring the spatio-temporal dynamics of ‘disorder’ in the human brain. Our method, which is based upon signal entropy, shows that spatially separate brain regions (or networks) generate temporally independent entropy time-courses. These time-courses are modulated by cognitive tasks, with an increase in local neural processing characterised by localised and transient increases in entropy in the neural signal. We explore the relationship between entropy and the more established time-frequency decomposition methods, which elucidate the temporal evolution of neural oscillations. We observe a direct but complex relationship between entropy and oscillatory amplitude, which suggests that these metrics are complementary. Finally, we provide a demonstration of the clinical utility of our method, using it to shed light on aberrant neurophysiological processing in schizophrenia. We demonstrate significantly increased task induced entropy change in patients (compared to controls) in multiple brain regions, including a cingulo-insula network, bilateral insula cortices and a right fronto-parietal network. These findings demonstrate potential clinical utility for our method and support a recent hypothesis that schizophrenia can be characterised by abnormalities in the salience network (a well characterised distributed network comprising bilateral insula and cingulate cortices).
PMCID: PMC4401778  PMID: 25886553
6.  The contribution of electrophysiology to functional connectivity mapping 
NeuroImage  2013;80:297-306.
A powerful way to probe brain function is to assess the relationship between simultaneous changes in activity across different parts of the brain. In recent years, the temporal activity correlation between brain areas has frequently been taken as a measure of their functional connections. Evaluating ‘functional connectivity’ in this way is particularly popular in the fMRI community, but has also drawn interest among electrophysiologists. Like hemodynamic fluctuations observed with fMRI, electrophysiological signals display significant temporal fluctuations, even in the absence of a stimulus. These neural fluctuations exhibit correlational structure over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. Initial evidence suggests that certain aspects of this correlational structure bear a high correspondence to so-called functional networks defined using fMRI. The growing family of methods to study activity covariation, combined with the diverse neural mechanisms that contribute to the spontaneous fluctuations, have somewhat blurred the operational concept of functional connectivity. What is clear is that spontaneous activity is a conspicuous, energy-consuming feature of the brain. Given its prominence and its practical applications for the functional connectivity mapping of brain networks, it is of increasing importance that we understand its neural origins as well as its contribution to normal brain function.
PMCID: PMC4206447  PMID: 23587686
7.  Is iron overload in alcohol-related cirrhosis mediated by hepcidin? 
In this case report we describe the relationship between ferritin levels and hepcidin in a patient with alcohol-related spur cell anemia who underwent liver transplantation. We demonstrate a reciprocal relationship between serum or urinary hepcidin and serum ferritin, which indicates that inadequate hepcidin production by the diseased liver is associated with elevated serum ferritin. The ferritin level falls with increasing hepcidin production after transplantation. Neither inflammatory indices (IL6) nor erythropoietin appear to be related to hepcidin expression in this case. We suggest that inappropriately low hepcidin production by the cirrhotic liver may contribute substantially to elevated tissue iron stores in cirrhosis and speculate that hepcidin replacement in these patients may be of therapeutic benefit in the future.
PMCID: PMC2791283  PMID: 19998511
Alcohol; Iron; Anaemia; Hepcidin; Cirrhosis
8.  Multi-session statistics on beamformed MEG data☆ 
Neuroimage  2014;95(100):330-335.
Beamforming has been widely adopted as a source reconstruction technique in the analysis of magnetoencephalography data. Most beamforming implementations incorporate a spatially-varying rescaling (which we term weights normalisation) to correct for the inherent depth bias in raw beamformer estimates. Here, we demonstrate that such rescaling can cause critical problems whenever analyses are performed over multiple sessions of separately beamformed data, for example when comparing effect sizes between different populations. Importantly, we show that the weights-normalised beamformer estimates of neural activity can even lead to a reversal in the inferred sign of the effect being measured. We instead recommend that no weights normalisation be carried out; any depth bias is instead accounted for in the calculation of multi-session (e.g. group) statistics. We demonstrate the severity of the weights normalisation confound with a 2-D simulation, and in real MEG data by performing a group statistical analysis to detect differences in alpha power in eyes-closed rest compared with continuous visual stimulation.
•Raw beamformer estimates of MEG data exhibit increased variance with depth.•Corrections are typically applied to each session to remove this depth bias.•These corrections confound subsequent multi-session statistical analyses.•This confound can reverse the apparent direction of an effect.•We demonstrate this with a simulation and in real data.
PMCID: PMC4073650  PMID: 24412400
MEG; Group statistics; Beamforming; Source reconstruction
9.  Increased hepcidin expression in colorectal carcinogenesis 
AIM: To investigate whether the iron stores regulator hepcidin is implicated in colon cancer-associated anaemia and whether it might have a role in colorectal carcinogenesis.
METHODS: Mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS and SELDI-TOF MS) was employed to measure hepcidin in urine collected from 56 patients with colorectal cancer. Quantitative Real Time RT-PCR was utilized to determine hepcidin mRNA expression in colorectal cancer tissue. Hepcidin cellular localization was determined using immunohistochemistry.
RESULTS: We demonstrate that whilst urinary hepcidin expression was not correlated with anaemia it was positively associated with increasing T-stage of colorectal cancer (P < 0.05). Furthermore, we report that hepcidin mRNA is expressed in 34% of colorectal cancer tissue specimens and was correlated with ferroportin repression. This was supported by hepcidin immunoreactivity in colorectal cancer tissue.
CONCLUSION: We demonstrate that systemic hepcidin expression is unlikely to be the cause of the systemic anaemia associated with colorectal cancer. However, we demonstrate for the first time that hepcidin is expressed by colorectal cancer tissue and that this may represent a novel oncogenic signalling mechanism.
PMCID: PMC2693679  PMID: 18322945
Iron; Hepcidin; Colon; Cancer; Anaemia; Mass spectrometry
10.  Measuring functional connectivity using MEG: Methodology and comparison with fcMRI 
Neuroimage  2011;56(3):1082-1104.
Functional connectivity (FC) between brain regions is thought to be central to the way in which the brain processes information. Abnormal connectivity is thought to be implicated in a number of diseases. The ability to study FC is therefore a key goal for neuroimaging. Functional connectivity (fc) MRI has become a popular tool to make connectivity measurements but the technique is limited by its indirect nature. A multimodal approach is therefore an attractive means to investigate the electrodynamic mechanisms underlying hemodynamic connectivity. In this paper, we investigate resting state FC using fcMRI and magnetoencephalography (MEG). In fcMRI, we exploit the advantages afforded by ultra high magnetic field. In MEG we apply envelope correlation and coherence techniques to source space projected MEG signals. We show that beamforming provides an excellent means to measure FC in source space using MEG data. However, care must be taken when interpreting these measurements since cross talk between voxels in source space can potentially lead to spurious connectivity and this must be taken into account in all studies of this type. We show good spatial agreement between FC measured independently using MEG and fcMRI; FC between sensorimotor cortices was observed using both modalities, with the best spatial agreement when MEG data are filtered into the β band. This finding helps to reduce the potential confounds associated with each modality alone: while it helps reduce the uncertainties in spatial patterns generated by MEG (brought about by the ill posed inverse problem), addition of electrodynamic metric confirms the neural basis of fcMRI measurements. Finally, we show that multiple MEG based FC metrics allow the potential to move beyond what is possible using fcMRI, and investigate the nature of electrodynamic connectivity. Our results extend those from previous studies and add weight to the argument that neural oscillations are intimately related to functional connectivity and the BOLD response.
Research highlights
► The utility of beamforming as a source space projection algorithm for use with functional connectivity (FC) measurements is explored. ► Simulations are described and prove to be a robust methodology to eliminate spurious FC from source space MEG measurements. ► The spatial signature of resting state FC between left and right sensorimotor cortices can be measured independently using MEG and fMRI. ► Excellent agreement between motor cortex FC measured using both MEG and fcMRI. ► Multiple MEG FC metrics exploit the direct nature of MEG.
PMCID: PMC3224862  PMID: 21352925
MEG; fMRI; 7T; Functional connectivity; Neural oscillations; BOLD; Resting state; Coherence; Imaginary coherence; Envelope correlation
11.  Investigating spatial specificity and data averaging in MEG 
Neuroimage  2010;49(1):525-538.
This study shows that the spatial specificity of MEG beamformer estimates of electrical activity can be affected significantly by the way in which covariance estimates are calculated. We define spatial specificity as the ability to extract independent timecourse estimates of electrical brain activity from two separate brain locations in close proximity. Previous analytical and simulated results have shown that beamformer estimates are affected by narrowing the time frequency window in which covariance estimates are made. Here we build on this by both experimental validation of previous results, and investigating the effect of data averaging prior to covariance estimation. In appropriate circumstances, we show that averaging has a marked effect on spatial specificity. However the averaging process results in ill-conditioned covariance matrices, thus necessitating a suitable matrix regularisation strategy, an example of which is described. We apply our findings to an MEG retinotopic mapping paradigm. A moving visual stimulus is used to elicit brain activation at different retinotopic locations in the visual cortex. This gives the impression of a moving electrical dipolar source in the brain. We show that if appropriate beamformer optimisation is applied, the moving source can be tracked in the cortex. In addition to spatial reconstruction of the moving source, we show that timecourse estimates can be extracted from neighbouring locations of interest in the visual cortex. If appropriate methodology is employed, the sequential activation of separate retinotopic locations can be observed. The retinotopic paradigm represents an ideal platform to test the spatial specificity of source localisation strategies. We suggest that future comparisons of MEG source localisation techniques (e.g. beamformer, minimum norm, Bayesian) could be made using this retinotopic mapping paradigm.
PMCID: PMC3224863  PMID: 19635575
MEG; Spatial specificity; Spatial resolution; Source localisation; Linearly constrained minimum variance beamformer; Retinotopic mapping; Regularisation; Information content

Results 1-11 (11)