Multi-subject Stochastic Blockmodels for adaptive analysis of individual differences in human brain network cluster structure.
Pavlović DM., Guillaume BRL., Towlson EK., Kuek NMY., Afyouni S., Vértes PE., Yeo BTT., Bullmore ET., Nichols TE.
There is considerable interest in elucidating the cluster structure of brain networks in terms of modules, blocks or clusters of similar nodes. However, it is currently challenging to handle data on multiple subjects since most of the existing methods are applicable only on a subject-by-subject basis or for analysis of an average group network. The main limitation of per-subject models is that there is no obvious way to combine the results for group comparisons, and of group-averaged models that they do not reflect the variability between subjects. Here, we propose two new extensions of the classical Stochastic Blockmodel (SBM) that use a mixture model to estimate blocks or clusters of connected nodes, combined with a regression model to capture the effects of subject-level covariates on individual differences in cluster structure. The proposed Multi-Subject Stochastic Blockmodels (MS-SBMs) can flexibly account for between-subject variability in terms of homogeneous or heterogeneous covariate effects on connectivity using subject demographics such as age or diagnostic status. Using synthetic data, representing a range of block sizes and cluster structures, we investigate the accuracy of the estimated MS-SBM parameters as well as the validity of inference procedures based on the Wald, likelihood ratio and permutation tests. We show that the proposed multi-subject SBMs recover the true cluster structure of synthetic networks more accurately and adaptively than standard methods for modular decomposition (i.e. the Fast Louvain and Newman Spectral algorithms). Permutation tests of MS-SBM parameters were more robustly valid for statistical inference and Type I error control than tests based on standard asymptotic assumptions. Applied to analysis of multi-subject resting-state fMRI networks (13 healthy volunteers; 12 people with schizophrenia; n=268 brain regions), we show that Heterogeneous Stochastic Blockmodel (Het-SBM) identifies a range of network topologies simultaneously, including modular and core structures.