Disambiguating brain functional connectivity.
Duff EP., Makin T., Cottaar M., Smith SM., Woolrich MW.
Functional connectivity (FC) analyses of correlations of neural activity are used extensively in neuroimaging and electrophysiology to gain insights into neural interactions. However, analyses assessing changes in correlation fail to distinguish effects produced by sources as different as changes in neural signal amplitudes or noise levels. This ambiguity substantially diminishes the value of FC for inferring system properties and clinical states. Network modelling approaches may avoid ambiguities, but require specific assumptions. We present an enhancement to FC analysis with improved specificity of inferences, minimal assumptions and no reduction in flexibility. The Additive Signal Change (ASC) approach characterizes FC changes into certain prevalent classes of signal change that involve the input of additional signal to existing activity. With FMRI data, the approach reveals a rich diversity of signal changes underlying measured changes in FC, suggesting that it could clarify our current understanding of FC changes in many contexts. The ASC method can also be used to disambiguate other measures of dependency, such as regression and coherence, providing a flexible tool for the analysis of neural data.