A Framework for Exploring Non-Linear Functional Connectivity and Causality in the Human Brain: Mutual Connectivity Analysis (MCA) of Resting-State Functional MRI with Convergen

by   Axel Wismüller, et al.

We present a computational framework for analysis and visualization of non-linear functional connectivity in the human brain from resting state functional MRI (fMRI) data for purposes of recovering the underlying network community structure and exploring causality between network components. Our proposed methodology of non-linear mutual connectivity analysis (MCA) involves two computational steps. First, the pair-wise cross-prediction performance between resting state fMRI pixel time series within the brain is evaluated. The underlying network structure is subsequently recovered from the affinity matrix constructed through MCA using non-metric network partitioning/clustering with the so-called Louvain method. We demonstrate our methodology in the task of identifying regions of the motor cortex associated with hand movement on resting state fMRI data acquired from eight slice locations in four subjects. For comparison, we also localized regions of the motor cortex through a task-based fMRI sequence involving a finger-tapping stimulus paradigm. Finally, we integrate convergent cross mapping (CCM) into the first step of MCA for investigating causality between regions of the motor cortex. Results regarding causation between regions of the motor cortex revealed a significant directional variability and were not readily interpretable in a consistent manner across all subjects. However, our results on whole-slice fMRI analysis demonstrate that MCA-based model-free recovery of regions associated with the primary motor cortex and supplementary motor area are in close agreement with localization of similar regions achieved with a task-based fMRI acquisition. Thus, we conclude that our computational framework MCA can extract and visualize valuable information concerning the underlying network structure and causation between different regions of the brain in resting state fMRI.



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