Network scaling effects in graph analytic studies of human resting-state FMRI data

Front Syst Neurosci. 2010 Jun 17;4:22. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2010.00022. eCollection 2010.


Graph analysis has become an increasingly popular tool for characterizing topological properties of brain connectivity networks. Within this approach, the brain is modeled as a graph comprising N nodes connected by M edges. In functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, the nodes typically represent brain regions and the edges some measure of interaction between them. These nodes are commonly defined using a variety of regional parcellation templates, which can vary both in the volume sampled by each region, and the number of regions parcellated. Here, we sought to investigate how such variations in parcellation templates affect key graph analytic measures of functional brain organization using resting-state fMRI in 30 healthy volunteers. Seven different parcellation resolutions (84, 91, 230, 438, 890, 1314, and 4320 regions) were investigated. We found that gross inferences regarding network topology, such as whether the brain is small-world or scale-free, were robust to the template used, but that both absolute values of, and individual differences in, specific parameters such as path length, clustering, small-worldness, and degree distribution descriptors varied considerably across the resolutions studied. These findings underscore the need to consider the effect that a specific parcellation approach has on graph analytic findings in human fMRI studies, and indicate that results obtained using different templates may not be directly comparable.

Keywords: BOLD; complex; cortex; spontaneous.