Effects of different correlation metrics and preprocessing factors on small-world brain functional networks: a resting-state functional MRI study

PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e32766. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032766. Epub 2012 Mar 6.


Graph theoretical analysis of brain networks based on resting-state functional MRI (R-fMRI) has attracted a great deal of attention in recent years. These analyses often involve the selection of correlation metrics and specific preprocessing steps. However, the influence of these factors on the topological properties of functional brain networks has not been systematically examined. Here, we investigated the influences of correlation metric choice (Pearson's correlation versus partial correlation), global signal presence (regressed or not) and frequency band selection [slow-5 (0.01-0.027 Hz) versus slow-4 (0.027-0.073 Hz)] on the topological properties of both binary and weighted brain networks derived from them, and we employed test-retest (TRT) analyses for further guidance on how to choose the "best" network modeling strategy from the reliability perspective. Our results show significant differences in global network metrics associated with both correlation metrics and global signals. Analysis of nodal degree revealed differing hub distributions for brain networks derived from Pearson's correlation versus partial correlation. TRT analysis revealed that the reliability of both global and local topological properties are modulated by correlation metrics and the global signal, with the highest reliability observed for Pearson's-correlation-based brain networks without global signal removal (WOGR-PEAR). The nodal reliability exhibited a spatially heterogeneous distribution wherein regions in association and limbic/paralimbic cortices showed moderate TRT reliability in Pearson's-correlation-based brain networks. Moreover, we found that there were significant frequency-related differences in topological properties of WOGR-PEAR networks, and brain networks derived in the 0.027-0.073 Hz band exhibited greater reliability than those in the 0.01-0.027 Hz band. Taken together, our results provide direct evidence regarding the influences of correlation metrics and specific preprocessing choices on both the global and nodal topological properties of functional brain networks. This study also has important implications for how to choose reliable analytical schemes in brain network studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Young Adult